Over the past three years, Glenn "Micro" Hall has become something of a super-coach. In a short period of time, he's been able to help facilitate a career turnaround for Matt Wilkinson, a fairy-tale-like return from injury for Owen Wright, and back-to-back World Titles for Tyler Wright.
In addition, Hall also works with Championship Tour athletes Conner Coffin and Tour veteran Ace Buchan. Notably, Buchan kicked off the 2018 season with a runner up finish at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast just last week.
Before leaving for the next CT event, the Rip Curl Pro and Rip Curl Women's Pro Bells Beach, Hall pulled the curtain back on why he thinks his team has achieved so much so fast, and what every surfer's "missing link" might be.
World Surf League: Now that the first CT events of the year, the Quik and Roxy Pro Gold Coast, have wrapped, how are you preparing your team for Bells, the next stop on Tour?
Glenn "Mirco" Hall: Bells is a tricky wave, considering that there's not just Bells Bowl, but there's Rincon, and then there's high tide and low tide Bells, and in-between tide, where do you go -- to Bells or Rincon? And then Winkipop, which is a challenge. So, there's a lot of homework and time there is important. We're going to go down early.
Then there's boards - you want to surf some of the equipment, Plus everyone's wearing wetsuits. Your magic board here [on the Gold Coast] should work there, but not always. A lot of the competitive stuff is a foundation that we use for every event. Preparation is about acclimatizing and getting your boards dialed. And time in those spots - the more days you can be in those lineups, the better, because it's so tricky. You can get a bit overwhelmed there, too, so we'll just talk about that, get them down there, go for a surf and be ready when it's game day.
During the offseason, it looked like you were doing a lot of interesting work with your team. What did it entail, physically and mentally?
Physically, we did a lot of training with a friend of mine, Chris Heighington, who plays football for the Newcastle Knights National Rugby League. He has played for 15 years, and he's got a lot of knowledge and training. Not with just the physical aspect, but also the fun component of staying engaged, and creating a bit of longevity in a career, with the interest level being there. I believe that if you push someone too hard for a short period of time, they're going to end up fading out.
And then also, getting the crew together and chatting about things outside of surfing, and making sure that everything in their lives are in order. I try to help them in that way, so it relieves the pressure from their surfing. We planned to hang out together a few times in the pre-season, pretty much just hang out and go surfing and run some drills and do some training, but also go have a couple beers, and have dinner.
Does that shift anything, in terms of a team dynamic?
I feel it opens up the time to have conversations about different things. When you sit down and have a formal meeting about it, the right topics don't come up. So, just hanging out for a few days or a week, the right topics come up and it can be anywhere -- on the way to the beach, or sitting in the car park, or wherever. So having time together creates those moments to talk about the right topics and I suppose, they let their guard down here and there, and we get to really talk in depth about certain things. To me, that's just as important as results.
I feel like, when you approach it like that, the surfing becomes more of an outlet and they enjoy competing, and enjoy the challenge of going to an event. But it's not like a daunting challenge, it's not pressure for results. It relieves that pressure. That's their release to actually go and enjoy competing, it's what they do, and what they love, while still making sure they understand that it's a job.
That strikes me as the ultimate trick. Tyler, for example, just earned two World Titles. But coming into 2018 with a lot of pressure likely won't buoy results. How do you walk that line?
Everyone is completely individual, of course, and has their own things going on. Whether it's relationship stuff, or the motivation in certain areas, or a new interest with businesses. But, to me, I really try to take it all on board and then shift that into a focus so they have other interests, rather than just solely focused on surfing. Then when there's all this build-up for a result and they don't get a result, it all unravels. So, I feel like it's about helping them get results, but be happy and enjoy life, too. It's not only about surfing. Then you'll get 10 years down and you won't have anything going on.
Tyler is really good about that. She's young and she has two World Titles but she has so much going on in her brain that she wants to explore. She has a lot of interests, hobbies and relationships. I really encourage that.
What kinds of hobbies does Tyler have?
That's the fun challenge, is that she doesn't really know yet. She's never had the freedom to explore hobbies. So she's in that stage of life and I'm excited for her. She's got some things she wants to explore this year.
