The client: True North Sports
The timeframe: 2014-present
The goal: Transform the athletic coaching industry with a business poised to have the greatest impact online and in person
Practice. Compete. Win.
It’s what athletes do. And it’s what coaches have been trained to lead them to do well. Yet for Celia Slater, founder of True North Sports, she knew from decades in the industry that coaching needed to be — and do — much more. That coaches who really want to make an impact in the lives of their athletes need to go beyond the X’s and O’s of the game and dig into what’s being coached, and how.
Building street cred
Celia Slater became a head coach at the ripe age of 27. While the opportunity was thrilling, it was also terrifying. “It’s a difficult profession,” she describes. “People drastically underestimate how hard it is; what a challenge it presents.”
It was her own coaching experience that led her to move into coaching development in 2003, where she spent 12 years working with the NCAA, co-founding both the Women Coaches Academy as well as the Alliance of Women Coaches.
“We really created programs unlike any other, bringing women coaches from all sports together with programs that were different from attending yet another single-sport coaching convention,” explains Celia.
But by 2014, Celia was, again, ready for change. Her passion for creating opportunity for women in sports hadn’t dimmed, but her desire to influence change on an even greater scale had ignited.
In September of 2014, she filed for an LLC under the name True North Sports. She didn’t have a solid game plan, but she knew she wanted to broaden the scope of her work — and she knew her programs would be focused on the oft-overlooked skills necessary to be a transformative coach: people management, leadership, and self-awareness.
She also knew this: What she’d been doing for years with the NCAA, supported by robust staff and grants, wasn’t going to cut it with True North Sports. It was time to think differently.
Finding True North
One month before officially launching True North Sports, Celia was volunteering at Camp Good Life Project alongside Rachel Gogos, leader of brandiD. The two talked business, and Celia quickly realized she’d found not just a confidante, but a true strategist who could help her both launch her business and strategically take it from one level to the next as it grew.
“I just felt really comfortable with Rachel; I felt I could work really easily with her. Then I met the rest of the brandiD team and was really sold,” says Celia. “Sure, I had other people who could put my website together, but I had to really consider who I felt most comfortable having a long-term relationship with, and the depth of both strategy and talent with the brandiD team was just great.”
From day one, Rachel and the brandiD team embarked upon the SOULiD process with Celia — starting with a few hours of strategic sessions where together, Rachel and Celia were able to build a game plan for Celia’s brand and programming.
From that step of the process, brandiD was able to uncover Celia’s — and True North Sports’ — O-factor, where the obviousness of the market’s need, and the obviousness of the solution True North Sports provides, intersects.
“My superpower was really in our in-person programming,” explains Celia. “Anything we do in person, we can really create an environment of safety and community quickly. It’s a unique thing that True North Sports offers — we bring coaches of all sports into one classroom, weave in learning skills they can use immediately, build community, and have a ton of fun. They love it.”
But continuing to use that superpower only in person wasn’t going to reach Celia’s goal of creating impact on a grander scale, which meant redefining what ‘classroom’ really meant.
“Rachel gently said…maybe we need to start looking at doing things differently — looking at the virtual world,” says Celia.
The virtual side wasn’t necessarily a comfortable zone for Celia to play in, but she saw its potential for increasing the scale of her programs, and off she went.
That shift has led to nearly four years of incredible programs, including (but not limited to) Coach on the Rise Academy, a 12-month, online course for coaches, Camp Elevate, a summer camp for creative, innovative and “people-first” coaches committed to their personal and professional development, and the Coaching COMPASS, a digital assessment tool that measures the impact of coaching — and gives a game plan for improvement — well beyond the win/loss record.Finding True North: How one company’s mission to transform the athletic coaching industry has spawned a movement. Read more: Click To Tweet
From initial strategy to the design of her branding, logos, and web pages, to the technical build of her assessment and websites, and finally to the leveraged marketing of her programs, the synergy between True North Sports and brandiD has been unmatched.
“When you’re an entrepreneur and you start something like this, you’re always experimenting…you’re finding where the energy is flowing with ease, as opposed to those places where you feel like you’re pushing a boulder uphill,” Celia says. “Over the years, Rachel and the brandiD team have been there as we’ve experimented with what’s worked and what doesn’t from in-person events to online programming perspectives.
If you ask Celia what she builds amongst the thousands of coaches she’s impacted throughout her career, her answer comes quick:
“Character and competence,” she says. “And as a result: confidence.”
Through True North Sports alone, Celia and her all-star team of experts have influenced hundreds of coaches, and with the help of brandiD’s marketing insights, were able to register 85 coaches in the first iteration of Coach on the Rise Academy and have sold out Camp Elevate year after year.
“Rachel’s really been the catalyst for the online marketing — it was her idea to host free webinars that got people really excited about Camp Elevate,” says Celia.
Forget comfort zones. Celia’s busted through her virtual unease to host those webinars, create ebooks, and even launch a monthly podcast, Coaches on the Rise. And while she still exercises her in-person superpower of creating safety and community at Camp Elevate, at coaching conventions, and in her private, 1-to-1 mastermind she launched this year, it’s safe to say that superpower extends well into the virtual world these days.
While Celia’s goal has always been to help coaches reach deeper with their coaching philosophies to build greater character amongst their athletes and teams, True North Sports has been a team effort of its own. With high-caliber experts lending a hand with Coach on the Rise Academy and Camp Elevate, and the brandiD team behind the branding, marketing and online implementation of its programs, Celia knows that community isn’t just what she’s born to foster; it’s what drives her own success, as well.
With Coach on the Rise Academy in motion and yet another Camp Elevate successfully under her belt, Celia’s always looking to the next thing: In this case, the opportunity to collaborate with universities throughout the U.S. to share her coaching curriculum with young individuals who want to build solid coaching foundations from the start.
“It’s an exciting path, and one Rachel, as well as my business coach and lawyer, are really helping me navigate,” says Celia.
Through her extensive evolution over the last few years, Celia’s turned to the brandiD for support in strategy, in creative, in design, and in tech, building a partnership that’s made to last.
“There have been times I’ve thought about hiring other people for specific things,” says Celia. “But then I think: I can get everything I need with brandiD. They’re really the perfect mix of intuition, skill, and genuine, authentic caring…it’s very rare. I think any of their clients would say this: brandiD genuinely cares. Rachel and her team want you to be successful. To have that kind of relationship with people that I really feel are an extension of the True North Sports team…to me, that’s huge.”