In Art Of Coaching Podcast

If you’ve followed this show long enough, you know that we don’t pull punches. Well, this one is going to test even our own limits… 

On today’s episode, Stewart Venable shares unfiltered stories about his time working as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Penitentiary (Leavenworth, KS). We hear how he relied on principles of impression management, non-verbal communication and dark sided leadership to tackle even the most tenuous of situations. 

In addition to his time as a Federal Law Enforcement Officer, Stewart is a U.S. Army Veteran, former collegiate S&C Coach, private facility owner and currently the Head S&C Coach and a P.E. Teacher for North Star High School in Lincoln, Nebraska. 

Want to learn more about the communication tactics Stewart utilized in both law enforcement and coaching? Check out our newest resource: 1 on 1 communication training. Whatever your goals, let us help you get to the next level with customized communication coaching plans and assessments. Start by heading to for more information!

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Stewart Venable  0:01  

We live in a volatile and chaotic world. The prism is a microcosm of that is just on steroids. And I really don’t believe in common conditioning that is the way to talk to them. I have all those Positive Coaching books and the positive leadership books, the holding hands, the rah rah rah that we shall all sing Kumbaya, we shall overcome. That doesn’t always work. Sometimes you need those dark side and leadership traits. Those weren’t the research substantiates that. Neither most of reality.


Brett Bartholomew  0:33  

Everyone fair warning, today’s episode does contain some sensitive material. And I’m telling you this so that if you have kids in the car, or if you’re somebody that’s a bit squeamish about some language or descriptions of physical violence, or otherwise, you may want to wait till later. Now, some context here. This isn’t a shock value episode, we try to do and talk about things at art of coaching that really uncover some of the ugly realities of leadership and extreme context. And we have that today our guest Stewart Venable aside from being a US Army veteran, retired federal law enforcement officer, former college trained coach private facility owner and current high school PE teacher and head strength coach used to work at Leavenworth penitentiary. Now, this is a medium security prison in the United States but one of the most famous and it’s house its fair share of unique inmates everybody from the gangster in the mob era Machine Gun Kelly, to Whitey Bulger, who have you seen the movie that departed is who Jack Nicholson’s character, Frank Costello is loosely based off of. And what we wanted to do here is dive into his story and figure out what about his time in the prison system made him a better coach? What did he observe? What did he see? How did he have to alter his behavior? What did it teach him about working with kids? Because that’s where we’re at. Somebody worked in this kind of setting where some dangerous criminals and again, I’m warning you. We’re discussing some things here, and we’re discussing some realities of prison life. And now he’s working with children. So we talked about how do you communicate with them? You tell them these stories, what do you shield them from? How do you keep them from kind of going the same path? There’s a lot of things here that again, I think may challenge some assumptions. And Stewart is somebody that I respect because he’s no nonsense and straight to the point. Now listen, if somecourse of these concepts and things that we talked about in the episode are foreign to unique or you want to dive deeper, as always, make sure to go to, check out our online course Bought In, because you’re gonna hear Me and Coach Venable talk about influence tactics, things like impression management. These are things that we discuss in our courses, especially if you’ve read my book, conscious coaching, and the whole human behavior side of things really intrigued you then Bought In is definitely for you. If you’re not somebody that’s interested in communication, you’re not that interested in human behavior. This episode is probably going to bore you and in reality, my work is probably not for you at all. Because we’re trying to really get down to what drives people in normal everyday circumstances and extreme circumstances, guys, so without further ado, I remember you’ve had your warning. Please listen to it, engage. And check out what Coach Venable has to teach us.


Welcome to the Art of coaching podcast, a show aimed at getting to the core of what it takes to change attitudes, behaviors and outcomes in the weight room, boardroom classroom, and everywhere in between. I’m your host, Brett Bartholomew, I’m a performance coach, keynote speaker, and the author of the book conscious coaching. But most importantly, I’m a lifelong student interested in all aspects of human behavior, and communication. I want to thank you for joining me and now let’s dive into today’s episode. 


Guys, glad to have you for another episode of The Art of coaching podcast, this episode is going to be like no other that we’ve done so far. So if you fast forwarded through the intro, first of all, why did you do that? Go back and listen. But if you missed it, this is your last warning. This episode is going to contain explicit language. The story here is one that is very unique. There’s only so many ways we can wrap things in a bow. We don’t try to shield people from a big reason we started this podcast is so people, real people could share real experiences. And the real world as you guys know can be a volatile and chaotic place. It’s not always clean. It’s not always nice and neat. It’s not always inspirational stories, and the point of what we’re about to share and what our guest today is about to share is to show you how leadership takes many forms, some of which you may agree with, some of which you may identify with, and some that you may abhor some that you may admonish some that you may feel so strongly about that you can’t even believe you heard it. But the one thing we’ve got to make sure that we never allow ourselves to do in leadership is get naive. We need to learn how to explore different paths. We need to learn how to be more introspective. So again, this is your final warning. If you have kids in the car or if you’re squeamish, get out now we’re not doing anything for shock value here. But our guest today, you know, has a unique background, and like I said, go back and listen for context. And we’re gonna rock and roll. Stewart Venable with all that said, man, thanks for joining us.


Stewart Venable  5:31  

Ey Brett, thank you for having me. I really appreciate it is my pleasure.


Brett Bartholomew  5:35  

No, it’s mine. And we’re gonna get right into it. We don’t shirk away. So, you know, you said it yourself do in 1995, you transferred from FCI Phoenix to the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Now, I remember the first time I met you, and it was evident right off the bat. I was speaking at Creighton University. You were somebody that suffered no fools, you had a very direct approach. You were very candid, forthright, you command attention like no other. And I had to know your background. And when I found out that you got into coaching, you kept it brief, you’re like, well, listen, I used to work in a prison. And now I got into coaching. And that’s where I am. And I’m like, I need to know more about this. So we heard about your intro, but walk us through this. How in the world? How in the world do you go from working? First of all, how did you even start working in Leavenworth? Right, something that is fabled and mythology in terms of penitentiaries. And then how did that lead to coaching walk us through this.


Stewart Venable  5:35  

So Leavenworth, I ended up there because once my time in service, I’m a US Army vet. And once my time and service was done, I was honorably discharged, I have to find the occupation. But when you come out into the civilian world, you will see nobody is hiring anybody to pull rage or ambushes or do recons. So you need a real job. And the only thing that was even closely related to what I had been training for, in my time in service, was the prison system. So initially, I started with the state prison system in Virginia, which is my home state. And then I transferred to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, because honestly, the Feds paid almost twice what the state paid. So I started in California, in boron out in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and stayed there for three years accelerated rather quickly. So I promoted to FCI Phoenix, which is a medium security prison. I stayed there for two years. Again promoting rather quickly. So for me, what we call the NFL was workout a penitentiary is only five in the United States at that time. So I put in for Leavenworth Lewisburg in Lompoc, California. And I got chosen first to Leavenworth. So that’s how I ended up from Phoenix, Arizona, to the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth as a lieutenant.


Now the things that you saw there, you know, I remember when we were talking about this, and you sent us some notes. And if you’ll allow me to, I want to read a little bit. Are you okay with that? 


No, absolutely. Go for it. 


