Goat Wrestling Perseverance

Episode 39 - 15 Time Coach of the Year Paul Peck with host Dave Swanson

July 12, 2019 Dave Swanson / Paul Peck Season 2 Episode 39
Goat Wrestling Perseverance
Episode 39 - 15 Time Coach of the Year Paul Peck with host Dave Swanson
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Goat Wrestling Perseverance
Episode 39 - 15 Time Coach of the Year Paul Peck with host Dave Swanson
Jul 12, 2019 Season 2 Episode 39
Dave Swanson / Paul Peck

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Army Women’s Tennis Coach, Paul Peck took an unconventional path to arrive at his current profession. As a young man, growing up in Chicago, he excelled at many sports before finally settling on tennis and playing in high school and college. After graduating from the University of Illinois, he entered the work force. Failing to find fulfillment working a 9-5 job, he enlisted in the Army and contracted for Officer Candidate School as a means of paying off his college debt and guaranteeing a Master’s Degree. His first duty assignment was Germany, where he was assigned to an 8 inch Artillery Battery. He trained to fight the Soviets and witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall. Upon returning to the United States he was again assigned to the last Regular Army 8 inch self-propelled howitzer unit. The day after he was promoted to Captain, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and his unit immediately made preparations to deploy. A month after he made Captain, he was placed in command of an artillery battery and was enroute to the Persian Gulf. Before the conventional ground war started, he participated in artillery raids. Once the ground war started, his battery followed the advance and provided support to the rapidly advancing coalition forces. After returning from the war, he applied to teach in the Department of Physical Education at West Point and received his Masters from the University of Illinois. While teaching in DPE, he returned to the sport he loved, and helped out as an Officer Representative and an Assistant Coach on the Women’s Tennis Team. Coach Peck was a perfect fit for the Women’s Tennis Program, and shortly after pinning on Major’s rank, he resigned from the Army and accepted a civilian job as the Women’s Tennis Head Coach. He has been coaching at West Point since 1995. In 2012, he received the Mike Krzyzewski Teaching Character Through Sport Award.

Dave Swanson

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Show Notes Transcript

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Army Women’s Tennis Coach, Paul Peck took an unconventional path to arrive at his current profession. As a young man, growing up in Chicago, he excelled at many sports before finally settling on tennis and playing in high school and college. After graduating from the University of Illinois, he entered the work force. Failing to find fulfillment working a 9-5 job, he enlisted in the Army and contracted for Officer Candidate School as a means of paying off his college debt and guaranteeing a Master’s Degree. His first duty assignment was Germany, where he was assigned to an 8 inch Artillery Battery. He trained to fight the Soviets and witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall. Upon returning to the United States he was again assigned to the last Regular Army 8 inch self-propelled howitzer unit. The day after he was promoted to Captain, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and his unit immediately made preparations to deploy. A month after he made Captain, he was placed in command of an artillery battery and was enroute to the Persian Gulf. Before the conventional ground war started, he participated in artillery raids. Once the ground war started, his battery followed the advance and provided support to the rapidly advancing coalition forces. After returning from the war, he applied to teach in the Department of Physical Education at West Point and received his Masters from the University of Illinois. While teaching in DPE, he returned to the sport he loved, and helped out as an Officer Representative and an Assistant Coach on the Women’s Tennis Team. Coach Peck was a perfect fit for the Women’s Tennis Program, and shortly after pinning on Major’s rank, he resigned from the Army and accepted a civilian job as the Women’s Tennis Head Coach. He has been coaching at West Point since 1995. In 2012, he received the Mike Krzyzewski Teaching Character Through Sport Award.

Dave Swanson

Website

Book 

Goat Wrestling Perseverance Clothes 

Free Chapter of my Bestselling Book? 

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/GWPPodcast)

Speaker 1:

[inaudible].

Speaker 2:

Welcome to goat wrestling perseverance podcast with your host, Dave Swanson. He's wrestled with goats, climbed mountains and bicycled across America. He wants to help you with your dreams and goals with one perseverance story at a time, no wrestling, perseverance and podcasts. Today I have a coach as my guest to coach.