It seems that for you, there is also this holistic, life-coach component to your work, along with the surf coaching. Is that right?
That's my approach -- but all coaches are different. I haven't studied anything. I've made it up as I go. But I do believe that if you're going to be a coach, you're better off being fully involved in everything. It's important to be holistic about it. You're leaving stones unturned if you don't take in the whole picture of what's going on in life. And you help them in more ways than just their surfing. I always said from the start, to the surfers that I'm with, that I want them to get to the end of every year and be psyched to go again. If they can do that through their whole career, then I feel that's successful.
They're all really talented, and they've checked off all the boxes of preparation. The results are what they are.
Speaking of that, how was Tyler feeling after this event (Roxy Pro Gold Coast)? She won back-to-back Titles, and then lost in the Quarterfinals last week at the first event of the year.
Personally -- and everyone's different -- but I think she needed some extra motivation, of like, I've ticked the World Titles off, that's great, but now what else is there in life? This pre-season, we've had some of the best conversations ever, and that's what I like.
Coming here, seeing her motivated and surfing well, I couldn't care less what the results are. She competed well and surfed amazing and was happy to be there, so to me, that's a win. After she lost, she said, ‘I'm not bummed about losing. I'm psyched about how I performed.' And I agreed. If you come in and you feel you've done everything you can and you gave it your best, and you're not so wound up when it's over, then that's what competing is. Obviously, she as disappointed she didn't win the heat, but that's always going to be there.
For you, going from being a pro surfer yourself to now being something of a super-coach, how did you arrive at your coaching philosophy?
As I said before, I'm making this up as I go, and I do have a theory that I started with, and I'm constantly testing that theory to see if it works -- the idea of happiness, and the approach to a happy, healthy, balanced life. And, it may sound like it has nothing to do with surfing, but I believe it does, because if you keep things in order, the results will come. And you continue in the best possible way to do what you do, and if you can do that with the balance of having fun, and keeping up your relationships, and you're happy and healthy, then the results at the end of the year are what they are.
I came in blind, and had a crack at it, and it's going alright so far. But that's not to say that that's what everyone has to do, or that I 100 percent believe that it will work forever. I'm still learning every day. We're still [always] having conversations, and fortunately for me, I've got some amazing athletes to work with, and I tell them every day that I haven't studied anything, so if you feel like it works, then let's do it. But I'm not going to sit here and tell anyone that I know anything at all, it's a learning process for me. That's why it's such a fun challenge for myself, I get to learn lots every day; I've learned more in the last three years than I have in my whole life.
Obviously, you have your own family and life outside the Tour. How do you bring balance to that?
Yeah, it's hard. I sit down with my wife every year and decide the events I'm going to go to, that work time-wise. I'm going to miss a few events this year for that reason, so I'm not away too much. Yeah, it's hard. Having the balance is hard; these guys are paying the bills and it's my job, but I better make sure my family and my kids are happy, and they're number one. At the end of the day, it all comes back to what they want, not the surfers. I brought them here, and they're coming to Bells, and Hawaii. My eldest daughter's in school -- they're six, four and seven months. The surfers are so understanding that family is number one. That's the most important thing in my life, and I'm fortunate that they're such good people, they understand that.
Do you think that fatherhood has impacted Owen's perspective?
Totally, yeah. Owen and Ace, and I'm starting to believe that that perspective on life -- having a child gives you that. I think it's a missing link to an athlete's [world view]. The more I see it, the more I see a father or a mother -- all the conversations you have about perspective and balance, that solidifies all of that. As soon as I see someone have a child, they get it, the light bulb goes off. It was the same with me when I had kids. I had my first daughter when I was competing, and all of a sudden I enjoyed competing more. Rather than flying around the world, and thinking, the waves suck, you think, I love this. I gave it my 100 percent. It's not like my whole life is riding on this heat, whereas if it gets to that point, you've lost perspective.
Catch Team Micro, along with the rest of the men's and women's elite Championship Tours, compete live daily at the Rip Curl Pro and Rip Curl Women's Pro Bells Beach on the WSL from March 28- April 8.