Brett Bartholomew  8:08  

Alright, so you and we’re gonna pick out you said, the assistant warden escorted me through the pen on a tour. So I could meet my fellow lieutenants, administrators and some of the staff. If you’ve never walked into a penitentiary, and have those bars slammed shut behind you, it is a feeling like no other. It literally makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. As we walked through the rotunda, I was introduced to a couple of officers and several other staff members, I could see the inmates peering out of the cell house trying to see the new Lieutenant. As we walked down the long hallway toward the chow hall, the inmate stopped what they were doing to stare at me as I walked with the AW, I was staring back and you go on and you start talking about how big the chow hall was. And he started talking about you experiencing what real life was like, as a lieutenant in the penitentiary, right and even seeing your first killing. Now I’m trying to paint an explicitly vivid detail for some of our listeners. These are people from a wide range of backgrounds, but many of them coaches and leaders who have gone kind of this traditional route. They went to college, they got into the workforce, or they got an internship and they got a resume, and then they kind of worked their way through. Now you’re telling me you weren’t in one of the most dangerous environments there is. And you’re around people with a lot of unique backgrounds. And you experienced the killing like just orient me man, if I’m somebody listening, I’m thinking what in the world? Does any of this have anything to do with leadership? And what possible what tie in could there be with what anybody else listening does and what and what you were doing here? What like, what did these experiences teach you? What effect did they have on you? Walk us through this a bit more?


Stewart Venable  9:49  

Wow. So it’s, um, it taught me a lot and it taught me a lot from various perspective. So you get a perspective, with inmates dealing with inmates. If you observe it as a staff member, you can see what they doing with their interactions. But also, as a staff member dealing with inmates, you get a different perspective. And what a staff member dealing with another staff member is even a third perspective. So there’s multiple layers to this. And I learned a lot during that, you know, I talked to when I sent you those notes about the associate Warden walked me into the chow hall. And the thing was, Leavenworth is so much bigger than the medium security facility I was at. In Phoenix, Arizona, we had almost 2500 inmates, you walk in the chow hall is three or 400 inmates in the chow hall. And everybody that works in a prison system understands that if something bad is gonna happen, nine times out of 10, it happens in the chow hall, out on the rec yard. So you walk in the chow hall, and everybody just stops, what they’re doing is like EF Hutton, and they all just stare at me. And again, just like looking out of the cell house, you’re looking at the new lieutenant to see what you’re going to do what you look like they pretty much sizing you up. So that’s my time. You know, we talked about impression management. That’s my time to make my first impression. So I’m looking back at all of them, like they’re looking at me. And we call it Grittin. So you grti on me, I grit on you, you look hard at me, I look back at you, like I’m hard. That’s just the way it goes. So they’re all Grittin on me, and I’m Grittin back at them. And I don’t know what happened, because I can’t tell you on the external, what I look like. But when that associate Warden leaned over to me, and he said, I want you to walk around the sona bitch, like you got the detour to your back pocket. I was like, I gotta run this stuff. Because you know, you get promoted to certain positions. And regardless of what it is, you’ve never worked this position before you get promoted to it, no matter how much studying you’ve had, how much education who your mentor has been, once you get to this position, you still not ready for it, because you’ve never done it, you don’t have an experience in here. So now I’m in the big house and the NFL, I walk in there, and they’re looking at me, and here’s my time to make time personnel. So when he said that, I was like, This is it, I gotta lay down my standards, my expectations right off the bat, walk around here, like you have the detour in your back pocket. So I will say my biggest takeaway from day one was, respect.


Brett Bartholomew  12:27  

And, you know, looking at some of these lessons and the things that you talked about, right, you mentioned in order to be competent at a skill, it’s in your best interest to learn from someone like a coach, a teacher, and and you talked about how you looked at some of these veteran senior lieutenants, as your mentor has to teach you. And with that, like you said, a lot of that was a first impression of like, hey, you need to demonstrate standards right away. So we know that in coaching, right? We know that when we work with people, whether and I use coaching, if you guys are new listeners as a ubiquitous term, in leadership, that first impression means a lot now, everybody’s gonna perceive that differently, right? It’s no different than, you know, somebody the other day posted something on social media saying anybody with a podcast is a guru. Well, you know, I guess I’m a guru. Now. Everybody looks at any behavior, any inkling, any kind of pair of verbal gesture, or I’m sorry, nonverbal gesture, or even just para verbal alteration, and they’re always making judgments. So with so many diverse individuals in their and the backgrounds, what’s your next move? What’s your next move? Like? We get it? You’re gritten, at them, you’re showing them that like you’re not prey. But I had to imagine the first 72 hours of that job had to be like no other. What were some other little things that you started to notice that you had to be aware of that’s carried over into your coaching.


Stewart Venable  13:50  

You have to be aware of your surroundings, you have to be observant. And to answer your question, the next thing I did was walk away from that associate warden and start making my rounds through that chow hall just mean I’m walking up and down the aisles in between the tables. And I got to do this by myself. And I know I do. Because if I had this, hang on to him, and put myself in his back pocket, then you could tell I was a coward. I’m scared to be by myself. So I wanted to make it known right off the bat, I ain’t scared and none of you. And I’m walking down the aisle ways. I’m going in between the tables. I’m walking amongst different races, because the penitentiary is very segregated. So the white guys in here, the black guys in here, Latino guy sitting here, the Asian guy sit here, I’m walking amongst all of them trying to do that equal. I’m walking in and out not just walking over there with other black guys that because I’m comfortable with them, because they’re the same color as I am. I’m walking amongst everybody. So I made a point to do that. And then I go stand on the far wall by myself. So I’ve got my back against the wall. Nobody can get behind me. I can see everything out in front of me. And I’m looking at everything and they can see look like Robocop like your head is constantly turning, observing you surroundings the whole time. So that was my next person who did let them know that I’m not scared. Even if you scared in a big crowd coming out to booty, can’t be scared can’t show that they can smell that. So I made sure I stayed by myself until the chow hall was over. And then I made rounds to the rest of the penitentiary.


Brett Bartholomew  15:16  

Yeah. Now I think it’s interesting. You know, we had a former police chief on the show, right? And his name’s Greg Baker. And if you guys haven’t listened to the episode, I highly recommend it, man. Is it fascinating and he talked about one of the biggest things he learned with respect to leadership is the importance of listening. He talked about you know, he so many people try to assert themselves so many people try to have domineering personalities. But he found he got a lot farther listening. And he talked about the role that racial prejudice played in his career, ascent and and in his life in general as well, and how he fought that a different way. So, you know, that’s Greg’s environment. But I have to imagine that even with this, right, you talked about impression management, you had to listen, you had to pick up on some subtle tonalities. Just like when you ask a kid because you work with kids now. And you know, kids aren’t always going to tell you what’s wrong. Are they right? Like you get to pick up on all these little things. So if at all, did working in this penitentiary working in this environment? Did that help you become a better listener? You talked about being more observant, but like dive into that a little bit more like how did you become more observant?


