When Suzanne or I mention the term "grandparent" in a casual conversation, especially when talking with new friends, many are shocked because neither of us look like we're in our fifties (more or less). I've approached grandparenting with much less fear than I had at the prospect of parenting. No children for me, thanks. A playback of my youth and adolescence, but standing on the other side of the stage? Given a choice between re-living the period between 1975 and 1981, and shoving a sharp stick in my eye; the sharp stick wins.
After the "am I really going to be okay at this?" feelings passed, I found that I do like grandparenting. It doesn't mean I'm perfect at it; there are things which still get under my skin. The benefit-to-drawback ratio for this role is, compared to my opinon of parenting, so far, much higher. The roles of nurturer, disciplinarian and role model, which are part and parcel of parenting, are augmented with a little bit of Santa Claus. Our grandchildren are young enough to still depend on either their mom and dad or us, but old enough to have personality and a sliver of insight, sometimes more than for which we provide them credit. Recently, my eldest granddaughter, said something that will ensure she can (almost) do no wrong in this ol' coach's eyes. Who knew a five-year-old would know Bob Marley?
The relationships of adolescence, adulthood, and the advance from child (to parent, usually,,,) to grandparent, and the analogies which may relate to the relationship between athlete and coach kind of leaped out at me as I was on my morning run.
As an athlete I often saw the athlete-coach relationship from the child-to-parent perspective: I do what my coach says, for better or for worse. I may, or may not, have a voice in the equation. And, if I decide to leave "home" after a time it's all on my own head.
However, as a coach, I find the perspective is not as much like parent as grandparent. There may be coaches who have complete and total control over their athletes, but those relationships are either unhealthy or the coach also serves as parent; coaching family members has pitfalls of which I will not go into detail here.
Regardless of whether we see the relationship between athlete and coach as "parental" or "grandparental" in nature, the coach has to be a reliable role model. Dedication, loyalty, work ethic, healthy lifestyle decisions; all these have to be modeled. I'd love to crack open a couple of brewskies, get rowdy and watch mixed martial arts on the television when the grandchildren are visiting but it would (probably!) be more acceptable to turn on National Geographic Channel or put a G-rated movie on the DVD player. Overtraining, overracing, or sloughing off a Tuesday night workout for no apparent reason other than there was something good on the tube are not decisions which will keep athletes on the training plan I draft, or eventually as part of the training group.
Those positive behaviors are modeled because of the privilege, not the right, of the individual to be a coach. It's the same reason I (try to) behave myself in the presence of my grandchildren; their visits are a privilege bestowed by the parents, not a right I can enforce without a high-powered lawyer. And why would I want the kids feeling forced to be with me?
So, not only do I need to display the right behavior and be a positive role model, I also have to do it with the utmost sincerity. Most children have highly-tuned "b.s. detectors." To know what a person thinks about what you're doing, take a good long look at their kids. If the child treats you with courtesy, decency and respect you can be certain that's the way the parents feel about what you're doing.
The only proof of success comes down the road when the "kids" go out to do their own thing. If they replicate the good behaviors we model and overlook the bad ones then we can consider ourselves to be a small factor in their success.