Speaker 3:

I've known for quite a while. He's a 15 times Patriot league coach of the year. He's the all time winningest coach at women's tennis program and army at West Point and not only that, he has won numerous awards as a commander of a battery while during deployed during Desert Storm and he's also won the MacArthur award and most recently as well on the coach Shashefski leadership award of the year. Today I have coach Paul Peck, the women's tennis coach from West Point Coach Beck. Thanks for being on the show.

Speaker 1:

Hi Day. Thank you.

Speaker 3:

All right. As the audience knows, we jumped straight into the story and I know this story pretty well, I think and you know, I'm excited to share it with the audience. So coach, please go ahead.

Speaker 1:

Well, in terms of perseverance, I think, you know, throughout life you have to person fear through obstacles. And I can go back as early as [inaudible] my father was my little league coach and um, it was time for tryouts and he actually cut me from the baseball team and uh, you know, a little disappointing, but you know, persevered. The next year I made it. Um, and then the same thing happened once I went to University of Illinois. I was, you know, I try not for the team. I thought I had a good opportunity, but I was cut off my team at Illinois. And you really, at the time I was a little immature. I should've been a little bit more dedicated, I would say a little bit too much fun with my friends in the evenings, but you know, the game, um, was something that I enjoyed and I kind of stuck with it even though I wasn't on the team anymore.

Speaker 1:

And then, um, when I got out of University of Illinois, he had some debt and it was a beeper salesman or pager salesman, which was not a pleasant job. And I ended up enlisting in the army and then went to officer candidate school and you know, made my way through jump school and so on and so forth. Um, but, and a tennis is always in the back of my mind. So when I came at a command as it does it store, I, I was given an opportunity to be an instructor at West Point. So the army sent me to get my masters degree. I came to teach in a DPE department of physical education. And back in those days, the non-revenue sports, also the coaches taught in PE department. So the coach before me was a friend of mine. I knew from the juniors, like we played against each other's kids and he asked me to help out the team. And then halfway through my, sure at west point

Speaker 1:

he, um, he left and I was asked to be the interim coach and 25 years later, you know, here I am. But I think the lesson has learned is, and too often now, I, you know, you don't see kids getting cut from teams anymore. He, you see all these participation awards. And so forth. And I think kids need to learn how to handle adversity. No. Whether it was being cut from a team or not getting an assignment that you wanted and so forth. And you know, I think what West Point does too and you know, being a graduate is no matter how gifted you are, there are going to be things at west point that you're going to struggle with. Yeah. And I think you deserve you, you work through those issues and you overcome them. And I think by learning how to overcome that adversity, it makes you stronger as a person and makes you more self reliant.

Speaker 1:

And too often, you know, I think, you know, people's lives are too easy and they don't have the obstacles overcome. So when they do eventually have a serious obstacle to overcome, you know, they don't have the skills to, you know, the persevere. And I feel like, you know, having, when I took command during Desert Storm, I was a brand new captain. I've been a captain for like a week and we got the word that we're going to go over and we loaded up all the equipment on a train or live on a ship and so on and so forth. And we're doing small arms training while we're waiting for our flight. And the alphabetic commander lost his nine millimeter pistol and it came out and staff call. And I'm the battalion maintenance officer with no equipment around. So I'm really not doing anything but to sit there totally my thumb thumbs in the back or the room and battalion commander fired him right there on the spot.

Speaker 1:

Okay. So he looked around the room and I'm the most junior crapped in there. You said pack your mind, New Alpha battery commander, you're gonna go over early, do your inventories, you're taking command over in the desert. And you know, I went from somebody who joined the army to help pay off bills and have a little bit of adventure too. All of a sudden the responsibility of being in charge of 200 the two match soldiers in combat. And you know, there's obviously challenges. You, you've been there, you've done that, you know, there's a lot of stress involved. But no, you thankfully everything worked out. And, and I think overcoming that type of situation, you know, it's made me a stronger person as a coach now knowing that you see my athletes going through certain adversity and I think I can give them good counsel and how to persevere and keep going and keep pushing through it. And, and now that I've been here for so long, like it's fun for me to see guys like you who I've known for so long, I'll go on and their lives and their career and become successful. And whether it's in the private sector at a public sector or you know, cause I coach women, you know, some women go on, you know, the raise of family and, and they go on and be really productive. And it's kind of cool for me to look back on it now