Stewart Venable  16:23  

Well, just becoming more observant by being more vigilant. Like I said, when I repositioned myself somewhere else, I’m still moving my head back and forth. So the inmates can visually see them looking all over the place once you get accustomed to the surroundings and, and the first few days, like you said, it takes you a while to get acclimated. And we always said it takes you a year to learn your self around the penitentiary, because there are so many keys and there’s so many doors and so many entrances and exits to the facility and ended up in different housing units. My biggest fear, and honestly, my biggest fear at that time was that an officer would be getting assaulted. And I couldn’t get to him because I didn’t know what key fit in what door to get there to help them. So I spent the most of my first at least probably six months, making sure I knew off the top of my head when I grabbed this key. It fits this door, I go to this cell house grab this key, if it’s that door, the second thing after that, I would say after figuring out how to get from place A to place B and intermingling with the inmates it was the building the relationship. So I have to be talking to them, I had to be listening to them, I had to see what was on their mind. And the only way you can do that is by listening to them. So I go from cell house to cell outside, I go to the rec yard and go to the chow hall. So unlike the first day, why just walking up and down the aisles. Now I’m starting to learn people, I’m starting to learn the nicknames. I have a little conversation, but it’s surface level conversation, you’re just trying to break the ice. Because a lot of them they don’t even want to talk to the officer because they consider you to be law enforcement, you the police is what they call us. So they don’t even talk to the police. But if I can talk to them and they respect it certain things in this respect, they as far as staff wise, they respect they respect if you do what you say you’re gonna do. And they respect if you follow the policy if they know the policy is to give them you know two sheets in a pillowcase and give them two sheets and a pillowcase. Don’t hold out on them because you mad and for some ungodly reason. So this to give their respect, and then make my way around from place to place from different race to race and get to building these relationships with them a population. 


Brett Bartholomew  18:36  

Yeah, I think the thing I like about this through it is, I think these are topics that so many people are scared of today, we’re scared of dirty leadership, we’re scared to get our hands dirty by talking about, like you said, you know, we live in this wo rld now where everything’s fair, everything’s got to be equal. And and the reality is, that’s just not the case, this universe was born out of chaos, right? We see it every day for there to be opportunity, there’s got to be chaos, for there to be growth, there’s got to be death. Yet, we talk every day as if everybody can just be spoken to the same way. And the one size fits all kind of leadership way. So I appreciate you being so honest about opening up about, you know, whether it’s different races mean them in different places, you know, I mean, even using those terms now can get people in trouble because it’s almost like we’re not supposed to talk about it. You know, I have to imagine at some level, you talked about how these guys respect you doing what you say, and being consistent, but I have to imagine they also just appreciate you being real, right? Like, cuz you mentioned different keys in different doors. And I thought that was a perfect analogy, something I want to talk about too. We’re now you work with kids and we’ll get into it later but I remember you talking about how many of these kids that you’ve witnessed and the suicide rates and all these things going on in schools. Man what a perfect analogy for you need to know the right key for the right door reaching people and sometimes that requires real leadership like not not bs socially like sterilize communication, real stuff. Was that something that you honed in there as well? Just How to be real and confident and forthright in what you’re doing and how you’re saying it.


Stewart Venable  20:05  

Right. And I always had to be that way because again, they the same way inmates can smell when you scared, they can smell when you fake. So you can’t be fake, you got to keep it 100 with them. So always had to be authentic. If I didn’t know I don’t know, if I can’t get it for you. I can’t get it. I know I owe you a blanket, two sheets and a pillowcase for all I got is two sheets and a pillowcase. I get you the blanket tomorrow, man. That’s just the way it is. But even with your day to day interactions with them when we’re talking about whatever, they were in the service, and I was in a service, and they go hey, V where were you stationed? I go, Yeah, I was in Alaska, Hawaii. And then they go, oh, man, I was stationed in Kentucky and Georgia. But there’s so many people that were so scared to say anything to him, I’m not gonna disclose that. I mean, we’re in a time then it was in the computer age. So there’s nothing about you that they can’t find out. I mean, the number of people that have had threats on them and their families outside of the penitentiary, because of some of the actions or you did something to upset somebody in the penitentiary is ridiculous. Those guys because they’re incarcerated, they can still reach out and touch you. They still have people on outside, they will do something to you and your family. So I always kept it 100 with them. And it helped them to build a relationship because, you know, it’s not that you don’t go to them and ask them to tell you anything, because they don’t respect when you it’s disrespectful. As a matter of fact, if you ask them the snitch, but sometimes things happen, and they’ll say, you know, hey, V, you gotta go check co2 20 do they move in? And you’re gonna have somebody that oh, did on drugs? Or somebody that hung yourself? And if you didn’t know that, it might be a couple hours before you got to that person?


Brett Bartholomew  21:46  

Yeah. So I think the importance there just be unwilling to engage under uncertainty, right? Even if you don’t know the right thing to say the right time. You know, all those kinds of things. You have to be able to engage even when you’re uncertain, because that’s how you move along. That’s how you get through some inertia. You know, you’re talking about being real. What are some ways that you think coaches today in settings that are not Leavenworth? Right, just coaches in general settings? What do you think they need to work on in terms of being real? Like, what do you think that means for coaches? What are some ways where some coaches maybe think they’re being real, but they’re maybe not being effective? Or they’re being cheesy? Or they’re putting on the front? Like, where can we be better at that as a profession, in terms of what you deem as being real?


Stewart Venable  22:30  

Well, I think if we just be honest with the student athletes that we work with now, and it’s kind of what you alluded to earlier, if you would just be more forthright, and even now, when I’m working in the high school setting we have, we don’t have teachers right now. And a kid ago. You know, Coach, Bartholomew, how old are you? Are you gonna win? That’s none of your business. I’m not gonna tell you how old I am. They can pull it up on the computer and see how old you are. Like, what difference does that make?


Brett Bartholomew  23:00  

Why would you withhold that information? Like, oh, what’s the point? 


Stewart Venable  23:04  

Yeah, hey don’t want to they don’t want to tell the kids they did anything bad. You know, kids say, Hey, Coach, you know, I wasn’t here. Yes, that cuts good. Look, man, look, I get it. I cut school to play ping pong and pool when I was in the eleventh grade, and the truant officer chased me down, and my mom beat my butt. You know, I tell him, because that’s the truth. But teachers now like it’s we all live this perfect life. And we don’t want you to know anything about us. And, but I want you to disclose everything about yourself to me, so I can be there for you. Nobody’s gonna tell you anything about them. If you haven’t told them anything about yourself. This is a two way street, this communication and this relationship building, you have to give a little to get a little. And then you can’t just do the rah rah motivational speech, expect they’re just going to come and unburden themselves to you.


Brett Bartholomew  23:53  

Yeah, I mean, it’s what we refer to as conscious coaching. Everything is a parasocial relationship, which is a one way kind of communication, right? Like if somebody if you know something about somebody else, and they know very little about you, you’re never going to be able to connect with them. And that’s so much of what leaders do is we lead from a bubble. And we think that everything has to be kind of just sanguine, that we have consistent emotions. I mean, that’s the tricky thing, though. Stuart is you mentioned, you gotta be consistent with them and do what you say. But sometimes I think in coaching, you also got to keep people off guard. I think that sometimes you got to, and I know what you’re talking about, right? Just for context, I know that you mean like, you’re not like all of a sudden being a shifty person, or shady or whatever. But I think in general, sometimes, like, I’ve dealt with plenty of people inside the context in sport, and without that, if I’m normally fiery, sometimes I’ll be chill, and I’ll kind of wait for them to come to me and be like, yeah, what’s good, you know what’s going on with you? Or sometimes if I’m pretty chill and forgiving. Sometimes you gotta light a fire under their ass. So, you know, talk to me about that, like have you had to do that much it In your experience, and how do you know when the time is right? Because we have coaches that are, hey, I don’t you know, sometimes I don’t know how to assert myself or find my voice or, you know, do you have an internal kind of a way of guiding that for you?


