Tomas Adalsteinsson became the new head coach of women’s golf after spending four years in the same position at Macalester College. A native of Iceland, Adalsteinsson brings a unique perspective to the team with his background in sports psychology and European playing career.
What’s the golf culture in Iceland?
It’s great! Probably after soccer it’s the second most popular sport. We have more golf courses per capita than any other country in Europe. Of course, we don’t need that many golf courses to reach that goal. I grew up more as a soccer player but then transferred over to golf and fell in love with that. I played with the Icelandic national team for about six years and got to play in tournaments throughout Europe.
What led you to a coaching career in the States?
It’s been a fairly short story, but it’s been exciting that I’ve been fortunate. I came here in 2008 to go to graduate school in Northern California to study sports psychology. My plan was to get that degree and go back to Iceland, but I met my wife in my course and she’s from Minnesota. We started living together and then we got engaged and married within three years of me moving to the States. I had been coaching both soccer and golf at a high school in San Francisco and I decided that maybe I wanted to be a coach. My wife’s family lived in Minnesota and I happened to get an assistant women’s soccer coach position at Carleton College. She was able to transfer her job to the Twin Cities. After one year at Carleton, I started to look around and accepted a job in the same position at Macalester College. The head coach encouraged me to find a full-time head coaching position if one was available, so I applied for the opening as women’s golf coach at Macalester and was there for the past four years. One of the things I’ve realized being here in the States is that there will always be people who will be willing to help you out and vouch for you. That was kind of a unique situation here because there were people who reached out to let me know about the Williams position. Through getting to know liberal arts colleges in the U.S., I knew Williams was a great college, too, so it looked like a good job. I talked to more people in various roles here who told me that it was the best place that you could ever work and that the Purple Valley is really fantastic.
Taconic Golf Club has just been ranked as the #2 college course in America. What’s it like to have regular access to it as a coach?
It’s a great resource to have. If you talk to any coach or athlete, if the facilities are good, it’s an added bonus. We’re very fortunate to be able to practice and play at Taconic and offer our players that course as a challenge to practice and prepare for tournaments.
Much of your background is in sports psychology. What are some of your techniques when applying sports psychology to golf?
I’ve been pretty amazed by students here at Williams in that they already seem a step ahead in these approaches. Some of the things we talk about seem like common sense, but common sense is sometimes not all that common. So it’s putting in simple terms what we want to achieve and then looking for examples. Goal-setting is one thing, being process-oriented and focusing on the present moment, not getting too caught up in the past or what’s ahead in the future. Those are some of the key concepts which provide a thread through what we do. We were just as a team talking about our goals. I asked what goals we have in common and the answer was that they were often not about golf, but being a human, being a person, and how we interact with other people and present ourselves. I’ve been pretty amazed by the women and how they really approach things with that mentality.
How exciting has it been as an Icelander to follow the team’s run in the 2016 European Championships?
It was super exciting, especially as my career has also been in soccer and one of the players on the team I used to coach before I came to the States. My dad used to be the women’s national team coach so my connection with soccer goes way back. Every Icelander connected on a personal level with the team and that’s a little bit how Iceland operates. Once we take something on, it’s all in. It’s exciting.