Speaker 3:

so I can dismiss, you know, I was a wrestling a goat at the age of five and here your dad's cutting you from the baseball team at the age of five. It's, it takes a lot. They have a father to do that. Do you remember like what the explanation was? Like he had to explain to your mother that he cuts you from the deem and I, I get it. You know, I mean, you get it now, right? As a coach, you get it. Now you understand why he did it. But do you, I mean, what was that kind of a ride home situation? Uh, when you went back?

Speaker 1:

So actually I was, I was trying out for the, the travel baseball team. I was like in junior high at the time and, and I was trying to, I was at the, I just aged up enough where I could try out for the team. And my brother older brother was on a team and my father, you know, is a retired military. He's retired sergeant major, former drill sergeant. So things are pretty cut and dry. And he just said, listen, you're just not strong enough, big enough, fast enough yet. So I'm going to go ahead and cut you. You're gonna go play in the B league and then next year you're just gonna have to try out again because, you know, I can't, basically what he said was, I can't keep you on a team when there's other kids more deserving than you, because then it would look like I'm playing favorites and, and you really need to develop more, which was a hard pill to swallow.

Speaker 1:

Um, you know, my mom was like, hey, whatever. You know, I think they grew up in a generation where, hey, that's the way it works. Right? So I worked out and the next year I made the team and you know, did well. And then same thing in college, you know, first of all I went to a big 10 school and knowing what I know now about college athletics and college tennis, now I look back on it a, I was a punk. You know, I had some maturing to do and B, the reality was I wasn't good enough for that level. I mean I'm good, I was good, but I just wasn't at that level. And there was a little bit of denial there. But you know, now that I've gotten older and I've been in this career path so long, you know, I could see where I made my mistakes and you know, I've learned from that's what you do. You learn from your mistakes and you move forward.

Speaker 3:

So you've been the coach now for 25 years and one of the things that you have to do is eventually clip people, you know, trying to keep with the same that you're doing. Uh, you haven't had to cut people cause you, when is the, been there a time where you've had walk ons, which I'm not sure if that's how it works for you guys, but you've had some walk on. So we're better than recruited athletes. Is that happened in your 25 years? And if it has, what was that, how that work when you had

Speaker 1:

to say, hey, this person's just better than you? Well, um, I've had one walk on, I want to first started. The previous coach had been recruited as much as he should have. So I, I did have a walk on and was pretty productive. But, um, you know, what eventually happens is no, you've recruited a kid and they just don't develop as much or as quickly as you would like. And, and we have roster limits here. Um, so every year I'm trying to bring in the best players I can. I normally bring about four players in a year and I just don't have the, the room now I host a, a really big squad. I mean, I, I, I'm probably little bit bigger than most schools. We have about 16. But, you know, you got to sit down and say, hey, listen, you got to remember why he came here.

Speaker 1:

I mean, one of the things I tell them when I recruit them is, you know, if you're coming here to, for just tennis, you're making a big mistake. You're coming here to become a leader. You're coming here from the education, you're coming here to prepare yourself or whatever path you decided to go down later in life. And in tennis is, you know, an extracurricular activity really, you know, it makes your life here at west point better. You get to play a sport you enjoy. But ultimately you're here to become an officer. And when you're not on a tennis team, you're still training to become an army officer. And that's what you gotta remember. So would you say that, uh, you know, you're on your recruiting trip and you go all around the country to do this? And what is it, does that message resonate more with the person you're recruiting or the parents that are generally sitting by them?

Speaker 1:

Um, I think both, you know, in our sport you begin to realize, do you have that ability to go to the next level, next level, you know, 1% make it in the pros. And most tennis players come from a pretty privileged background or kid or their parents are educated and they have the means for the training and the equipment. So I think they begin to realize early on, okay, you know, and when I tell them it's your tennis as a means to an end, I can help you get into a really good school, like West Point. It's going to make your experience at west point better. But ultimately it's the degree that you walk out the door with. So when I had that conversation with them, I think they get it. I think they understand that, hey, I'm not going to be a professional tennis player.

