COACHING THE PERSON, NOT THE ATHLETE
However, even as one of the best sprinters in the world, Hawke’s mentality wasn’t bulletproof and he constantly struggled with confidence.
“I always felt like the underdog. I never really gave myself enough credit once I got to the top of my game to say, hey, I'm one of these people,” he shares candidly. “I always felt like an outsider. I always had kind of an imposter syndrome. I saw some of my competitors as just better than me and I think at times I gave them too much credit for that.”
For a second time in his life, Hawke took that doubt, negativity, and fear into fuel—but this time he used it on the pool deck. Hawke transitioned from athlete to coach after Athens, taking a coaching position at his alma mater, Auburn University in the USA. He ensured his experience informed his coaching:
“I wish at some point in my career I had the people around me to say that you belong there, you're good enough, you're one of them. I didn't have enough people like that. I was even surrounded by people who just couldn't believe that I was there in the first place. So, what I tried to do as a coach is instill in my athletes that you absolutely belong here. This is where you belong. You've earned this. You were born to do this.”
“I wanted them to understand that they had a partner in their performance. So when they walked to the block, they weren't walking alone and they didn't have these doubts and fears that nobody was with them. I wanted them to feel secure in the fact that I believed in them 100% and they belonged exactly there.”
True to those intentions, two years later when one of his swimmers, Brazilian Cesar Cielo, confidently stepped up to the blocks and won gold in the 50 m freestyle at the Beijing Olympics, Hawke says it felt like he was standing on the podium with him.