Nov. 17, 2022

Ep.14 Real Talk with Asa Tam

This week on Reel Talk, I had the privilege of interviewing my former strength and conditioning coach, and long-time friend, Asa Tam. In this episode, Asa teaches us all how we can do better as coaches, parents, and athletes to improve not only our a...


This week on Reel Talk, I had the privilege of interviewing my former strength and conditioning coach, and long-time friend, Asa Tam. In this episode, Asa teaches us all how we can do better as coaches, parents, and athletes to improve not only our athletic performance but also our relationships. Watch the full interview as we cover the following topics:

  1. Asa’s greatest learnings as a coach
  2. The evolution of coaching among toxic sports cultures
  3. The responsibility of athletes
  4. The shift from negative coaching relationships to positive ones
  5. The role of feedback in effective coaching
  6. The impact of parenting on coaching

Background on Asa Tam

Coach Asa is an intuitive and knowledgeable professional with more than a decade of coaching experience under his belt. Asa began his coaching career at Brigham Young University - Hawaii; training and developing athletes across 11 different sports, while navigating the NCAA landscape and earning his bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sport Science. He returned to Canada in 2013 and soon established himself as one of the premier performance coaches in the GTA. 

Over the years, Asa has developed and prepared dozens of athletes for a career in both collegiate and professional athletics. As the Director of Performance at PHYSELITE, Asa has assembled a talented team of coaches that shares his passion and value for developing athletes and helping them achieve their goals.

Interested in being a Growth on the Daily Real Talk guest? Head to our website to register as a guest!

Follow Growth on the Daily on Instagram and LinkedIn, and subscribe on YouTube. And, of course, check out our website for more info!

Transcript

Real Talk with Asa Tam

[00:00:16] Episode Intro

Rey: Welcome to the very first episode of Real Talk, the interview segment of the Growth on the Daily podcast, where I interview key individuals from all over the sports industry where they share their perspectives, their key learnings, as well as provide us with some advice for us to improve ourselves. So, without further ado, let's tune in to today's interview.

[00:00:35] Interview Intro

Rey: Hey guys, Welcome to Growth on the Daily: Real Talk. I'm here today with our very first guest, Asa Tam. So excited to have Asa here with me today. For those of you who don't know, Asa's my former trainer and absolutely great friend. He's been in my life for a very long time, and I'm super grateful to have the opportunity to interview him.

He's had a very positive influence on my athletic career and continues to shape me today, so I'm super happy to interview him and really excited for what he has to share today. So welcome to the show, Asa.

Asa: Thanks Rey, thank you for considering me and thank you for the many years that we got a chance to, be a part of each other's lives. I think any good relationship is very mutually benefiting and I have certainly benefited from our relationship and our friendship, so thank you for having me on. That means a lot.

[00:01:24] Background Info

Rey: Of course. I know you have a lot to say today, but before we dive in, why don't you just give a brief background on yourself today and your time in the industry?

Asa: I actually started as an athlete, I played football for Markham District back in the day early 2000s. We're a very competitive football team. I'll be honest, I wasn't a very talented athlete by any means. I tried really hard. I went to athletics relatively late. Asian parents didn't allow me to play sports often. In fact, I had to forge the signature on my first year of playing football. They had no idea until I think junior year when they figured it out.

So sports for me, it was always, I don't want to say taboo, I had to fight for my sport. So that always resonated with me. For me playing sports is a privilege, and being a part of a team is a privilege even to this day for me. So I definitely take it to heart.

And once my high school career was over, I dabbled in coaching football back at my high school. Eventually, I got a chance to have my own facility named Victory Athletic Center. That led me to meeting you. Which was amazing.

And then over the years, I've been able to create this particular clinic that we have here PHYSELITE. We're here today, as you see here in the background. We've been doing really well, so I'm just happy to be where I am and to be able to interact and engage with the athletes that we have.

[00:02:50] Q1: Coach Learnings

Asa: That's amazing.

Rey: I love how you've literally been all over the map when it comes to being a part of the industry. You have the athlete perspective, you have the strength and conditioning coach perspective. You know what it's like running your own business. So there's a lot that goes into that. But I know you want to focus on specific things that you want to share with us in the Growth on Daily community.

And I know one of those things is sharing your learnings as a coach. So I would love to hear from you on what that looks like to you.