Stewart Venable  25:12  

Yeah. Because, um, I don’t think we talked to we talked about this particular situation. But I told you when you have a class with 35, or 40 students, and you only have for 38 minutes, you know, per class period, five days a week, I was like, how am I going to get to know everybody? And you and I, we went through that process? Well, beginning of of a semester, when I was teaching at the high school level, I had a young lady, and the class that we finished, the warm up in the classes started working out. And she was sitting on the floor, and she was crying. So I walk up to her, and I’m like, what’s going on? She didn’t want to talk about it. I said, Hey, would you like to contact a friend of yours? Would you like to talk to a counselor? She wouldn’t say anything. She’s just crying, and she’s shaking her head. So I know something’s wrong. But I’m not getting anywhere with it. I say, Hey, how about if I let you call your mother, you want to call your mother because we don’t like to wait things? I mean, phones in the weight room. And she goes, nope, she’s shaking my head. No, but she’s not talking. So she doesn’t want to call a friend, she doesn’t want to call her father, she doesn’t want to talk to a counselor or admin, I said Hey, come do me a favor, I want you to come over here and sit on the mat. So you’re out of the way of the people that are lifting. And you can sit over here as long as you need to. Now, I could have been a butthead and be like, Hey, what are you doing on the floor? Let’s start lifting get after it. But you can see something’s wrong with her because she’s normal. Normally, she’s happy go lucky. So I let her sit over there. At the end of the class, when everybody’s leaving, I said, Hey, I apologize, because I thought we had a better relationship than this. But I was wrong. I promise you in the future, I work on it. So if something comes up, and you need something, you’ll be okay to tell me what it is. And she just walked out didn’t say a word. very next day, she comes back in. She’s a normal, bubbly personality. The end of that class period, she walks up to me and tells me, Coach, I’m sorry about yesterday, my father passed away. And every now and again, it hits me. And I don’t know what to do. So all I had to do was give her time to get her thoughts together. And to process that herself. And she opened up to me on her own, just by me be willing to give her time. And give her what she needed was some space. So she could continue grieving. And then she was fine.


Brett Bartholomew  27:31  

Yeah, I mean, that. I think some of these things, you know, people try, they hear right now. And they’re just like, they’re trying to process it. Right. and that’s what troubles me is. I’m scared that today’s leaders don’t get diverse enough interactions. You know, I’m scared that not enough, I look around. And we’ve talked about this, but especially at strength and conditioning conferences, and we see so much some like, it’s just a homogenous population of people that, yeah, I mean, they want to act like they, you know, have major differences. Oh, I work in Pro I work in high school, I work in gaming, it’s the same thing, right? Like everybody deals with far more similarities than they do differences. But I mean, you’re talking about stuff that you can always plan. And as a matter of fact, you know, when we were talking before, and you’re the first guest that did this, I just thought it was fascinating. You almost wrote, you know, a little memoir, when you knew you were coming on the podcast. And so I want to talk about what you deemed the lesson five. And I know I’m skipping around on you a little bit. And that’s to keep you off guard. But I think these things are magnificent. Where you talked about one thing I learned in the penitentiary is that things don’t always work out according to plan. And you got to have contingencies now. we’re living during a time, right, the COVID 19 outbreak where there’s a lot of people that didn’t plan. I mean, you couldn’t plan for this. But you know, there’s still not really planning for what may change in their career, what may have to change in their approach. And you talked about how you learn this lesson through a gentleman that you refer to as inmate Walker, and a homemade pipe bomb. Can you tell us a story a little bit and what it has to do with how you learned that you better build contingencies into how you do everything?


Stewart Venable  29:15  

Yeah, so it was probably my. I had just got to Leavenworth. And we responded to a call for assistance to one of their housing units, one of the lockdown units and I went there. And when I arrived, the lieutenant that was in charge of that housing unit was there. And he had put together a use of force team and that consists of five officers. They’re in a uniform, they have helmets, they have face shields, they have a big shield in the front. And what they’re going to do is they’re going to charge their cell because they’ve deemed that the inmate is a danger to himself or somebody else. They’re going to have to open the door going that cell. And they’re going to have to restrain that and maybe he’s going to have to be relocated, where the inmates descend that cell he’s made bomb is ticking the pipe from underneath is safe that you say fine and filled with matches to make a bomb. He did that. But he also threw soapy water on the floor because he knew this is what’s coming. If you make that bomb, and you have no stress, like he was threatening people that there’s going to be a use of force team coming in at a good. So he’s put soapy water on the floor. So when they come in to sail, they have started slack. He also took the time to make what we call slack is when you take a carton of milk that they get from the child was alone for about two thirds of it and you defecate and urinate in and let it sit in sale for a couple of days. So it can marinate time


Brett Bartholomew  30:38  



Stewart Venable  30:38  

It’s called getting slimed. If somebody stoes that on you and hit you with the slime you got slimmed. So the lieutenant the housing I’m just observing because I’m the new lieutenant, I’m watching lieutenant in the housing unit. He’s got the team together, we run into recorder because you’ve done a video all of this makes you take the appropriate action. By he’s standing at the door talking in the cameras recording, the inmate hit him with that slime and it went in his face, and then his hand. So he was done. He passed his what we call OC spray pepper spray to the maximum generals who I happen to be a company with. So the next Lieutenant picks up, he starts talking. He sprays them with the OC spray. Walker slimes him. It goes in his face and his mouth. He’s done. So now me is the new rookie. I’m the one there. I finish up, I pop the door, the team runs in. But before I pop the door, I spray him with that OC spray. Well, I hit him with a little too much. And when we ran in there, the gas was affecting the officers more than it was affecting the inmates. So when they ran in there, they started falling out one by one. He ended up fighting one officer and broker Sr. Hit one of them in the private parts. We had our hands full, I had to get a backup use of force team and they don’t have time to suit up because this is now we’re outside the box. We’re off the script. I’m pulling offices working to tears you down here, get in there, get it. When it came to the end, I had to go in there myself which the lieutenant shouldn’t because somebody has to run the housing unit. I’m the last week lieutenant standing up, he got slimed, I have to go in and we’re done. And we have to restrain the inmate. And it took I want to tell you it’s either 10 or 12 of us. That went in out and out before we finally got him restrained here went to 12 officers, we got him restrained, put handcuffs on him put leg irons on him moving to another housing unit, put him in a different cell. Before we actually found out that he had some issues. And he actually thought we were coming to kill him. So he’s fighting for his life. And we’re trying to restrain the inmate is violating the rule. So two totally separate things. But that was my learning that okay, the book says do it this way. We ran out of this way. Now I got to do it my way to fill that gap where somebody get hurt first, and obviously they got his finger.


