Introducing our New Co-host April Fournier (Ep. 8 Transcript and Show Notes)

Strong Athletic Episode 8: Introducing our New Co-host April Fournier

Recording Date: July 2020


APRIL FORNIER

Maybe we should kick off the podcast (laughs).


NADIA KEAN

(laughs) I know. (laughs) We’re like at hour one. (April laughing) We’re just at hour one and we’re like, what do you want to talk about today?


APRIL FORNIER

Uhhh


NADIA KEAN

Good times. Okay, so okay. So, okay. So, um, Let’s kick it off, okay. So, I hate my podcast voice sometimes. Like, I know. I know…


APRIL FORNIER

I won’t look


NADIA KEAN

When I get really excited, well this is my podcast… when I get really excited I just sound so high pitched, like, whatever. Okay.


(Music by the Little Bicycles)


NADIA KEAN

Hey everybody, this is Nadia Kean from the Strong Athletic Podcast and guess who is with me today?


APRIL FORNIER

It’s me, it’s April Fournier, also known as Jumpy McGee.


NADIA KEAN

Oh, yeah, and I guess I’m also known as Smarty Pants.


APRIL FORNIER

(laughs)


NADIA KEAN

Hey April, why are you on the show today?


APRIL FORNIER

I’m on the show today because I’m going to be on the show a lot for Season Two because guess who is the new cohost of the Strong Athletic Podcast?


NADIA KEAN

Is that you?


APRIL FORNIER

Drum roll… it’s me! (laughs)


NADIA KEAN

Yay!!!! Um, thank you so much for agreeing to do this with me this season. I really appreciate it.


APRIL FORNIER

Thank you so much for having me, I’m really excited to share this time with you.


NADIA KEAN

Uh, we don’t even know how long this season is going to last. (laughs)


APRIL FORNIER

We don’t. (laughs) It’s a surprise too.


NADIA KEAN

It’d be funny if this is like Season Two and then there’s never another season because this one just goes on forever.



APRIL FORNIER

For ever and ever.


NADIA KEAN

For ever and ever. Okay, so you and I share a lot of interests in coaching and in essence teaching and then learning in essence being an athlete and being a student. And so you were, just, it was a no brainer to ask you if you wanted to co-host this season because we just have so many shared interests for topics that we could discuss. I’m going to put in a little nutshell why I do this podcast and why it’s important to me that people listen to it and then I was thinking you would do the same thing.


APRIL FORNIER

Perfect.


NADIA KEAN

I know that playing sports has been really important to me as a human and I have always been happier when playing sports. I know that at certain points in my life I’ve quit sports and then I wasn’t very happy (laughs). So, so, um I did retire from roller derby and I do miss it a lot but that was more like a, okay, if I don’t retire from this sport I’ll never do anything else in life and I thought just maybe there’s a couple of other things to do, so maybe I should also start paying attention to what’s going on in the world, so I thought it was a good time to retire. But I did give derby a good fifteen years of my life, which is a pretty long time. So, get this, when I was a kid and people were trying to teach me things there was a really good chance that I was not going to learn from their instruction and then I carried that into sports with me. And so if I had a coach taht was trying to teach me how to do, I don’t know, any number of things, it was highly likely that I wasn’t going to learn from them unless they were coaching me in a very specific way and so then it just came down to if I had natural talent in that sport and that’s what was going to keep me in it. I know that a lot of people have this same experience. Also, pretty early on in my life I had to deal with certain adults that I didn’t like how they treated me and I didn’t like how they taught me and I really found, um, an issue with how they were trying to teach me things. But in their opinion they were the teacher, it was time for me to learn, I was the student. And so, early on I became quite offended if somebody tried to teach me in a way that I found vulgar or rude or offensive and so I carried that with me. And then I’ve also just underperformed in sports. So, like, there’s under achieving in the classroom, and I’ve don’t plenty of that. It took me a long time to finish college because there was so much I didn’t comprehend and there were people who thought it was just like the lack of my ability or my intelligence or I just didn’t want to be there. And then in sports, I underperformed a lot and it really wasn’t until the last six years of my athletic career that I realized that I was incredibly strong and I could produce power, and I was really strong and capable. And I was actually really pissed off at that point because these coaches just devalued my ability and I think that they just took the easy route, which was like, “Uh, i don’t really feel like teaching this kid, so I’m just going to ‘muh… just not going to pay attention to them and if they stick around fine, but if they don’t stick around it’s no skin off my back. And so, I don’t want that to happen to other people, April and that is one of the reasons that I started the Strong Athletic Podcast. And it’s equally for coaches and athletes alike because both need to be good at communicating with one another and talking about expectations and knowing why they’re all there. I know that there are also barriers of entry and reasons that people get pushed out of sports that has nothing to do with their learning style and has more to do with how they look, the color of their skin, the neighborhood that they grew up in, how many parents they have, where they got to go to school, where they didn’t get to go to school, if they had to work a second job, if they had to stop school sport because they had kids, you know there’s any number of reasons that people can… their experience in sport can be impacted. I’m really hoping to invite guests on to the show this season so that we can learn more about them and their stories so that other people can just hear about those situations, how they dealt with them, how they couldn’t deal with them. What was in their control, what wasn’t. So, that’s me. What about you April (laughs).


