By Suki Chhoeun, Athlete Initiative Founder, MCAC College Wesmen Coach

The C.A.T. principle helped me create an amazing coaching experience for myself in June 2010 that I want to share with you today.  I know it will help you get closer to what you want, and whether it is the fear of adjusting your shooting technique to wanting to get recruited to play at the next level, changing your offence or just simply wanting to do something you're afraid to do, the CAT principle will guide your growth.


1. What do you want
from sport or life? Don't be afraid to choose.



What is it that
you want from coaching? What is it that you want from playing?  When we can answer this question, our focus
and direction will become more clear.

In our day
to day routine, we have the privilege to make independent choices; to choose
happiness over sadness, being positive versus being negative, having compassion
over anger and having comforting experiences versus growth experiences.  While it is most common we make choices that
are within our comfort zone, I'm here to share with you a growth experience of
mine that changed my life.

I have
found that when you simply just decide, there are no shades of grey in the
decision you choose to make.  Either you
make the decision or not, there is no "in between."

If you had
the choice between: A or B, which would you choose? Here are your options.

Choice A

-1 week of
observing practices with a professional basketball team

-Q & A
each day with head coaches and assistant coaches

or Choice B

Do the
samething you do everyday.

Would you
agree with me that 99% of us would choose A. 
While many of us dream we could have an opportunity such as this be
presented to us, this opportunity became a reality for me in June 2010.

Not knowing
what this whole thing would bring, I took it upon myself to create this amazing
experience.  I chose to create a new
experience that would help me grow, to see things from a different perspective
as a coach at the highest level and as a player.  Now, youre probably thinking, you created
"Choice A" for yourself, and how did you do it?

How I did
it brings me to the next principle.

2. We must not only
dream but ACT.


The heart
and soul of making a decision is action, you guessed it.  Once you make that decision, it has to
manifest itself and become physical, so whether you're goal setting, or looking
to accomplish small simple tasks, you know it requires one thing, action.  The doing, not only the thinking and
writing.  This is the most difficult task
for many.  This reminds me of deadlines
on assignments in University, having months to complete the assignment, but not
beginning until you feel the pressure. 
According to Mitch Albom,

"Faith is about
doing. You are how you act, not just how you believe."

Mitch Albom
is right, the power of thinking and believing isn't enough, we must have faith
in ourselves to act.

This is how
it all started:

In January
2010, after a two paragraph email outlining my intentions of  "Choice A" to the director of
basketball operations for the Minnesota Lynx; I stated my purpose, passion and
mission for growth and development.

 A is for effort right?  Katie Alsdurf, the Director of Basketball
Operations for the Lynx knew how important this would be and the surreal
experience began to unfold. I was given the thumbs up at the end of January
that a week with the Minnesota Lynx to observe practices, Q & A sessions
were available for me in June.


I could not
believe it!  How easy was it to just
simply ask.  I remember early on in my
coaching career when a mentor of mine advised, "never be too afraid to ask
for something, because the worst someone will say is no."  That was was it, the worst someone will say
is no. 

These were
some questions I raised.  What was I
going to learn from all of this?  Was
this really going to happen? I hope this doesn't fall through, and could it be
that much different than University basketball? 
I have seen CIS Men's and Women's, NCAA Division 1 team's practice and
now it was time for the pro's.

Now, for
those who are unfamiliar with the WNBA, if it's alright with you, I'm going to
briefly fill you in.  Simply, it mirrors
the NBA but without the high flying dunks, billion dollar advertising, million
dollar contracts and major corporate sponsorship. The league consists of 12
teams and the Minnesota Lynx have been my favorite team since inception of the
league in 1997.  The Lynx also share the
Target Center with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves.

This brings
me to the 3rd principle from this unforgettable experience.