Brett Bartholomew  33:09  

Now, when you talk about and I’m still trying to imagine this, but you know, I know you’ve said you’ve done some training in jujitsu. But whether it was you walk around the chow hall, you deal with these inmates and situations like you just described, you know what kind of experience you have with combatives or anything you’ve been able to just sell basic self defense, right? Like, I imagine you had to do some level of extensive training prior to taking this job or at least while you were doing it, did you not?


Stewart Venable  33:40  

Well, at the end just because that was my thing. When I was a kid, I started off taking karate as a youngster. And then when I was in California, I did some boxing and now to Taekwondo and California I did some Muay Thai, when I was in Arizona, and then when I got to Leavenworth, I started boxing again. And it was a couple of special forces guys, we used to go up on Fort Leavenworth, which is right next door. And we used to do some jujitsu once or twice a week with these guys. But this is something that we opted to do on our own to stay in shape because I was also the leader of the Special Operations Response Team, which is called the SWAT team is to prison version of a SWAT team. So I knew I had to be on point. But everybody didn’t necessarily do this. The bureau puts you through a self defense course and you go down to Brunswick, Georgia, I think the course is six weeks or eight weeks, where you go to firearms and self defense. You have that basic training, but anything beyond that you have to be willing to do it on your own and amend enough to meet it. I was willing to do it on my own.


Brett Bartholomew  34:45  

Yeah, I mean, to me, it’s fascinating. I again, just thinking of that in and of itself. I always found I don’t know if you’d agree but you know, when I boxed competitively, I always found that martial arts, whatever that is, combatives anything that you do, it instills a sense of humility and you like No other, you know, I feel like you can always kind of tell who’s partaken in some level of you know, again, control combatives? or what have you, or just if you want to call it fighting, combat sport, whatever, because they carry themselves in a different way, not because they’re looking for a fight, or they want to knock somebody out. But actually, because of the opposite. They know what it’s like, right? Like if people really no, we always say the quiet ones are the dangerous ones. And I have to imagine that took on a completely different meaning in prison. Right? You probably didn’t see the dude with face tattoos and greasy hair screaming in the cell, the most dangerous guy, it was. So how did you start to learn body language? To that point, you know, to even be able to kind of tell, what are some common tells? Or some things that you knew? All right? This guy carries himself a little differently, or might be this archetype. And and how often did you find that to be correct? 


Stewart Venable  35:48  

Well, it’s funny, because you’re so right when I was boxing in Kansas, and I used to also judge MMA fights, and we’d go there, and I’d be sitting there with my coach. And we’d watch people coming in to watch the fight, not the actual fighters. And the people that come in to watch the fight. They came in with that hard look on their face. Those lads that you can’t see the illusion of lads sort of arms all spread out like a cobra, they got their chests all inflated, and they’re walking around like the cock of the walk. But you sitting there thinking like, if you were really that guy, you’d be one of the guys in the ring. And the guys that come out to fight or in the ring, they would be just everyday, nonchalant, easygoing, walk up in the ring. And when that bell hit, they went to work when the prison setting was pretty much the same way. The guys that caused the most trouble. In a prison environment. I learned this. Before I even got the lever when I started in California, and then went to Arizona, the guys that give you the most trouble the most grief, the ones that are yelling and calling you names and cursing and acting crazy. Those are never the stone cold killers. Those are just a look, you know, you be like, Man, you’re selling crack on the street in Chicago, you didn’t beat anybody, you wouldn’t bust a grape better fruit stand. But the guys that had bodied enough people that they can have their own cemetery. Most of the time they either loners or they stay with only a handful of other people that they knew they could trust. But they required it were respectful. They were soft spoken. All the true guy, the guys that were, as you say, that will really do something to you, that really would hurt you. They weren’t the big mouth guys. They weren’t the loudmouth. They weren’t making a scene, they just walk around and take care of their business. But if somebody, caught them wrong, was trying to do something to him. They body him.


Brett Bartholomew  37:36  

Yeah. How has that helped you with kids? Because again, I think that it’s such a and I’m certainly not trying to draw correlation between inmates and kids. If you guys are just piping back in to the conversation, we’re talking about the fact that, you know, certain lessons transcend different environments, and we know that kids can be withdrawn, right, especially kids from troubled backgrounds, but certainly not just kids with trouble. I mean, admittedly, you know, I can be withdrawn until I, kind of suss somebody out, especially if I, if I’m not really sure where somebody stands on something yet. And, you know, they’re trying to tell me, they’re an expert, or whatever, I have that Wolverine kind of persona a bit too. But, you know, I would have to imagine just like you saw commonalities, and how you’re reading body language, and how much that has helped you. With high school kids. Can you give some tips with that, because, you know, there’s coaches that always want to help and they get in situations and they might be so eager, they’re missing these little cues. You know, talk to me about the role that patience, timing trust, and and just learning to read those things is played in, you’ve been able to connect with kids now.


Stewart Venable  38:34  

Yeah, and I think honestly, that was one of the things that really brought. You and I together, because I would get so frustrated. My coaching style, is very militaristic, and I believe you should be this way. This way. If you don’t do it this way, then get out of my weight room. Like that was the answer. when I very first started at the high school level, the answer to me was, this is how it is, if you can’t do it, then get out. But get out wasn’t really solving anything. I mean, it would, solve problems. As far as look, if somebody walked by and look at my weight training class. There’s nobody in here, there’s not engaged. There’s nobody in here, that’s acting a fool. But it didn’t solve the problem that was actually going on with the kid. Most of the time, the kids that were acting out the kids who were doing this, those were the kids that were hurting the most, those were the kids that are the most vulnerable the kids that need the most support. And once I recognize that, instead of getting out is go sit down. So now I have a bench right at the door exit in the weight room. I tend to go have a seat on the bench, and then instead of just putting them out and being done with them, I go over there and I sit down and have a conversation when you can do this in a minute or two. It’s like hey, man, what’s happening like normally you ain’t this way you know you and me. We sit every day we have a couple of jokes. You left over here with these people today you and you hit with your phone you kicking over to trash cans. And you, you’ve cursed twice, like what’s going on with you? And then you find out something like, coach, my mom didn’t come home last night. You know, I’m watching both of my siblings. I gotta get them ready for school today. She’s a drug addict. I don’t know if she’s dead. What are you gonna hate coach? You know, my dad got locked up yesterday, whatever. There’s always something behind that. And I was so focused on the X’s and O’s or the sets and the reps part of it, that I wasn’t paying attention to the to the relationship part. And that’s the biggest thing. You know, I always say when people ask me like, why are you always like hyping? Brett. I was like, because he caused a paradigm shift when we met in Creighton actually caused a paradigm shift to make me think it’s not about people walking by the weight room looking in and seeing everybody squat in unison. It’s about those kids. If you really there for those kids, you will do what’s in the best interest of those kids. And the only way you can do that is by building relationships with those kids.


