In the mind of a student-athlete, it’s natural to have the fear of failure or weakness creep its way in and even go as far as to cripple his or her mental toughness and performance.
But for Boston College sailing coach Greg Wilkinson, that fear of failure is fuel for success, and he is headstrong in his approach—and it’s working. In his 10 years at the helm, coach Wilkinson has built a decorated program that has won 19 national championships and been ranked No. 1 in the country since 2005.
“I think what I’m good at,” says U.S. Olympic Sailing Committee 2010 National Coach of the Year, “is getting the absolute best out of really high-level, elite people in really high-pressure situations.”
“I love it. I can see winning. I can see the path to it,” he says. “And I just thrive on that.”
With each of his student-athletes, Wilkinson diligently works to uncover weaknesses, and he then focuses on what gets his athletes in the zone so they can perform under pressure. It starts with his goal-setting process and is followed with tactical strategies to which he holds his entire team accountable.
“My process is extremely objective about where the athletes are and about where we hope they can get to,” he says. “Could Tiger Woods always hit the golf ball the way he could at one point? No. But something about that was in him. Discipline comes into play, and they need to embrace that discipline and become that person.”
And for the Eagles sailing team, discipline doesn’t stop on the water. Wilkinson says ingraining BC’s values encompassing student formation has been instrumental to his program’s success and that his team naturally sets goals for the sailing team, academics, and community service.
“Boston College values and ethics can lead to success in life and athletics, and I’ve proven it,” he says. “We’re building a team culture, and that’s unique in our sport.”
Year after year, Wilkinson’s Eagles receive a number of BC Athletics community service awards, and Wilkinson notes a personal accomplishment of his was partnering with BC’s career center to achieve 100-percent job placement for the Class of 2018.
“We are the poster child for living and breathing BC values,” he says.
Wilkinson doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon, and he stresses that building the sailing program’s infrastructure with two full-time coaches and a fully-staffed facility is among his top priorities.
“We’re already winning, and we don’t have any of that,” which he notes are key elements of a national-winning program. “But we cease to exist [without donor support],” he adds. “I invite donors to be part of winning.”