So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Who Do You Want Me To Be Today?

"When the school bell rings, the learning day is done. It's time to trash the books, and work on having fun. Through the door comes Jimmy, with hopes and dreams of his own. But little does he know that they'll be crushed when he gets home. There's so much he wants to share. But his parents they just don't care. You see his daddy never made it...and momma thinks she could have....Always telling him who they think he should be; now they're left alone with a desperate written plea, that says: To Whom It May Concern: Who do you want me to be today?" (Stuart Hamm, 1991)Athletic coaching is a blend of art & science; the coach, ideally, has learned all of the physiology, psychology, sociology...and maybe even a little early childhood education...either through a formal learning process in a high school or college, or on the fly under the tutelage of their coach. Naturally, the art side of coaching comes to the fore when dealiing with the individual athlete. Each is an experiment of one.

And not every coach is - or should be exactly alike. If it were so that all coaches were, there would be a world of athletes without 'em. It's why athletes (sometimes) move from coach to coach throughout a career; the relationship gets stale or old, or the parties realize what was a great fit at one time wasn't quite so years later...maybe when goals changed or modalities didn't. My coach(es) & I are completely different people, socially, politically, geographically, emotionally, and even to a small degree athletically. They communicate with me a lot differently than I do with my athletes. I try to give the athletes I coach the feedback I felt I needed as an athlete...sometimes it's too much, or at the wrong time. Once again, I guess that's where the human element comes in. If I were the perfect coach I'd be a robot.
I've friends who are coaches, in running as well as in other sporting disciplines, and we've bounced thoughts across each other at times, just to get a sniff test. Some of them are gentle, yet open and a little gregarious. Others are a touch more guarded and cautious. Yet the common thread which appears is that of success on the part of one or more of their athletes. Can you define success without resorting to the hard numbers of wins and losses, lowered finishing times, longer throws and higher jumps?

I used to think I needed to mold all-around renaissance athletes to be considered a good coach. When my coach's coach mentioned something along the lines of 'I just want to build a better machine' I realized the rest of the person - especially when dealing with athletes over a certain age (since I deal with runners older than age 16, I'll say adults) - was probably coming to me already developed. My chance to reinforce (or undo, in some cases) the work of parents, teachers, preachers and other outside influences was pretty much out of the question.
And yes, I know that in the case of school athletics coaches, there is that need to live (as my friend Dr. Ed Cloutier would say) a PG life. But I don't think there's a great divide between a person who lives a more liberal life and a person who is more conservative in their dealings.

Give me a coach who will make me a better engine. I'll trust my family and my preacher to help me in the rest of the categories...if they haven't been successful in influencing me up to this time it might be a little too late.

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