Brett Bartholomew  40:59  

Yeah, I think that’s what’s that’s always been scary to me is people taking that tone of, oh, I have been this person, this person. And let me get this straight. You’re hyping people that are talking about reaching people at a deeper level? You know, like, that’s a problem. That’s where we’ve gotten to a problem is where we’re worried about people that are having conversations about deeper things. And not only that, let me let’s cut it, right. Like, I gave everybody the explicit warning, there’s too much just bullshit in leadership. There’s too much of this, like, you know, I’m gonna teach you how to tie your shoes and pull up your socks. I’m gonna love you. I’m a hugger. And not everybody needs that. And that brings me to my next point. We talked about the role of emotions in leadership. Now in Western culture. Oftentimes, leaders are supposed to be charismatic, they’re supposed to be calm, they’re supposed to be pioneering, right? They’re supposed to be empathetic, we understand we speak well, we’re classic, we’re composed. But the reality is, is that that is kind of this regression. Because, you know, we have emotions, like fear and anger and outrage and disgust and envy. And, all these things we have we experienced this wide cascade, yet we’re supposed to hide it. Now. You talked about a story where you witnessed a death where you witness I mean, obviously some pretty horrendous things out Leavenworth? How did that teach you to better manage your emotions in general? And what lessons is that carried over? Right? Like, how do you find that balance of like, knowing how to stay composed in the moment, and then also knowing when to turn something on? You know, we mentioned something along with that in the past. But it’s tricky. It’s not as easy when you’re witnessing these things firsthand. And I just don’t think it’s as black and white as people think there’s greatness in the gray area. Can you talk about that story a little bit? And what that taught you about yourself?


Stewart Venable  42:48  

Yeah. Again, this was the end of my first week, and there’s an inmate that had to make his bones and to those people who don’t understand that making your bones means you become a confirmed member of a gang. And you have to do this by killing someone else. So this was taken out. Well, he performed the killing. When I arrived on the scene, they had transported the inmate that had got stabbed to the hospital. So when I got to the hospital, he was there. And he had been and I think I told you that he had been stabbed so many times, I couldn’t count the holes in it. And every time he would take a breath, and exhale, there will be little blood bubbles that would come up and pop. And again, my first week there, I’ve never seen anybody die right in front of me. So I’m standing there again beside another Lieutenant because I’m still shadowing somebody, a couple officers and medical staff working on. I’m looking at this guy, and he’s literally drowning on his own blood. And you can hear him gurgling. And the other Lieutenant looks at me. And he goes, He’s toast. Like no emotion, nothing.


Brett Bartholomew  43:56  

Timeout. That’s all. He said. He didn’t try to do anything. He just looked at him and nonchalantly said He’s toast.


Stewart Venable  44:03  

Yeah, he was taking pictures of body. And he just said, it took the last picture. And you could hit that last girl where he goes, He’s toast. So I’m looking at him like, what you just said, I’m expecting some kind of reaction to is there remorse, 


Brett Bartholomew  44:16  

some form of empathy Yeah, 


Stewart Venable  44:17  

right. Right. But there’s none. He walks out, I walk up behind him. And then we walk to the office and he goes, Hey, let’s go here do this. Like it’s on to the next mission. This is done. But this inmates life is over. And I had to get myself I think I told you that you become a hardened to the situation. Or if you don’t, you probably lose your mind that after you become callous over a period of time, I think you get used to seeing the amount of violence that you get used to it, but you can’t show if you show that somebody’s being beaten in front of you or sexually assaulted in front of you, and that stops to give you pause that might give some matter of time enough to sneak up behind you and stab you, if that’s what they want to do. So you can act like whatever it is, you see, I had to learn, you have to act like you’ve seen it before. And it can’t have any effect. I didn’t understand at the time when you talk about in the course, Bought In the difference between empathy and compassion. I couldn’t have empathy then. Because you know, somebody just died from empathy. You thinking about their family, how they feel, you can’t you have a mission, you have a job you have to fulfill. So I guess I learned to become more compassionate, and not so much empathetic. I didn’t have the words to it at that time, because I didn’t have bought in at that time. .


Brett Bartholomew  44:20  

Yeah When you look at the kids that you work with now, and you’ve worked with a wide range of Yeah, how many have you dealt with? I’m curious, you know that any obviously, you don’t need to, nor should you use names, how many of them have had parents that that were incarcerated, if any? Do you have any that have kind of had that background? Or that dynamic?


Stewart Venable  45:57  

Yes, more than I can count. more than I can count?


Brett Bartholomew  46:02  

And, you know, are these? Like, obviously you don’t tell them the vivid detail you told us? But are these stories you tell them? Do you do you talk to your kids about any of these things your time, you know, in Leavenworth? And if so, why? Right? Because some would consider that like, man, isn’t that dark? Isn’t that this? Isn’t that kind of using? You know, not necessarily a legitimating tactic, but a pressure influence tactic? Do you talk to them? Do you relate to them? How do you reach those kids? And does it help?


Stewart Venable  46:31  

Yeah, no, absolutely. I talked to him about that. I, when I very first started in the high school setting, I got called to the office because I got in trouble for doing that. I told the story. And a young lady’s mom called and she was concerned. So the principal said, he wants to show me that he had this staff members back. And he was like, Do you have any idea? She said her child heard a disturbing story? Coach V. You have an idea what she’s talking about? Yeah, I told him a prison story yesterday. And he goes oh I didn’t know. And I was like, Do you not want me to share these with him? And he goes, Well, I’m not saying that. I’m not trying to censor you. I’m just saying make sure if you tell them a story like that. There’s a reason behind it. There’s a lesson in that I say it is. I said the lesson is that in the real world, if you disrespect the wrong person, they will stab you in the neck. I said they do it here, you know, kid cuss at a Teacher cuss at an administrating, nothing happens to him. I said, we coddle them. And I don’t believe in coddling conditioning. So I want them to understand that once they leave the confines of the school, and they venture out into society, some of the things they’re doing here, we get them hurt. And it would, and I’m not telling them anything graphic, but I’m telling them the stories. And the thing that got me was the kids that had parents incarcerated. They wanted to know more, because All they know is my dad’s in jail, my mom’s in jail. And they’d be like, coaches in jail and so on. So I go, Oh, man, that’s a camp that’s white collar crimes, man, then nobody’s doing anything to your dad it’s like being on a college campus, except you can’t go home. It’s different than men in a maximum security facility. That’s totally different. So that would give him some, okay, I can, I know nobody’s doing anything to my dad. Nobody’s doing anything to my mom. So I’m telling them these stories, to try to give them some, comfort in what their parents are going through. But so they know the reality of what happens in prison because they glorified it. Some of the kids we have in high school, when they get put on house arrest, and they have those ankle braces on they come to school with the sweatpants roll up so everybody can see they are under house arrest. And  that’s not a good thing. 


Brett Bartholomew  48:44  

But Stew what would you say to to coaches out there listening or anybody listening right now that says, you know, this is wildly inappropriate. Kids shouldn’t be talked to that way. This stuff has no place in the education system. It’s not a coach’s place to say this. This is not how a coach should communicate. What do you have to say to those people?