Asa: It's a very loaded question, right? My first gig as a coach was 2005 so it's been quite a few years. And even as a strength and conditioning professional, I've done the collegiate environment. I've done the environment of club sports here and coaches come in all shapes, sizes, culture types. If I can go back to some of my coaches growing up, they were very old school, one of my biggest mentors Coach Greg Pritty when I was in Markham, and he really set the tone and the foundation for a lot of what my coaching philosophy is like, you never meet a more hardcore dude, and he was so just fastidious in how he navigates, his relationship with his athletes versus what he takes to win versus how he organizes the offence and the defence together.

It was actually spectacular. And to be able to multitask like that and to be able to even just get the most outta your athletes in such a big team environment, we had 60 people on the roster. It's a huge team. And he knew everyone's names. He knew, how we were doing in school. He asked us good questions and I was one of the not-star players, like literally the sideline guy for the longest time.

I could still know that he cared deeply about me. That's great. Yeah. So I try to take that in as much as I can. Now, he was very old school, so there are certain things that he demanded. We did hard conditioning drills when things weren't going well. We literally would do drills where we don't stop until someone pukes.

Yeah. I came from that environment and I also saw a lot of how that style of coaching is incredibly antiquated for the environment that we have today, right? And I think it's very interesting to see, how athletes have evolved over the past couple of decades.

And, I hate to say it, but hockey is one of the most archaic institutions in Canada. I hate to say it like this, but it's how it is and the culture of hockey can be very toxic.

For all of the great things that hockey is, we also have to be able to see how there are a lot of things that are fundamentally wrong with hockey culture and we see that, in the news right now. As coaches and as athletes it's up to all of us to have a role in facilitating the positive changes that needs to happen.

[00:05:33] Q2: Evolution of coaching among toxic sports cultures

Rey: I completely agree with that. How would you say then, as a coach, how has your role evolved with that toxicity in the culture of sport, especially in hockey?

Asa: I think that it really comes down to two things, and I think number one is from the coaches themselves, and then number two is from the athletes. I'll speak on a coach's part first, as a lot of the younger coaches are starting to develop and as the old guard is starting to leave the industry.

It's really important for the newer coaches to really have an open mind. It's very easy to get into a fallacy of what worked for me is going to work for everybody else. I think it's very easy to fall into that trap, and I certainly did myself.

And I have to understand intrinsically and fundamentally that is not the right way to do things. It's up to the coach to educate themselves to talk to other cultures, to ask the good questions, to really open up their minds to what they need to do. Now, what are some of the fundamental challenges facing youth sports today and how do we handle that?

[00:06:41] Q3: The responsibility of athletes

Rey: So you mentioned the coaching perspective, the strength and conditioning coach's perspective. What is the onus now on the athletes?

Asa: The athletes have to advocate for themselves. There is this perception perhaps that, you might feel like it's almost an authoritarian relationship when it's not. You are there not because you are forced to be there. You chose to be there. , right? And at the end of the day, especially if you're playing a club sport, you're paying for it.

Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that you have all of a sudden this perceived privilege, right? But, what you do have is you have to be accountable not just to yourself, but to your teammates and to your coach. And as a part of that, accountability you have a vote on that team, you have a voice and you have to use it.

I think it'll be really important for every single athlete to be honest with not just their coaches, but with their teammates, and then also with themselves. We try to push our feelings down and just get the work done, but you're not going to be productive unless you're honest with who you are and with what you're struggling with.

[00:07:47] Q4: Shifting negative coaching relationships to positive ones

Rey: I genuinely agree with you in terms of people wanting to be there for their athletes, whether that's coaches, whether that's other players on the team, and they want to have that relationship, but it's more of how do you course correct when you've already pre-established what that relationship looks like. So what's your recommendation either from an athlete's or even a coach's perspective, how they can navigate that shift?

Asa: It's hard. I'll be the first one to say, relationship management is one of the hardest things to do and not just, in sports, but in professional life in personal life, and there's a lot of expectations as well that needs to be managed. I believe firmly that, it's okay to re-establish points in a relationship and it's okay to, look at things objectively and say, okay, listen, this is where we are. I don't like how things are. Let's make a course correction.

It's incredibly tough because there's almost a little bit of an inertia within any given relationship that once it starts it almost feels like you can't be corrected. Where in actuality it takes a concerted effort from both parties or all parties to make that fundamental change.

Now, will one person have resistance to that change? Absolutely. We're human beings we're resistance to change by nature. And that's okay. And just like any principle of developing strength, which is, great at loading or progressive overload. We have to take that opportunity and really evaluate and it's okay to have a conversation with a coach.

Going back to self-advocacy, you have to make sure that you address issues, especially the sooner, the better. It's so easy to keep things in and it's so easy to blame the other party for how they made you feel, but it's fundamentally important for the person to address their feelings to make sure that hey, let the other person know because if they don't know, they can't change.

