This month The Locker Room welcomes Sailing Coach, Murray McCullough. A sailor from a young age, Murray changed course and set his sights on coaching the sport about 9 years ago. After coaching at the club level for a number of years, Murray is now a High Performance Coach for the Ontario Sailing Team.
With graduation from CSIO’s Advanced Coaching Diploma program on the horizon, Murray is also part of CSIO’s Coach to Leader program looking to enhance his leadership skills even further.
Murray was named Canadian Yachting Association’s 2011 Coach of the Year for not only his technical knowledge of the sport, but for his leadership and his personal skills - specifically his ability to motivate his athletes and instill a sense of good sportsmanship along with a keen competitive spirit.
After recently returning from the Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta 2014, a Rio 2016 Test Event, Murray took a few moments to check in with The Locker Room.
Name: Murray McCullough
Hometown: Trenton, ON
Team/Club: Ontario Sailing Team
1. How did you get started in your sport?
My dad introduced me to sailing when I was a youngster. When I began “sailing” I was more or less a human auto-bailer as our boat was made of solid wood and each spring the wood would take time to swell before fully sealing itself. So my early sailing days were spent bailing large amounts of water over board while my dad was the “captain” of the ship.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career in sport?
This is a tough question. As the years roll by, my answer to this question continues to evolve. At the beginning I would have said my dad, as he instilled in me his passion for sailing. Then I think back to all the times my mom waited around while I sailed late at night at the yacht club and drove me around from regatta to regatta each summer when I was younger. More recently I would have given credit to a select few coaches in my life. Brian Miendel, my high school rugby coach, sits at the top of the list as he built a rugby team from the ground up and proved that with directed passion success is attainable. Ken Dool, Steve Mitchell, Erik Stibbe, Chris Cook, Rob Frost and Chris Hewson are a list of sailing specific coaches who have taught me invaluable lessons along the way and I cannot thank them enough for their role in my development as a coach.
3. How long have you been coaching?
I have been coaching on and off for 9 years. I started coaching sailing during the summer of 2005, following my first year at the University of Western Ontario. Following my degree, I started working full-time with Ontario Sailing in the Fall of 2009 to the present.
4. What is your favourite exercise/drill/activity to have athletes do?
More recently it has been an exercise where the athletes replace a solid carob tiller extension with a piece of rope. This rope extends from the tiller and allows the athletes to steer the boat by turning the rudder at the back of the boat. By replacing the tiller extension with rope, the athletes are forced to keep the boat balance and are able to acquire a very accurate feeling for the “balance” of the boat. In having an innate feel and understanding of how the boat is balance, this ultimately leads to improved speed and overall performance.
5. Do you have any superstitions?
When I was an athlete racing I had superstitions around always wearing the same pair of socks I had worn the day I was sailing well.
6. Do you have any hidden talents?
I was a fairly good scrum half in rugby in my high school days. I try my best to play the piano and guitar, but wouldn’t call my skills “talent” in these areas but defiantly a “hidden” skill that has yet to really surface for me.
7. What was the last book you read?
I must admit, I find it very challenging to become engaged when reading and as a result I have not finished too many books in my lifetime. However, as my coaching career continues to press forward I find it very rewarding and inspiring to read sporting books or leadership books. The last book I read and am ALMOST complete is called “The One Thing” by Gary Keller. It simply outlines the importance of focusing on one task at a time and reiterates time and time again that “multi-tasking is merely a way to mess up more than one thing at a time.”
8. What is the last movie you saw?
That depends on the definition of “saw” as I seem to watch about the first 5 minutes of a movie before I end up falling asleep on the couch. The last movie I completed was “Last Vegas”. A great comedy if you ask me and one I would recommend to anyone who needs to get their mind off of everyday life. I spent a great deal of time laughing quite loud on a plane after a great line from the pool scene in the first 2 minutes of the movie and was hooked from that point forward.
9. What is your favourite competition city?
My favourite competition city is Kingston, Ontario. There is always great breeze and sailing conditions from the thermal and the occasional offshore wind that makes for some challenging conditions. In a close second would be Long Beach, California. Really nice swell from the ocean coupled with a summer desert thermal equals big waves, big breeze and a difference direction for each making the race track a wild and tricky ride.
10. What is your most embarrassing moment in sport?
My most embarrassing moment in sport was when I was first learning to skate at the arena. My skates were laced up, my helmet was fastened up, my gloves were on and stick in hand. There I am, standing at the boards ready to take my first step out onto the ice and I fall like a new born deer, feet split apart, I crash to my bum only to realize my skate guards were still on!
11. What was the last picture you took on your phone?
A photo of the diving platforms from the new Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.
12. Who would play you in the movie of your life?
My cousin Luke Ottaway. While he isn’t quite as good looking as me, his quick wit and amazing sense of humour would make up for that and Luke would surely be a great source of laughter.