Stewart Venable  49:07  

The same thing I wrote at the top of that outline that I sent you, we live in a volatile and chaotic world, the prison is a microcosm of that is just on steroids. And I really don’t believe in coddle conditioning, that is the way to talk to them. You know, we said yourself all this. And I have, I wish I could show you my you’ve seen the brand. I have all those Positive Coaching books and the positive leadership books. The holding hands is the rah rah rah that we shall all sing Kumbaya, we shall overcome. That doesn’t always work. Sometimes you need those dark sided leadership traits. Those work the research substantiates that and needed most of reality.


Brett Bartholomew  49:44  

Do you think that’s something people can learn? Do you think that’s something that’s either in them or not? Right? Do you think if there’s somebody right now that I want to paint a vivid picture for you, there’s somewhere there’s a coach and age doesn’t matter. And you know, they’re kind of wandering they’re wandering If they’re made for this, because what they’re doing isn’t working, and they’ve tried to reach in people, they’ve tried being their for them, they’ve tried, listening, they’ve tried, you know, everything, they can show an empathy showing compassion, and it’s just not working. And they feel like maybe they need to be a bit more heavy handed or embrace those shadow traits, but they’re not quite sure. Like, what would you say to that Coach? Can you learn this stuff?


Stewart Venable  50:22  

Yeah, absolutely. You can learn this. I just had that conversation before spring break with another coach. And I said, What do you think about learning about communication and influence? And he goes, I don’t think it’s something you can learn. I said, Well, why not? Like, why would you think he goes, Look, I’ve been coaching for 30 plus years, you either got it or you don’t? I said, then everybody you hire as your assistant, then they have it? Or if they don’t, then you don’t even give him a chance, regardless of the other characteristic. He goes, that’s it Stew you either got it or you don’t. And I said, I see. And to me that’s nonsensical.


Brett Bartholomew  51:02  

What is it? What does even mean by it? You got what you got?


Stewart Venable  51:05  

Yeah, so that’s what I thought I said, How do you know if you got it? He goes, when I have it. I said, Well, how do you verify that? Like, how do you evaluate whether somebody has it, and he just, if they got it, you know, they got it. If they don’t, then they just don’t, and they can’t learn it. So I let that conversation go, because I didn’t want to go down that, route with him at that time. But it’s something that I preach, my department chair, and I have a great understanding about that communication, the influence, manipulation, my supervisor and the district office, like everybody’s on board with, as educators, and as coaches, we have to do a better job of relating to our kids. And you got to I mean, the people that haven’t been to Lincoln, Lincoln is a hub for immigrants. So we have people from all over the world, in this little town of 300,000 people. And you can’t just be born and raised in Nebraska, and expect to get along with the kid from the Congo. If you can’t relate to that kid from the Congo, we need to learn how to talk to people, we need to learn how to relate to people, and we do that with your three R’s. And that’s been my saving grace.


Brett Bartholomew  52:19  

I just think we have an interesting riff, we have an interesting, I think that again, it lends insight to why people think that it’s light versus dark. why certain that you have it or you don’t, why things are right and wrong. It generally concerns me, you know, if you look at leadership, as a founder, or you look at parenting, as somewhere on this spectrum, right, and we know as parents, sometimes you got to be a little bit heavier handed and tell your kids how it is and discipline them and how everybody disciplines their kids. That’s for you. Right? And then there’s obviously times where you have to be loving, and you have to be supportive, and you have to be there for him. But we know that great parenting is in the gray, we know that you can’t just tell your kid, they’re the most magnificent thing on earth all the time. And they’re always right. And nobody else is ever. You know, it’s nobody else’s fault. Or it’s never their fault. Sorry, it’s everybody else’s fault. We know we can’t do that. But we also know what happens when people are the other way. And they’re another extreme. So I look at that. And I think if people for the most part are familiar with our good parenting is in the gray area, just like much of life is in the gray area, who I mean, who’s to say any of us ever have it right or wrong? Why people are so certain. There’s one right way to coach in all aspects.


Stewart Venable  53:37  

I don’t understand that either. I mean, we talked about it over and over again. And you know, since this COVID-19, and we’ve been on these zoom meetings, we’re doing the same thing over and over again, we’re arguing about whether we should single leg squat or double leg squat, whether we should have front squat or back squat. You know, the other night, I was on Twitter, and just finished watching the last dance with my wife. And somebody made a comment about Well, all I know is Jordan without strength and conditioning, zero championships after strength and conditioning shifts. And I said, Oh, that’s pretty important. put my phone down. I said, See, hearing lies the problem with our profession. We’re so wrapped up into the BS that we’re missing the force because of the trees. 


Brett Bartholomew  54:31  

Yeah, I mean, that’s pretty self important. That’s pretty. I think Jordan was gonna be Jordan, to degree no matter what. So what’s the way forward? This is what I asked you. What’s the way forward where we get people to be more adept to I mean, you have all these lessons. We didn’t even talk about your indictment, right? That’s another thing but like all these things lead to all these things that lead to higher states of self awareness, but what like where’s he going to ensue? You know, so somebody listens to this episode. So what what should they be taken away from this? What? Like, what’s the way forward? In your opinion? What do we got to get rid of? What do we got to embrace more of how do we do it? How are you approaching, your own development from from this point on? What do we do?


Stewart Venable  55:08  

We have to learn how to, in financial speak to diversify our portfolio. And, you know, I’ve been coaching for 30 plus years as well. And I’ve been to all the seminars, and I’ve been to the conferences that I have the certs. And after a while, you know, as you said to me, How many times do you have to go and listen to somebody to present on how to squat. But yet when you ask them, What influence tactic they use, or do they know, the various type of the various archetypes, they have no idea what you’re talking about you you know, and I post this on Instagram, you don’t know who Daniel Kahneman is, who Adam Grant is who Robert Cialdini is who Mark Larry is, I mean, there are so many great people out there that are doing the research to substantiate that you must be you must know how to communicate, be willing to build relationships. That is the foundation of what we enter people businessman, we’re in the people business where you want to go and learn how to do a rep or set Are you worried about your program design, if the kid doesn’t give a crap about you or your program, doesn’t matter how good it is, we have to get it to the point where the people in positions in the district office in the building principal, those are the people we’re going to have to contact and let them know that when we do professional development every year, we need to talk about communication, we need to talk about influence, we need to talk about building relationships. And that’s the only way we’re going to change we’re not going to do this from the bottom up, not in our profession, other professionals do it from the bottom up. But our professions, we’re still stuck in the stone age, we won’t do it from the bottom up, it’s gonna have to come from the top down, they’re gonna have to go to conference, see two presentations on squat, and then one on communication, somebody else do one on the jerk one on clean, and then there’s one on influence. That’s how we’re gonna have to get them involved, because you stick the info right in front of you, they don’t want to see it.


