This is part two of our two part breakdown of Powering Performance Episode #2 with Texas A&M Assistant Athletic Director of Sports Performance, Tanna Burge.
"I am not going to put up with anything less than full respect." - Tanna Burge
In part one, we dive into how Tanna separates herself as a coach with her methodology and strong trusting relationships with her athletes. Now, we'll break down how she became an influencer in the sports industry as well as how she refuses to let gender dictate her success. Tanna is an inspiration for many coaches across the board due to her commitment to enhancing performance and her vast knowledge for all things S&C. Being one of the few female strength coaches, Tanna shares with us how she let her confidence and drive speak to her qualifications rather than let gender be a determining factor.
How she got started
From a young age, Tanna knew she wanted to be a part of the sports world. In college she discovered the path towards a profession in performance and dove right in. From starting out as a student assistant, to taking on internships, classes, and graduate jobs, by her early 20's she was promoted to Director of Olympic Sports at Clemson University. “ I was a typical strength coach early on. I thought I knew everything. I was a very confident young women, but also worked really hard and just kept moving and growing.” Similar to Tanna’s methodology now, she fully integrated herself into the sports she was working with. Her confidence and strong work ethic turned her into a success, but it was also what burned her out.
“I burnt myself out working with seven teams plus football, plus going to every single sporting event. My whole world revolved around my job.”
Taking a step back
Tanna left the gym behind, for what she expected to be forever. But, after taking a break, she could feel the pressure to get back into the gym. Because, can you really leave something you love for good? So, she came back with a newly found, and undeniably fierce, mindset to take her career to the next level. To help her get there, she took the approach of a lifelong learner...
“I started reading more books than I’d ever read before, seeking out more conversations with coaches, and just trying to get a deeper knowledge and understanding of all the things I thought I knew before, but quickly realized I had no idea. It made me reflect on my 11 years priors, and think, ‘Man, what was I doing?’”
Tanna's research strengthened her passion for her work. And she was lucky enough to get to continue to explore her field upon her re-entry, working with military athletes. “It was an incredible area to get in to, because it gave me a chance to get really creative and see the whole athlete from a different perspective.”
And just like that, Tanna was back. Making huge impacts in improving athlete performance and establishing herself as a leader in the industry.
Confidence is key
Even as a young strength coach, Tanna knew exactly what would lift her above her competition - her confidence. To this day, Tanna brings a unique sense of confidence to any meeting or training session and it remains a key to her success. She doesn't let her differences from the traditional coaches hold her back. Instead she embraces her gender as it allows her to bring a profoundly unique perspective to each day. While a profession in S&C, and sports in general, may still be considered a male's preferred path, Tanna refused to let that impact her dreams.
“I didn't allow there to be a difference between me and the other coach. I wouldn't accept that other people would see me differently. Being a female in this profession”
Her unique perspective and incredible thirst for knowledge pushes her to be the best, but when she finds herself doubtful, she says she employs Amy Cuddy's advice to, “fake it until you become it. ” If you believe in yourself and contribute with confidence, others will believe in you too. Her drive to improve not only herself, but more importantly her athletes, drives her commitment to research, reading and collaboration with other coaches. Because the best way to learn new methodologies is through leveraging the knowledge of your peers.
While being a female in this profession is still, at times, an obstacle for Tanna and other women trying to make it in the industry, Tanna has a refreshing perspective on how the profession should evaluate great coaches:
“If we want the absolute best coaches to coach our athletes - then I think we need to grow up and see people for who they are, and not what their outside looks like.”
As roadblocks still emerge, Tanna handles situations with the same confidence she channels anytime she walks into a room. Because she explains, if you walk in with confidence - even false confidence, “people will see less of 'oh, you’re a woman,' and more of 'oh, that’s a confident person. That’s a confident woman.' ” So don’t let intimidation creep in, Tanna advises. If people doubt you or your ability as a coach, that just provides you the opportunity to prove them wrong. This applies to all coaches. New, young coaches are often faced with the stigma of inexperience and being under-qualified. However Tanna believes,
"There are just misconceptions of what people can bring to the table. People think young coaches don't bring much, but they can be innovative, creative, insightful and have good critical thinking skills. It doesn't mean you discriminate against them because they're young."
If you only take one point with you....let it be this
For anyone facing adversity - do the extra legwork so you can come in with confidence, with a plan, with knowledge. And then put your plan into action. So when you are judged - your work is what is judged first, rather than you. Whatever your differences may be, whether it is age, gender, race Tanna encourages you to, “own that, and know your strengths and value.” Unique perspective can be what separates a coach from all the rest and having the confidence to share that perspective is the only way to get recognized.
At the end of the day, all that should matter is what a coach brings to the table.