Over the past week I have had several important conversations and interactions regarding coaching and the limitations and struggles that coaches have with their athletes. Over the past several months I have had the opportunity to coach a great swim club with talents ranging from the barely floating to the Olympic hopefuls. Somewhere in the middle of this pack is what boggles coaches minds and more specifically made me a little crazy this morning.
Today was the first outdoor practice I had the opportunity to coach, presenting two problems for the swimmers already: One, its in the mid 60’s AKA no one wants to get in, Two: it’s long course, 50 meters, twice as long as they normally swim which makes most twice less likely to train at the intensity they are capable of. Beyond these small cogs, we reached a moment near the end of practice that shook me up. We have this one high school girl that trains hard most of the time, but when challenged with a difficult set or a race usually backs down. I always knew that she had difficulty in certain aspects of training but could never put my finger on it, today I did. I have always been in the mindset that a coach can positively motivate and make suggestions so that one day the coach can constructively mold the athlete into their purest form. After this morning and chatting with various coaches about this very topic over the past week, coupled with coaching collegiate athletics, I have come to an almost certain and frightening conclusion: those that get it do and those that don’t most likely never will. When athletes train at their highest capacity that is rarely the coach’s doing, it is something that the athlete has found inside of them that motivated them at that very second and gave them the perfect reason for getting better. This reason is rarely logical, be it that I commonly bark at the swimmers telling them if they want to reach their goals they should always give 100% – which should be the best reason they need for swimming fast.
Back to today: we had a simple set of 20×50’s with some kicking and every 4th all out butterfly. Normally, most swimmers would jump at that opportunity and swim their brains out to win that 4th 50 (because the other 3 were easy, because its only a 50, because 50 fly is usually fun, and because you are wearing FINS!). But our friend was pushing off 5 seconds late so she didn’t have to race the girl next to her. I thought this was funny so kindly asked her to push off on time and race, she then began to cry and say “I don’t race in practice.” ADSIHFI!@$#@NFDA WHAT!? “You don’t race in practice??” I thought. No… that makes sense, because Derrick Rose never plays basketball at practice, Starlin Castro has never taken live batting practice before a game….
In the 10 seconds I had before she pushed off I asked “How can you back down from a race today and not expect to back down from a race this weekend?” That didn’t leave any mark, change any effort, or convince her to race. Disheartened I spoke with the other coaches, equally as appalled as I was, and uncovered an unfortunate character flaw. I found out that this girl has never gutted out a Michael Phelps’esk 100 fly finish, has never ran down the french, and never takes that extra kick off the last wall of her 200 unless she knows for certain she will win. She doesn’t want to lose knowing she gave her best, knowing that she simply got out muscled and out swam.
Unfortunately, this simple mark of character not only defines her practices, but her meets, and I bet ultimately will affect her social and career experiences. I will make it my mission to positively motivate our friend to seeing the benefits from always racing, and cherishing each moment. I would give anything to have the opportunity to race my former teammates and competitors. I am toooooo far competitive to even let my little cousins beat me in basketball, nonetheless a friend or teammate out heart me in a 50. Hopefully my competitive drive and motivation will rub off on this swimmer and future swimmers: for that is why I coach, that is why WE coach.
Currently Listening To: Your Hand In Mine – Explosions In The Sky