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Working from home: How the Caps' chef is feeding Tom Wilson - and the DMV

Working from home: How the Caps' chef is feeding Tom Wilson - and the DMV

Work from home, practice social distancing, wear masks when out.  Ways of life that we have become all too familiar with.  Only necessary businesses are allowed to keep their doors open, which means many have lost their jobs and employers are struggling to keep their companies from going under. 

The same is the case for SuperFd, a sports performance and nutrition company that is responsible for providing daily service meals to the Capitals and Spirit and in-flight nutrition for the Wizards and Nationals.  

One of their founding partners and executive chef Robert Wood had to find a way to adapt.

“Everything basically disappeared overnight, everything changed overnight, like a lot of Americans felt we had to wake up in the morning and figure out our new way forward until things get back to normal,” he said in an interview with NBC Sports Washington.

Typically, Wood’s days are spent in the kitchen, but with teams not traveling and sports canceled there was no one to feed.  Yet, he knew the demand for quality food would still exist.  It was a matter of finding creative ways to serve his clients. “We overnight had to launch a home delivery service,” he said. “It was a fun challenge.”  

But one he says that didn’t come without a lot of the frustration and anxiety along the way.  

“Now we do direct-to-home delivery through our website and we have the opportunity to create custom meals for our athletes and our corporate clients that don’t necessarily need the specifics that our athletes do,” he said.

This is a sports station, so I had to ask -- what are the athletes eating during the lockdown?

He pointed to Caps’ forward Tom Wilson’s diet needs. “Tommy needs a high carb and a high protein intake on a daily basis, to make sure he is staying in the shape he needs to play hockey,” he said. “Whereas a normal office people or those going about their everyday life don’t need the amount and carbs that Tom does.”

SuperFd has also found a more meaningful cause than just feeding its regular clients: Helping first responders.

And they’re able to do it because of the help and generosity of their athletes and local clientele like Ryan Zimmerman.

Zimmerman and his wife, Heather, saw a need at Inova Fairfax Hospital where a friend of theirs is a doctor. They donated some meals over Easter weekend and the reaction was so overwhelming, they founded “Pro’s for Heroes.  

Then, Zimmerman started calling some local DC athlete friends to help. Alex Ovechkin, John Wall, and Max Scherzer were just a few to answer the call.  A Go Fund Me page is up with the goal of raising $500,000.

And that’s just the beginning. 

Wood says the support has come from all over. 

“We got an immediate response from [Caps’ player] Garnet Hathaway. He wanted to deliver the same quality of meals he knows we provide to first responders, and through his non-profit ‘Haps Heroes’ so we started that push.”  
Ted Leonsis and Monumental Network was also quick to the call of action immediately creating, “Feeding the Frontlines”. 

In one week they will provide over 4,000 meals, 500 a day to a hospital on weekends.  

“I feel like firefighters and hockey players aren’t that different when it comes to the end of the day," Wood said. "They want something that is going to fill them up and going to make them enjoy eating it."

That means a lot of pasta and chicken and beef dishes that offer plenty of flavor. 

“Some fun with the flavors, but deliver something they are comfortable with and don’t have to question eating it.  They can just crush it.”

For those of you that are looking for a job and wanting to help with deliveries … well, that job is not currently available. “Not just anyone gets to deliver to the Tom Wilsons and Ryan Zimmermans. 

“That is the thumb war,” Wood said, “[to decide] who gets to take those deliveries.”



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Building Trust at Work: DC's NBA, NFL, NHL and WNBA coaches share leadership tips

Building Trust at Work: DC's NBA, NFL, NHL and WNBA coaches share leadership tips

NBC Sports Washington brought together local coaches Ron Rivera (Washington football), Todd Reirden (Capitals), Scott Brooks (Wizards) and Mike Thibault (Mystics) to discuss the intricacies of their craft in a free-wheeling discussion hosted by Julie Donaldson. We present six days highlighting different themes of their conversation - experiences, stories and lessons shared from careers in coaching.  

One of the most important jobs of a head coach of a professional sports team is to build trust with players. This isn’t the pee-wees where coaches are teaching you how to play the game. A head coach must bring several professional men or women together and convince them that he can make that team successful. It’s about selling yourself to the team as much as it is leading it.
This is a task coaches like Scott Brooks and Todd Reirden know all too well.
Brooks took over as head coach of the Washington Wizards in 2016. Reirden, meanwhile, was promoted from associate coach to head coach after Barry Trotz resigned in the wake of the Capitals' Stanley Cup championship in 2018. Both coaches joined host Julie Donaldson along with Washington football head coach Ron Rivera and Washington Mystics head coach Mike Thibault in NBC Sports Washington’s Coaches' Roundtable.
Brooks inherited a team with two superstars in John Wall and Bradley Beal and immediately went about the task of teaching them how good the Wizards could be if those premier talents worked within the team’s structure. But that took work. 
“When you have superstar players, you have to form a relationship with them and have them have a good understanding that you need your teammates to help you even become even better of a superstar,” Brooks said. “I’ve always believed in good role players. If you can make them superstars in their roles, and I think the star players and the coaches can do that and allow that to happen, that makes the star players even better. It makes your team better. ... When they understand that your team has a chance to be special."
Brooks has now been the head coach in Washington for four seasons, leading the team to the playoffs twice. The Wizards did manage to make the cut for the resumption of the 2020 NBA season on July 30, so Brooks still has a chance to make it three out of four.

