Bryan Jennings, Derek Rabelo and Magno Passos, photo by Faith Fay

Recently Bryan Jennings was interviewed for an article about coaching and parenting. He shared some great thoughts on really important topics: dealing with fear, coaching techniques and parents’ responses to WOW surf camps, and how coaching is applicable to parenting. Read the full interview below:

What is a short summary of your involvement in coaching?

Over twenty years ago God prompted me to start the Walking On Water Surf Camp in San Diego, California. Through the surf school I have had the opportunity to coach beginner and some advanced competitive surfers and more importantly lead them to a relationship with Jesus Christ. I absolutely love sharing the sport I love and the truth of God’s powerful love with the young surfers.

What has been the impact you have seen on both yourself and participants in coaching?

I especially enjoy helping a student who has a fear of the ocean because I can remember having the same fears. Fear is actually very similar to faith. It believes in something that has not yet happened. Unfortunately fear believes in something bad happening before it happens. Faith is believing that God who is good and loving will work out something we can’t see yet that is good and perfect and amazing! The fear of the ocean has kept many people from ever learning to surf similar to other fears keeping people from what God has called them to.

One young eight year old girl named Molly had almost drowned a year prior to attending our surf camp so she was paralyzed by fear. Instead of pressuring her to surf I encouraged her and built up her confidence by only taking her into 6 inches of water and asking her to stand on the board. I told her that I will only take her out farther if she asks me to. I had to be patient. But eventually she asked me to take her out farther and farther and eventually she rode a wave and had the biggest smile I have ever seen! She had conquered her fears and realized that yes she had a tragic near drowning situation in the past, but that did not mean that God could not protect her and lead her back towards her fear so that HE could conquer them and give her the courage to surf and literally ride the storm instead of being suffocated by it!

Can you give us a practical story that illustrates this, particularly with some parent feedback on their child response to coaching?

The most rewarding part of my job is when parents thank me and our Walking On Water surf camp staff for loving their child and teaching them surfing at our surf camp! Last summer we had an amazing situation happen when Derek Rabelo a blind surfer helped at our surf camp as a surf instructor. Derek has surfed the most dangerous waves in the world and has taught all of us what it really means to live by faith and not by sight! Well this past summer we had a young surf camper who was adopted and had some slight mental challenges. This camper became very frustrated during the beach games time and was in an argument with some of the other campers. Derek the blind surfer gently asked this student to go on a walk with him and they began a leader to camper friendship. The wisdom Derek gave him and the love he showed the camper that week made such a huge difference in the camper’s life that his parents came on the last day and could not stop thanking Derek and our staff. They kept saying, “We can’t believe how God brought a blind surfer from Brazil to a surf camp in San Diego to make such a wonderful impact on our son who was adopted from Europe. God’s ways and waves are truly amazing!

What principles of coaching are applicable to parents also, especially as they transition from ‘telling’ younger children to ‘coaching’ older ones?

I think the most powerful coaching comes when the coach is vulnerable and honest about their own past and present mistakes and even go as far as to share with the athlete or our children how God is coaching us through his love and truth. We all need practical examples. For example lately I have struggled with feelings of fear as I am making much needed changes in my life. Derek the blind surfer coached me reminding me that when that first thought or feeling of fear arrives, I need to recognize it, take that thought captive by telling it to leave and praying for God to give me faith and trust in him instead of listening to the voice of fear. I recently told my daughter this and asked her to do the same when she has feelings of anger and agitation. So she is seeing her dad/coach applying his own material and even asking for forgiveness when he/I fail. The recognition of not handling a situation correctly can be a more powerful learning moment than when we do it right. I also ask my 6 year old daughter to coach and teach her dolls what I teach her. So she is learning, teaching, then applying these weapons of Biblical love.

As you observe kids developing resilience through the surf coaching, what advice can you give parents to develop resilience in their kids outside of surfing?

I think the best tool for parents is to teach their kids when they are not in the middle of the storm or the tantrum. It has worked so well for me to wait until the next day or a different time when my daughter has done nothing wrong and then gently remind her of how she gets frustrated when certain things happen. I then coach her through what to do next time this happens and maybe even help her to avoid it happening next time. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties or failures. The word Consistency comes to mind. Confidence comes from consistency! When we are not consistent in certain areas of our lives then we don’t have victory. Without practice teams fail. Another way of saying this would be that without failing a lot we can’t win. Practice is actually being humble enough to fail a few times before getting something right. But without humility we can’t fail well. Failing well turns us into champions. Someone who fails well needs resilience to learn from their failures and make changes and persevere. This is developing resilience. Resilience is the state of mind that rejects attitudes like, “I have arrived!” or “I got this” or “It was their fault not mine” or “this will never happen”.

(Left) Bryan Jennings, photo by Tim Craig, (Right) Magno Passos, Derek Rabelo and Bryan Jennings, photo by DeMasi Photography