APRIL FORNIER

Can I just say ditto. (laughs) No.


NADIA KEAN

Yeah (laughs) detto.



APRIL FORNIER

I... I started listening to this podcast, um, one, because I’ve been coached by you a few times in my derby career and I think that my learning style clicks with your teaching style. And so, I was very excited for the podcast itself but then I started to find that the podcast content about coaching just paralleled so many other things for me as an educator myself by career and also by managing people and working with teams in my worklife. I just find it really interesting that those same types of strategies and conversations just really translate and cross environments. And so for me, um, as an athlete and as a learner, I have always been, um, one who, I wouldn’t say is necessarily hard to coach, but, I’m very driven to always be the very first and best and when that didn’t happen it was very frustrating for me that my own expectations of myself didn’t match my performance. And the coaches that I’ve had throughout my life, whether it be t-ball or track and field, or softball or even roller derby, um, I haven’t always clicked with their learning styles and their teaching styles. I think that some of that comes back to some of our discussions about expectations and clear communications and knowing what I expect from my coach as a teacher but also what my coach expects from me as a learner and an athlete and how we’re going to find that right combination that gets the best performance out of both of us. I really haven't had many experiences where the magic has happened and I think about, well if I know all of the things that I know, and have all of the resources that I have and I’m still having this difficulty connecting, I think about all of the other athletes that are out there that maybe don’t have the same resources or information, or same access to strong coaches and how many athletes then decide, you know sports just aren’t for me. And then I just know all the things that I’ve gained from sports. You know, confidence, athletic output, I think, I'm very similar to you when I’m not doing sports, my brain and body are not as happy as when I am doing sports. And so, I think all of the skills and all of the things that we get from sports, when we don’t give people the same opportunity to have the same experiences, for me that’s just not okay. I feel like there’s so much opportunity out there for us and sports start so young and that is such a great time while children are developing to instill some of these really great skills so that they can carry those through into their teens and into adulthood and into being professionals. I was an educator by trade, specifically in early interventionism, my whole career is built around looking at skill deficits and looking at skill delays and trying to create strategies to compensate for those and build those up and catch those up so that there are equal opportunities to perform, you know, where the expectations are. So, it’s been fun kind of taking my professional world and professional life and using that in sports and in a coaching way. Because I’ve done coaching for girls with flag football, coaching for roller derby, so I’m working on that skill myself. All of those things kind of coming together and then meshing and making this beautiful, we’ll call it a cake (laughs) for this podcast. I’m really excited. I think it’s going to be super fun, lots of really important discussions and I hope that everyone really enjoys it.


(09:45)

NADIA KEAN

You know, I love the education that you bring to this. What you’ve actually studied and gone to school for, so can you tell our listeners a little bit more about that?


