Performance Coach #135: Jack Groppel - What Matters Most Right Now?

Season #5

What a pleasure it was to conduct this fascinating interview with a humble leader, pioneer, and USPTA Hall of Fame recipient, Dr Jack Groppel. Emma has followed Jack's career over the years, watching him present live many times and he has always openly shared his secrets to success. In this episode, Jack talks about the 3 C's (and an extra leadership quality) when it comes to being the best coach you can be. He talks about his early career from studying wildlife biology to those 17 words that one of his professors said, which ultimately changed the direction of his life. He talks about what the business world can learn from sports and how it is important to be humble in your success.       

 Check out some of the highlights below;

  • 1.31: Worst coaching moment: Know when to refer your client to someone else. You can everything to everyone. Sometimes you need to eat humble pie.
  • 2.58: Best coaching moment: Working with Michael Chang - then he goes on to win the French Open three months later. Be humble and be careful what you credit for. Your players still need to execute.
  • 6.56: Sliding Doors: From wildlife biology to having a mentor that believes in you.
    • Dr. Charles Dillman, associate professor of kinesiology, told Jack these 17 words after only one semester that ultimately changed the trajectory of his career: ‘If you really apply yourself, you could become a pioneering leader in the science of tennis performance.’
  • 11.35: What makes a Great Coach? (Connection, Character, and Curiosity) 
    • Connection: No one teaches us how to listen - true connection allows for this.
    • Character: Who are you at your core? Why do you coach?
    • Curiosity: What are you deeply curious about?
      • 15.39: Why are more people not curious? Be careful not to get set in your ways and don't just coach the way that you were coached because it worked for you. Find solutions to problems.
  • 17.07: Why do you do what you do? (Do not judge your answer but know your WHY)
  • 18.19: What matters most RIGHT NOW?
  • 20.03: Tennis saved me.
  • 22.00: What can the Corporate world learn from tennis? Focus on the 3 pillars: 
    • Physiology - how the brain lights up when you move. (Microbursts)
    • Psychology - What is productive behavior?
    • Nutrition - Food is a drug - how are you eating?
  • 23.55: Agape love - unconditional love (to love thy neighbor in the workplace)
    • Late 80's early 90's - Purpose was important but no one was talking about it.
    • If you were in the workplace prior to 1995 - you were non-contactable. But now we are accessible 24 hours, 7 days, 365 days a year. So who is teaching:
      • Boundaries - how to set boundaries
      • Intentional - how to be intentional with our time
      • Choices - how are you making the right choices
  • 27.19: Conflict can be healthy. Start with what we have in common.
  • 28.39: Work/Life Integration - read the article here:

  • 30.04: Follow John Wooden is considered the greatest NCAA basketball head coach of all time. 
  • 31.08: What makes a great leader?
    • Character (with yourself) and care (for others).

The Coaching Podcast is sponsored by The Sampson Agency - a talent entertainment and sports management company owned and operated by Tina Samara.

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About Jack Groppel, Former Illini men’s tennis coach (1978-81) | Co-founder, Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute. Jack Groppel has been inducted into the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) Hall of Fame. Groppel has been a profound influencer in the world of athletics in sports science.

Dr. Jack Groppel is an internationally recognized authority and pioneer in the science of human performance, and an expert in fitness and nutrition. Dr. Groppel is an Adjunct Professor of Management at the J.L. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Dr. Groppel is the author of The Corporate Athlete. He developed the Corporate Athlete concept for his training program while serving as an associate professor of kinesiology and bioengineering at the University of Illinois helping both business executives and athletes increase performance levels. In 1992, he combined his program with Dr. Jim Loehr to form the Human Performance Institute, formerly LGE Performance Systems, Inc.

A fellow in the American College of Sports Medicine, Dr. Groppel is also a board certified nutritionist in the American College of Nutrition and a former Research Associate to the U.S. Olympic Training Center. He served for 16 years as the Chairman of the National Sport Science Committee of the United States Tennis Association.

Sliding Doors Story:

Seventeen words — spoken by a UI associate professor of kinesiology — would change Jack Groppel’s life in a way even he couldn’t imagine at the time.

It was the mid-1970s and Groppel, fresh off earning his bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology, was about to begin working toward UI degree No. 2, in kinesiology.

“Sport science was a relatively young field of study” at the time, he remembers. “I had played tennis at Illinois and loved sport but didn't realize that the study of sport science was even a discipline.

“The department head, Dr. Rollin Wright, extended me grace and admitted me into the master of science program. But my greatest memory is of Dr. Charles Dillman, associate professor of kinesiology, telling me these words after only one semester: ‘If you really apply yourself, you could become a pioneering leader in the science of tennis performance.’

“That was all it took.

“I went straight through my MS degree, studying and writing about tennis science, went to Florida State for my Ph.D., then got hired as the men's tennis coach at Illinois and a professor in kinesiology. I later became the chair of the National Sport Science Committee of the United States Tennis Association, received tenure at Illinois, left tenure at Illinois to start my own business, sold that business to Johnson & Johnson and am now back in higher education at Judson University.

“All this because of Dr. Wright’s belief in me, and Dr. Dillman's encouraging words on that crisp, windy day in May 1974 in Freer Hall.”

Connect with Jack below.   

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