What can volleyball, snowboarding, rock climbing, fencing and surf coaches learn from each other? Plenty.
That’s the vision behind the United States Olympic Committee’s (USOC) National Team Coach Leadership Education Program, a brain trust of the top minds in Olympic coaching.
USA Surfing head coach Joey Buran was one of 14 head coaches selected to participate in the intensive program designed to help coaches achieve international competitive excellence. In addition to learning from each other, the coaches attended seminars led by experts in topics like creating a culture of excellence, communicating expectations, building a strong coaching staff, avoiding and managing injuries and other aspects of sports science.
“It’s a real honor and privilege to be part of this group,” Buran said. “As the coach of a new Olympic sport, there is not another surf coach who has had this experience. It was invaluable to be able to soak up all the world class experience and expertise of this group of coaches.”
The group of coaches get together four times per year and continue to collaborate and share online with the help of some structured questions, research and articles that prime and prompt a continuous information exchange.
“We are being taught what excellent leadership and high performance looks like and where it comes from,” Buran said. “It’s about a lot more than just coaching. We studied innovative brands, Navy Seals, John Wooden, Joe Gibbs Racing and many other highly successful organizations. They are equipping us to be the best in the world.”
Joe Gibbs Racing — the site of the Olympic coaches’ first meeting — served as a model for creating a culture of success among a highly diverse workforce.
Every one of their 600-plus employees is focused on the company mantra: “Go Fast. Win Races.” Buran said he is working to create a similar focus in USA Surfing. “We are here to build elite athletes and go for gold!” Buran declared.
USA Surfing CEO Greg Cruse said the USOC recognized Buran’s unique ability to recruit and shape the sport’s youngest talent. “All sports are experiencing a youth surge with younger and younger athletes making the teams and it presents all sorts of new issues for them. Joey is ahead of the curve on this and they value his input,” Cruse said. “He is the kind of coach that can motivate and impart the kind of confidence athletes need to perform well and be good teammates.”
Under Buran, the US team won gold in the World Juniors event in 2017 and is well prepared to repeat the performance in 2018 and at the 2020 Olympics.
Buran was a Pipe Master’s champion and founder of the Professional Surfing Association of America. When he was 17, he was the youngest member of the USA Surf team.
Buran said he particularly values the relationship he’s formed with Rick Bower, head coach for U.S. Snowboarding Pro Half Pipe and one of the most successful coaches in Olympics.
“Snowboarding and surfing are innovative and creative sports,” Buran said. “Every three years, seismic changes occur in equipment and what our athletes can do. We need to be in front of that progression. Getting to share ideas and lessons with him is just priceless.”
Buran says he hopes the wisdom and experience of those who’ve been to the Olympic stage and won gold will translate into podium success for USA Surfing’s program.
USA Surfing’s coaching staff offers a full complement of skills and experiences. WSL coach Chris Gallagher Stone “Gally” is the team’s elite technical coach, who has extensive experience with WSL CT surfers. He is highly respected for analyzing surfers’ technique and heat strategy.
Chris Gallagher Stone, a native of Northern California and a former Championship Tour surfer, has coached standouts like Jordy Smith and C.J. and Damien Hobgood.
Brandon Phillips is an assistant coach focused on stoking the growing pipeline of young talent. Phillips has been invaluable to Buran in communicating high expectations and a sense of team among the youngest surfers.
- Listen to Buran on ESPN Los Angeles’ Weekend Warrior show.
- Read about 12 of the nation’s leading experts in surf athlete training assembled to support the U.S. Olympic Surfing Team’s peak performance as the sport makes its debut in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
USA Surfing is the National Governing Body for surfing in the United States, recognized by the International Surfing Association (ISA) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). USA Surfing’s mission is to promote and grow the sport of surfing and support United States athletes of all backgrounds to achieve sustained competitive excellence in Olympic competition. USA Surfing will oversee and support U.S. surfing teams as the sport makes its debut at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and surfing and stand up paddleboarding athletes compete in the Pan American Games Lima 2019.