APRIL FORNIER

Yeah. For sure. So I initially started… I did things kind of backward, so kids first, then got married, then went to college and then found a career. But my first stab at college and career was actually in the business world and so I got my undergraduate in business management cause I was working at an insurance company and kind of working my way up the corporate ladder. So I was really interested in the idea of project management and continuous improvement because I just feel like for every system that you have, you can always look at it and look for ways to make improvements. Whether there’s new people coming in and new technologies and new information, it always gives us an opportunity to change and improve and evolve. So that really spoke to me. And when I had our twins in 2008, when I went back to work, when they were about two years old, we discovered that one of our twins was diagnosed with autism. I didn’t know anything about that because my entire life and world had really been, you know, business and teams and management. And so, I just by nature and by personality, I think I’m a life-long learner, I really love to get information and learn new things and so I went into full on learner mode to learn everything I could about autism and how my son was going to develop and what were the best ways to provide intervention and what were the best ways to support him so that we could compensate for the things that he was lacking. At that time he was nonverbal, so he didn’t have any words. He was self injurious, meaning when he got frustrated because he didn’t have words, he would engage in self harm. So, he would hit himself in the head or he would hit his head off the floor or off the wall or, you know he would scratch his arms or he would cry because he didn’t have the language to tell us why he was frustrated. And then he really just didn’t have a lot of social connection to his twin or really to anyone in the family, and so it was hard to engage him in play and hard to, you know, really get into his world. He was very, kind of, isolated. And so we were able to engage with our local early intervention agency to get some help. I didn’t really know what to do outside of that. You know, you can read all the books you want, but until you see someone really demonstrate what they mean when they talk about, you know, teaching your child how to get speech skills, the book doesn’t even give the work justice. And so, we had someone come to our house five days a week and sit on the floor with us and with him and show us, here’s how we can get him engaged in play, and here’s how we can work on just gaining his attention. And here’s how we can interrupt some of those behavior cycles that result in a self injury. And month by month we started to see our little boy emerge from this, you know, world that he had been shut off in; and just that transformation, for me, was incredible and revelatory. And he then transitioned into a special education preschool where he started in a very small classroom with one to one support and we continued to see this evolution for him where, you know, he started to have, you know sentences. And he started to have spontaneous play and he started to do life skills for himself. I think until you have seen, you know a typically developing child compared right next to a non- typically developing child, you don’t really understand how magical it is for a kiddo to say, I want juice. Or see them play with a toy functionally instead of just like banging it against something. So, we had kids prior to that, and so we kind of knew the things that we were missing out on, so I think that definitely was hard for us to watch him struggle so much. But then we saw what this early intervention and special education did for him and then he was able to translate into a regular kindergarten classroom with some pull out with extra supports and all of that. But he was still able to be around his peers and learn by watching and modeling the things that they were doing. And so, it was when he was transitioning into kindergarten, I had one day when I was in my office, I was managing a team of 22 people and we were just responsible for like incoming images for insurance claims and for attaching them to claims and then they move on in the process. It really was truly a widget in this machine, and it is important work, so I don’t want to discount what people do, but it just felt like I was not a fit for that work. And I just really felt called to go learn more about this thing that changed the trajectory of my son’s life. And so, I ended up going back to school to get my Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education and then went to work in At Home Behavior Services and then worked in a special education preschool and then eventually ended up working for the agency that did all of this work for my son. Because I just felt like one of the disconnects in that whole process for us as parents was that we didn’t understand the speak of special education and legal terms and some of the jargon that comes out and so we felt very helpless through a lot of that process, not understanding the terminology and not knowing if what they were proposing was even right for our kiddo. We just had to trust the system that they were going to do what was best for him and I didn’t like that experience and I knew that for us we were college educated parents, you know, that were still in an intact family, that were relatively financially okay. You know, we had secure housing, we had food, we had secure employment. So then I thought about all of the other families that… we live in Portland, which is the biggest city in southern Maine, and the most, you know, diverse city and so I thought about, what about all the parents that English is not their first language or they have recently claimed asylum in our city from a different county and this is a completely new culture for them. Or they don’t have both parents around. Or they don’t have the same access to resources or finances or secure food or housing. What about those parents going into this process and who is looking out for them and who is advocating for them and who is making this understandable so that they understand what they’re agreeing to, and then know exactly what services their kiddo is going to get? And so in becoming an administrator, that was my focus, is being the friendly voice and the friendly face on the other side of the table that’s slowed the whole process down and said, “So I want to make sure you understand what we’re going to do for your child and I want to make sure that you also understand what they’ve been diagnosed with and what questions do you have and what resources can we help connect you to?” Because we do know that it’s been done if you want a child to succeed you have to make sure that they have all of those foundational needs met, so that they have secure food, they have secure housing, they have a safe place to live and then they have access to education. So education is kind of that next level thing if you want them to be available for education you have to be able to meet those other needs first. And so, helping families in that manner, instead of “Okay, you’re my next thirty minute meeting. We’re gonna knock out all these things, I need you to sign these forms. Okay, cool, now I need to get on to my next meeting.” There are absolutely two different approaches you can take, I opted for the one that I thought would get the best results for that child and that family and I feel really good about the hundreds of families that I worked with before I moved into the new role that I have now. But I think being an educator has always been a little bit of who I am, just as a person. I’ve just now done a lot of school (laughs) and a lot of training and a lot of learning to refine that craft so that I’m not only educating by career and this special education field, you know, I’m doing that in the Team Indigenous work that I do. I’m doing that in the diversity and inclusion work that I do with the WFTDA, I do that right now as I’m getting ready to run for City Council right here in Portland, educating the public so that they understand what their resources are that are available, what their options are for when they’re casting their votes. How the different candidates differ. So, educator has always been a part of who I am, and that just funny enough translates into just another way of being a coach. So, yeah, that’s what I do. (laughs)


NADIA KEAN

I like that. Like, I get a little nervous, because I don’t have that background in education. But I definitely understand the desire to learn more about your son and how y’all are going to approach the situation, and so your like, “Why don’t I just go and study it because I’m going to be studying it no matter what, so like, might as well get another degree and then help people through the same process.” You know?