3. Do you TRUST
yourself and others around you?



The ability
to completely believe in ourselves is rare, don't you think? I have known and
coached many athletes who will look for approval first from their coaches and
second from their teammates.  Remember,
your self-worth should not come from others approving of you.  For the athletes who are reading this, please
know that you are valuable and you first have to believe it yourself, and you
must do the unwilling to make yourself better to help your team, or to make
next years team, improvement in every way you can. Physical, mental and

This is
where trust unfolds; as you know it is needed for anything to function, especially
when  you're working with other
people.   Paulo Coelho writes,

    "None of us knows what might happen even
the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have

coached basketball from for almost 10 years, trust is the root, the foundation
and starting point for all successes and failures.  A great leader has the ability to have others
believe in them, only for the reason they know the leader believes in him/herself.  Think about it, it's rare that we [follow or
believe in] leaders that don't trust themselves or have confidence or

The Journey

A month
prior to the super awesome Minnesota Lynx experience, Katie and I began
outlining the details of the coaching trip. At the time, I lucked out, I was
able to stay at my friend Lindsay's apartment who was living in Minneapolis and
going to school, she was back in B.C for the summer, so I had her apartment for
the week.  I wanted to be frugal as
possible on this trip, so there I went, I with drew a few hundred dollars and
drove  the 7 hour journey toward the big
city, the Twin Cities.

The trip
was everything and more.  Not only did I
get to observe team practices and have Q & A sessions with the coaches, the
Lynx staff also provided me with this:

A video
session on their opposition with Jim Petersen, 
(Lynx Assistant coach) who used to play in the NBA, a meet and greet
with players, shooting around with players before practice, Adidas team gear
and a game ticket. The value of this was paramount  and cannot be payed back to the Lynx, but
only my showing loyalty to the team as a fan.


I took that
leap of faith and had trusted that everything I experienced would help me grow
for the better.  The people I met along
the way included interns, the male practice players who were all
ex-NCAA/College players, the amazing and inspiring athletes such as Lindsay
Whalen, Seimone Augustus who recently won Gold with USA at the London 2012
Olympics, rebounding queen Rebecca Brunson, Stanford star Candice Wiggins, the
media personel and best of all, the interaction with the coaching staff each
day was my favorite part.

After that
last practice, I was caught off guard when Cheryl Reeve asked me what I was
doing there and what "I wanted from all of this."  I really didn't give her an answer to which
it really had me thinking.  I knew Coach
Reeves wasn't just talking about being at the practices but what I really
wanted from coaching.  I went back to the
apartment after that practice and had that question run through my head a
hundred times.  What do I truly want from
coaching? With that said, to achieve any goal worth while takes hardwork,
extremely hard work.

The next
day after practice, my conversation with Coach Reeves was finding out how
difficult it was to get to that professional level of coaching, including the
business aspect, cut throat decisions one must make as a general manager,
dealing with high strung athletes, and why she began coaching, her story.  It was amazing to listen to.  I found that after the trip, my take on
professional athletes changed.

What I
respected the most about professional athletes were their true ability to stay
immensely focused, while being confident, tough and assertive throughout the
week of practices were things I have never seen before, especially on a
consistent basis.  Seeing how the Lynx
practiced changed  what my own standards
should now look like for practices. 
Imagine everyday at practice, having the press/media there on site, all
the time conducting interviews, writing about practice reports and any
discrepencies between players or coaches. 
Would that make you uneasy? It would for me.

As I've
hoped you noticed, the "CAT" principle was everywhere around me, from
watching the pro's practice to Cheryl Reeve instructing, to the behind the
scenes support staff.   They all followed
that principle in their own way, making that choice and putting yourself out
there to become a professional athlete or to coach a pro team.  Taking small action steps each day to become
the best you can possibly be, or to be than you were previousl and trusting
yourself daily to achieve your dreams and goals.

Finally, it
takes me to this conclusion.

Flashlight or Laser

The journey
you choose to go on with sport or in your personal life, I learned that staying
focused is truly valuable and the key to growth.  With focus comes being committed, invested
mentally emotionall and physically, while becoming mature. I dare you to practice
C.A.T. in your own way in which you feel that will help you create growth
experiences for yourself.

You have
nothing to lose, make that choice, act upon it and trust yourself and others
around you.  Begin to build bridges with
people, and sometimes things may not always work in your favour, and bridges
get burnt but these principles will always hold true on anything you decide you
want, or want to change about your life and the experiences you want in your

your mind can act as a flashlight shining at objects without real focus or your
mind can act as laser, focused only on the most important details and the only
way to grow the mind is by putting yourself in uncomfortable and challenging


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