Brett Bartholomew  57:08  

And that’s what I look at, you know, the relevance of some of your background, right, we look at some of the inmates you dealt with and things like that. It’s some of them, you know, are incarcerated for life. Some of them go out and they don’t really learn their lessons and, and they end up right back in and that’s what scares me about strength and conditioning is are we just going to, are we bound to kind of stay trapped in our own cell? Metaphorically, you know, in perpetuity. So we go out, we think we learn something, we have an influencing event happen to us, alright, we get it, we do this, we get it. I mean, I just had a conversation with a coach the other day, you is at his place of business for quite a while. And, you know, for a while you didn’t think it was important to brand himself didn’t think it was important to learn these other things. And he had a lot of security. And he finally said, You know what, this was a huge wake up call, man. This is ,And I looked at him. And I said, bro, like we used to talk three or four times a year. And you know, every time I would ask you and this isn’t about right, wrong. It’s just because I experienced it, too. There’s a time where you could have told me nothing. But like, what is it going to take for people to learn? Like, do you think there’s going to be an event? Do you think this will get better? Or, you know, like our mutual friend Ron McKee free? He tells me out, right? He goes, bro, I think and he does say bro, he says, I know what you’re doing. And I think it’s great. I just don’t think our field is going to change in our lifetime. And he’s candid about that. And he loves strengthing auditioning as much if not more than anybody. But do you think it’s gonna change? Or do you think by and large we’re just getting too many people that love training love the idea of working in sport love the idea of doing this that we’re at, we’re simply outnumbered and it’s not going to change.


Stewart Venable  58:42  

Yeah, it’s going to change but I’m inclined to agree with Coach Mac. I won’t see it in my lifetime. And I kind of like your what you I said about the dead rapper syndrome. It gonna make the biggest impact after you’re gone because that’s when they will realize, oh my god, where’s this been? We should have been grasp on to this. You know, that communication thing? That if they could see that when you’re in that penitentiary, and that’s 23, 2400 inmates. you don’t have a rifle. You don’t have a pistol. All you have a radio and your mouthpiece. And if your ability to talk, that’s what we call them out. And that’s the only thing that’s gonna save you. So you have to know how to talk to people. I’m from Virginia, but I gotta be able to talk to the guy from New York, the guy from California, that guy from Canada, the guy from England. You got to be able to talk to everybody you run around, you run on the cell house. And I did just walked that random the cell house went around the corner. And this guy had a shake, which was a prison made knife. And all like a he was him screaming when I went running in there. I said put him on the floor. And the other lieutenant was just standing there. I don’t understand like, why hasn’t l tackled him yet? I went running up there and that is Inmat swung that knife and I thought he had gutted me that thing looked like a machete. I stopped, I said, Hang on, hang on, man, what’s wrong? What’s the problem, he didn’t want us to put him in a cell with his enemies, because he knew they would kill him. So he rather stab me, or stabbed the other lieutenant than go in that cell. I said, Look, I promise you, nobody’s gonna put you in that cell, I’m gonna get you out of this cell block, you put that knife down and walk with me, I’m going to take you over here. And we’re going in this cell block, and I’ll put you in a cell by yourself. You have to be able to talk to people. I can say behind the wall, it could be a matter of life or death. So I don’t know why in this environment, or in the high school level, like we don’t get it, that we have to be able to talk to these kids the same way. You know, when you find out the kids that the parents are incarcerated, or the parents are dope fiends or, or that somebody is molesting them. I had a young girl that a grown man from Colorado was texting her saying, Send me nude photos of yourself. And if I didn’t have a relationship with her, she would have never came up to me and told me and I said, we gotta go tell admin. She goes, No, coach, I can’t tell nobody but you. I say, Okay, let’s walk up to the office. You tell me and, the resource officer and assistant principals data here. But if I didn’t have a relationship with that young lady, she would have never told that story because she felt degraded and humiliated, that a grown man is telling her send me nude pictures of yourself? Well, I’ll come and do something. You have to be able to talk to these kids the same way I had to be able to talk in there is life or death with me and the inmates out here is these kids. And I’ve had enough dead students. I don’t want any more of that 


Brett Bartholomew  1:01:49  

Yeah, I think that’s one thing I appreciate. In particular about what you’re saying is you said that how many was there 2300 inmates then how many kids you generally work with when obviously when school is in session and things like that, how many groups we What’s the size of the group she worked with?


Stewart Venable  1:02:07  

I’ll see five or six classes a day 35 to 40 kids each class? Yeah,


Brett Bartholomew  1:02:10  

I think the other thing that I respect about you is when we first started talking about some of this stuff, the number probably two excuse I heard, and it’s similar to what the gentleman said, you either you’re born with it or not, is why coach big groups. And I was like, and you know, when I wrote conscious coaching, I was working in a facility where at most it was me and one intern and we were coaching big groups, we were doing that I worked in college sports, you know, like I don’t know, I’ve, it’s a matter of fact, I’ve never been in a situation that you see with like the average division one college strength coach, where it’s them, and essentially, you know, four to five full time staff, not to mention interns. Yet, those are the people that I would tend to hear these excuses from well, we coach big groups, I’m like, you have three to five full time people on your staff, experienced coaches an intern, you’re telling me, you can’t manage conversations, those are the people that I’ll be frank, I’ll draw a line in the sand, I think just need to get out of the field. Like if they just want to teach exercise, there’s other ways you can do that. You know, like, if you want to be a strength coach, and in sports performance, and you have no interest in the person, like, you know, go teach something else, go teach somewhere you don’t have to have, it’s just more transactional, go teach some kind of, you know, washed up, group fitness class where nobody worries about technique or instruction, you know, just go do that, like, because what’s the point if you don’t, but if you’re going to coach, by definition, you’ve got to communicate that I mean, let’s get to the root of that, right. Let’s get to the root of so I love when people say, oh, you know, I can’t do that. I got big groups. Oh, nobody’s asking you to solve some problem here. So, you know, I would imagine that you had enough of that as well. 


Stewart Venable  1:03:44  

Yeah, no, I remember when you said okay, with those same numbers you have if your salary went to 300,000, a year or 400,000 a year, could you talk to everybody, then I’m like, hell yeah I could talk to everybody then. 


Brett Bartholomew  1:03:57  

And  for context, and people were listening. You know, one of the things I said on social media one day is that, you know, I wonder if all these people who say that they don’t have time to create a relationship, if they were in a job interview, and somebody said, Hey, you know, this position pays $300,000 a year, or more whatever, you know, but the expectation is that you really cultivate deep meaningful relationships with the athletes. And that’s really what we’re looking for in a candidate. How many of you would make that same excuse? And you know, damn, well,  nobody would. Nobody would. And what you’re talking about is something more important on the line than money lives, lives. You know what I mean? Like working at working with these kids and these backgrounds. So that’s what scares me that’s what scares me is when we have a bunch of people that are more interested in coaching, those kinds of things and they don’t see the synchrony and everything’s got to be a battle and I hate everything. Listen Stew we’ve taken a great deal your time brother, we’ve got to wrap this up. But these are the stories, the lessons the reflections are incredible. If people want to connect with you, if they want to learn more from you, if they want to engage with you if they want to intern under you. Anything where can they find you?


Stewart Venable  1:05:00  

I’m on social media. I’m on Instagram @coach_venable. I’m on Twitter @coachvenable the number one and you can email me at


Brett Bartholomew  1:05:17  

Love it it. And I appreciate you taking the time. I appreciate your tremendous stories, man. I appreciate your loyalty and everything you do to further the art of coaching and leadership in general, my friend.


Stewart Venable  1:05:29  

Thank you, Brett. I appreciate it, man. It’s been a pleasure,


Brett Bartholomew  1:05:31  

guys. Until next time, this is the art of coaching podcast. We’ll talk to you soon.

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