[00:09:51] Q5: The role of feedback in effective coaching

Rey: A hundred percent. And I like the point that you made there about taking the steps to communicate what needs to be addressed on both sides of the parties and the fact that needs to be mutual. So that has me thinking of the theme of constant feedback so do you think there's a space for intentional feedback from both a coaching perspective to athletes throughout, say a season?

Asa: Absolutely, and I think I'll speak on the coaching side, especially I do try my hardest to make sure that every cue, every feedback that I give has the most intention as possible.

 If I want a direct result, it's up to me to give a direct cue or direct feedback in order to solicit that result. Every one of us work on incentives and the coach has to understand what incentivizes an athlete, what motivates an athlete especially on an intrinsic level.

Rey: I think those are all great points because Feedback is important, but the right feedback is what needs to be focused on. So understanding what you're actually communicating and how you're communicating it, how is that resonating with the athletes? How is that impacting their future performance? That's the critical reflection that coaches also need to make that you mentioned.

[00:11:08] Q6: The impact of parenting on coaching

Rey: Another role that is crucial is the role of parents especially when we're talking about club athletes. You're talking about youth athletes and everything that encompasses their performance, parents are heavily involved in. So I know you have experience like that yourself as a father, but how would you say the role of parents or maybe the role yourself as a parent has been impacted by either your son's performance or your experience as a coach?

Asa: That's a really good question. First off, I love being a dad. I love my son so much. He's the absolute joy in my life. Anyone that has known me and they've seen me with Connor, they know just how much I'm in love with my son.

And with that being said, yes, he drives me crazy half the time.

And it's okay because I love him. For me, I have a bit of a different perspective because I have been dealing with sports parents for the better part of the last decade. And like I've seen like the best and I've seen the worst. And I always say this, those that know don't talk and those that talk don't know, especially when it comes to sports.

The parents that talk the most, half the time they've never played that sport. They've never coached at a high level. They've never played a high level, They've never interacted with people at the high level at that sport. But the coaches, the parents, anyone has coach or interactive athletes, especially at a professional level, half the time you never hear anything that they have to say. They have no opinions. He's just completely hands-off and just let the kids play.

And for me, I'm a very hands-off parent. Now, my son isn't playing anything competitive. He's just dabbling right now. Whatever he wants to do, I want him to have fun. I ask him what he likes to do. What has really helped me as a coach being a dad is, I've really taken an interest in understanding who my son is as a person. He's very different from me. He's very introverted. Unlike me, I'm very extroverted.

And I knew that from day one his personality's very different and I had to be okay with that because I remember, with a lack of maturity, it's very easy to think that, Oh, how I act is how everyone should act, or how I learn is how everyone should learn.

And that is about as ridiculous of a narrative as you can get. So I've had to do a lot of reading and understanding the different personalities of kids. How do you talk to them? How do you interact with them? I think being a dad has made me a much more empathetic coach. When I look at different kids I see a lot of, okay, if this was my child, how would I talk to them?

How would I interact with them? And I feel like just being a dad and trying to be more understanding of my own child has helped me to be a much better coach.

[00:13:57] Outro

Rey:

And that wraps up Real Talk with strength and conditioning coach Asa Tam. Asa, thank you so much for coming onto the show and being our inaugural guest on Real Talk, the interview segment of the Growth on the Daily podcast. It has been a pleasure interviewing you. I know I have tons of key takeaways from our conversation, and I'm sure our listeners do as well. Thank you so much, Asa. We'll definitely have to have you on the show again.

For those of you listening, if you are interested in being a guest on the Real Talk segment of the Growth on the Daily podcast, then head to our website growthonthedaily.com to register as a guest or DM us on Instagram @growthonthedaily.

Alright, guys. That's all I have for you for this week's episode. I will see you next week.

 

Asa TamProfile Photo

Asa Tam

Strength and Conditioning Coach

Coach Asa is an intuitive and knowledgeable professional with more than a decade of coaching experience under his belt. Asa began his coaching career at Brigham Young University - Hawaii; training and developing athletes across 11 different sports, while navigating the NCAA landscape and earning his bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sport Science. He returned to Canada in 2013 and soon established himself as one of the premier performance coaches in the GTA.

Over the years, Asa has developed and prepared dozens of athletes for a career in both collegiate and professional athletics. As the Director of Performance at PHYSELITE, Asa has assembled a talented team of coaches that shares his passion and value for developing athletes and helping them achieve their goals.