Reirden also inherited a talented roster with players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. The Capitals were coming off a Stanley Cup championship when he took over, of course, and he had been with those same players since 2014 so his task was unique. He already had established relationships. 
“I thought the real challenge for me coming in and taking over the defending champion was to be able to relate to that and find different strategies,” Reirden said.
Reirden was with the Capitals as an assistant coach for four years under Trotz coaching the team’s defensemen. Now in his second season as head coach, Reirden has led the Caps to two Metropolitan Division titles and the team will be among the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference when the NHL’s season pause ends on Aug. 1. 
As a member of Trotz’s staff, Reirden knew the players already. Building the same level of trust with those players that Trotz had while convincing them that he, too, could lead them to the NHL mountaintop, however, remains was an unenviable task.


“It was going to be a tough act to follow,” Reirden said.
But in many ways, that relationship with Trotz helped Reirden. In fact, much of Reirden’s preparation in taking over was learning from his own coaches.
“I think trust from players, it comes from honesty and as a player, I was fortunate enough to play for a coach by the name of Joel Quenneville, who is the second-winningest coach in the NHL history,” Reirden said of the current Florida Panthers coach who led the Chicago Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups last decade. “What he taught me as a player, and I didn’t always like to hear it, but it was honest evaluation of my game. And some days were some pretty long drives back to my apartment. I may have even shed a tear after some of the things he said to me. But at least I knew where I stood, and it allowed me to focus on what I needed to do to improve.”
That is a philosophy Brooks shares with Reirden after a discussion he once had with legendary UCLA men's basketball coach John Wooden.
“I remember middle of my career, like in the middle of the 90s, I knew I wanted to get into coaching, so I had a meeting with Coach Wooden and it was the most surreal experience I've ever had,” Brooks said. “It was like a biblical figure. It’s like John Wooden. You've heard so much about fundamentals, so much about pyramids, so much about the first thing he taught his players, how to tie his shoe and put the shoes on so it wouldn't cause blisters. And I just remember one thing, one word that really just stood out, and he said 'honesty'. You want to be a good coach? Be honest with your players. And some of the tough conversations that I had with players or some of the tough conversations that coaches had with me and honesty was so important.”
Brooks added, “Sometimes you kind of want a little bit of a half-truth and the reason why you didn't play was because you couldn't guard anybody and you couldn't pass in positions. But you want honesty, and I think that helps gain your players’ trust.”
On the one hand, what is Brooks going to be able to teach Wall or Beal about the game of basketball that they don’t already know? What could Reirden possibly have to tell Ovechkin about scoring goals? They most want to be put in a position to succeed. 
As great as those players are, however, they can’t have that success without the team and both coaches agreed it takes that honesty to build up a player’s trust enough that they are willing to listen and play how they are coached. But that is a goal more realistic with buy-in from the top players. If they believe, their teammates will follow, too. 
“You cannot fake genuineness to the players and passion and the desire,” Reirden said. “They know whether you're trying to make them better, trying to make our team better. They know whether you're all in or not. They see right through you and I think that it's best to wear your passion on your sleeve and show up with a great game plan that involves everybody, involves your full team. Because none of us are winning without having a team in our sport.”


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Can Tom Wilson be as effective a player without a crowd to feed off of?

Can Tom Wilson be as effective a player without a crowd to feed off of?

When the 2020 postseason finally gets underway in August, the games will be played without fans. NHL commissioner Garry Bettman said in a press conference Saturday that the league had "very special things planned" to enhance the game atmosphere, but regardless of what the league tries to do, there is no question that the games are going to lose something without that fan element. No Capitals player understands that more than Tom Wilson.

"Less boos and less cheers, I guess, at home," Wilson said after Monday's practice. "But it will be weird."

Fans like having access to the players, but there is such a thing as too much access. We see that every year when a team wins the Stanley Cup and the cameras (and especially the mics) get too close to the celebrations. After a few swear words make it into the broadcast, the camera quickly shifts away. Now imagine what you can hear from players when there is no sound from the fans to drown them out.

That's something that Wilson, a known trash-talker on the ice, has thought about.

"I’ll have to watch, I guess, what I’m saying," he said. "Less F words and stuff like that. It will definitely be a little bit different if the mics are picking that up. But I guess it will be entertaining."


But how will this affect the game itself?

Just how strange it will be to see games without fans in the stands and how exactly these games will look and sound has been discussed ad nauseam to this point. Something that no one is talking about is how this could actually affect the game.

Physical play is not just about the physical toll it takes on opposing players, it's also about building momentum. It's about feeding off the swell of the crowd, the boos or the cheers after a big hit.

While physical play will always be a part of Wilson's game, what will that look like without fans? Will that element of the game be as effective without a crowd to feed off of?

"I’m a guy that thrives off of momentum and energy," Wilson said. "That’s something that I try to bring to the table, so I guess you can say that it’s even more important for me to do that and try to lift the team up any way I can."


Wilson has worked his way into a top-line role as a player with top-six skill to go with his physical prowess. It's a combination few players can match in today's NHL which makes him such a valuable asset for Washington.

Can he still be as effective with no crowd and if not, how will this change Washington's forward makeup? It's a question the team needs to answer very quickly.

"I think there will definitely be times when it gets a little bit quiet out there," Wilson said, "But I guess we’ll just pretend that we’re playing in a rink that has a little less atmosphere than we’re privileged to have in DC.”

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