Speaker 1:

Um, and they understand that, you know, what they're trying to do is get a really good education. And I would hope that there's that, you know, a feeling of patriotism to, hey, I want to serve my country and get back. And most of those kids get it. You know, you had that 1% too. Maybe they're forced to come here because their grandfather went to west point or was in the military or whatever. And then the ones who are kind of forced to come here, they struggle. I mean, you probably saw it when you, we're helping out back in a day, you apply, saw some kids struggle and you know, you have to be doing it for yourself. You can't be doing it for someone else. Yeah. That's, um, and that's not just on your team. I think that's pretty much universal out the cadets.

Speaker 3:

You know, that first years are real determinant, you know, that plea beer for people and to understand, you know, for me, I didn't have anybody in the military my entire life at all. And so for me to be, you know, going from being enlisted to being this plebe and being around all these people that are third generation, fourth, fifth generation, and you find that they're, I guess you would say perseverance or their kind of attitude towards being there is a lot different than the one that I had. And so you see this all the time and that's the point you're just trying to make.

Speaker 1:

Right. And then I'm sure when you started off as a plea, haven't been enlisted in active duty for awhile. You know, in some ways it's like going backwards, right? You're going back to being like a private and you know, although

Speaker 1:

you know, he floors don't make a lot of money. It's still more money than you make as a plebe and you have the freedom to come and go as you please at the end of the duty day. But you obviously saw the light at the end of the tunnel and persevered and pushed through it and gone on to do great things. But you know, I think in a way too, it's part of the filtering system. You know, coming through these challenges, you know, brings out the best in people and if you can't handle those challenges or if you're doing it for the wrong reasons, that filter works and knows people don't make it through.

Speaker 3:

Well coach talking about what you're doing next here, it seems like you got 25 years under your belt. It seems like you want to do a little more time as a coach. Can you talk about that and, and just thinking about your ability that if you could go another 10 years that that's 35 years of not just coaching but mentoring and seeing these people from your early on to now where they're at in their lives. You mentioned that a little bit earlier, but, uh, is that kind of the plan to continue coaching?

Speaker 1:

It is. I mean, I still enjoy it. I enjoy going to practice. I enjoy working with the kids. Um, you know, so it's still fun for me. And you know, there was a while there, but we are winning pretty regularly. And then,

Speaker 3:

okay,

Speaker 1:

apple team came in to lead the challenge to us and I kind of had to regear the way we recruit and the way I do things and we were able to, you know, get back on top and we won the last couple of years. But, you know, that was kind of a challenge and I kind of enjoy it. You're trying to meet that challenge. And really, I think these last couple of teams, I mean we're, we're talented, but we didn't win because we were more talented. We won because they played as a team. And although tennis is an individual sport at this level, it is a team sport. So when they're out there playing and you're having a bad day, they didn't want to let down their teammates. And you know, we definitely came together. Um, and they, they, they play for each other. So that was really cool. That's the rewarding part of this.

Speaker 1:

So, you know, I say I'd like to another 10 years, you know, by then my, my kids will be out of college and so forth, and I think financially I'll be in the right situation. Um, but I would like to leave when I still have a few marbles in my head and I can still walk around and know my name and, and be active to do other things. But, um, living here at west point to beautiful place, obviously, you know, very historic. Um, so it's, it's really cool to be employed here. I'm very proud of it and humbled by it, but, you know, eventually I need to, I'll, I'll have to pass on the torch to somebody else, but right now I'm enjoying it. So I'm going to keep going.

Speaker 3:

Well, coach, I would say I liked to make this last point that you said about, you know, even if they're having a bad day, they played for their team and they played for their teammates, and that is the number one reason that people in the military do that when you're in combat and when you're, when you do it the right thing for each other. Coach, thanks for being on the show today. So happy to have you on. Thanks Dave. Take care.

Speaker 4:

[inaudible].