APRIL FORNIER

(laughs) Exactly. (laughs)


NADIA KEAN

For me in sports it’s like, “This was good, this wasn’t good, I want to help people through the same process.”


APRIL FORNIER

Yeah absolutely. I think when people choose... there’s always that quote, unquote “Calling” and I think a lot of people follow or answer that call because there was some situation that mobilized them, that said, “Oh, I remember how I experienced this and I want to change that for somebody else, so now I’m going to go and become a part of this process so that the next person that goes through this has a better experience than I have. And I have the chance to make that better.” And you know, it could be from working in a business office to going into education, there’s just so many different ways that we’re able to coach and improve and teach and educate, it’s not just sports and it’s not just education and it’s not just business and it’s not just being a parent, it can be all those things combined.


NADIA KEAN

What’s your opinion on calling coaches the teachers of the field? Do you find that there are more similarities between a coach and a teacher then there are differences?


APRIL FORNIER

Oh, absolutely. It’s one in the same role, really. You know, coaches have to do research so that they know what they’re going to train or what they’re going to teach their athletes. Teachers have to do research to know what they’re going to, you know, train and teach their classroom So it’s a classroom, but it’s just a classroom in a non-traditional sense.



NADIA KEAN

It’s interesting because sports, of course, are competitive, and so, when the coaches, when they’re teaching the same exact content to the athletes on their team, they’re also trying to sort out how to beat everybody else at it. (April laughs) And I feel like in education… in education there are schools that want to be like the best schools, but it feels like the approach isn’t really like, we want to beat everybody else at this. But, am I wrong, or is that part of education, wanting to be the best school, wanting to be the best teacher?


APRIL FORNIER

There is a different win that you get in the education setting. So like, for… in special education for example, I’m not trying to do better than another student or get better results, but what I am trying to beat is whatever is holding them back. And so it’s not necessarily competition against others, it’s competition against whatever that deficiency, or whatever that delay, or whatever that challenge is. So it’s still a competition.. I have a kiddo in one of my classrooms right now who when she started our program she was selectively mute. And so selective mutism is actually a form of anxiety, it’s not actually a speech and language disorder at all, it has to do with anxiety, so we weren’t really sure, it’s hard to get a three and a half- four year old to explain why they’re feeling anxious or even recognize that what is going on is anxiety, and so we have been working with her consistently for a better part of a school year just to get sounds and speech and have her feel comfortable enough and safe enough so that she’ll use her words at school. Because she feels comfortable and safe enough to do that at home. So that’s the selective piece of when she’s going to talk, and what we’ve seen and what we were trying to beat, if you will, that feeling of not being safe, or not having an environment enough for her to share. And so it was manipulating the classroom and trying to create really supportive situations so that eventually we started to get little bits of speech, you know, single words whispered. And then we started to get sentences whispered and then today she sang, “Five little monkeys jumping on the bed,” yelling into the screen where her speech therapist was because she was just so excited to say, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!” But, when you hit that, it is the exact… I equate it to the same thing as if you were the hitting coach and you see someone you’ve been working with who couldn’t connect with the ball, you finally see them hit that single or double home room. You’re like, “We did it! We did it!” and it’s like a very similar feeling and we didn’t beat another team, but we did beat what was holding her back. And I think there are so many similarities more than differences between coaching and teaching in the classroom.


NADIA KEAN

I agree with that, like I do think that coach is just another word for teacher. For a while I was questioning if I should teach people how to coach since I didn’t go to school for it.



APRIL FORNIER

Right. (laugs)


NADIA KEAN

And if it was just basically egregious to assume that I had enough information to call myself an expert, but I think i finally came to terms with the fact that I have all the experience of how not to be coached and how not to be taught and I did so poorly in school because I couldn’t figure out how to navigate school. How to stay in school, not get kicked out and how to function as a student. I’m just incredibly intrigued by just learning how people learn and people don’t learn. I think that’s probably the most important to me is how people don’t learn and so whenever I coach people I just assume they haven't learned anything and that I need to teach them how they learn, rather than just teach them how I want to teach. Cause I think that those are very different.


APRIL FORNIER

Well, and I