Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Coaching the Coach

I have always identified with being a coach, or at least to say since I have identified with wheelchairs and accidents and other things that I have grown to know so well over the last 14 years.

Becoming a coach initially started as a way to keep me a part of my summer club swim team. Nobody expected that I would actually be able to swim after my accident, except for me. Call it inspiration, I call it naiveté; but whatever the case, as the story goes, the day that I was discharged from the hospital after my accident, I asked to be taken to the pool to swim and coach above every other place I could have possibly desired. From there it was history.

I spent a little over ten years coaching that team and, while not knowing it at the time, grooming myself for other coaching endeavors. That coaching bug had bit me hard, so hard in fact, that I itched and yearned for it to become a more permanent, less seasonal part of my existence.

From there I learned how to coach high school athletes which soon translated in learning how to TEACH high school students. Once I finally step foot in the classroom, I was sure somebody had kept a really good secret from me: Coaching is nearly exactly like teaching!

And then we fast-forward to today. I have completed a circle of sorts, going back to age group coaching for a year-round club team. Wait. All of this history is lovely, yet not my point at all…

I have a lot of coaching experience. I have never questioned my abilities as a coach, even when I took on the most difficult swimmer of my entire career: me. Coaching myself has been fairly easy--delightful even at times--but a mild disconnect has definitely developed between my own coaching and my own swimming, besides that obvious lack of a proper physical view of my whole body. This disconnect has been far more internal and far less about the physical sport at all.

It wasn’t until just recently that it became clear. With a giant gulp of modesty being forced toward the pit of my gut, I realized that it was, indeed, the fact that I have never coached an athlete of this caliber before. I have never coached an athlete to this rigor and muscle-tearing determination. I have never been on deck with the likes of World Ranked athletes and their counterpart coaches. I have never known what the drive of wanting the best looks like.

Until now.

I am proud to say that my coaching skills aren’t quite refined enough for the sort of athlete I strive to be. But I carry on just the same. My willful attitude as a swimmer is rubbing off on my uncharted coaching. I am going to make it. I am going to take hold and grab my pursuits and dreams. I am going to do this as swimmer, as coach, as one in the same.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Things I Used To Bother About

1. Hanging laundry
2. Finding time to watch my favorite TV show
3. What to do on a Friday night
4. My missing box of contacts--where did I put them?
5. Washing my car
6. Scary skin issues
7. Getting to school on time--rather than strolling in 20 minutes late with wet hair EVERYDAY
8. Carbohydrates
9. Driving in snow and ice
10. Wondering if I could have done more
11. Wearing sweat pants every single day
12. Living a long and happy life
13. How I could possibly leave my front door open all day long--and how I neglected to notice
14. If anyone could hear me
15. Buying yet another new swimsuit
16. Knowingly not drinking enough water--definitely NOT the case anymore
17. Making sure 15 year olds understand completely each phase of mitosis
18. Missing something
19. Being the slowest one in the pool
20. Not giving it my all

Honestly, I could probably go on much further; perhaps even into triple-digits--but the point has been made. I realized this today in what should have been a rushed and hurried lunch hour of copy-making, inhaling mediocre meals in boxes, filling out paperwork, chatting it up with teenagers and their woes, and returning long overdue emails; this SHOULD be stressful. This USED to be stressful. So what has changed?

The circumstances haven't changed. The story plays out the same every year, ask any teacher. The difference, I have found, is the contentment in my very own being.

Those things that I used to bother with have seemed to dilute into my own chlorine heaven. I don't notice little annoyances as easily. I don't feel that warp-speed pressure of my daily routine. I take time in every moment I see fit to relish in things like blinding sunshine and toddler laughter and a perfectly proportioned soy latte and the eager sound of a familiar voice on the other end of the phone.

I truly believe that for the first time in my life I am actually LIVING the life that I have always thought was possible. Aside from those things and events and tangible aspects, my heart feels full and excited for each moment it continues to cycle blood and life throughout every inch of my body. It's so funny, because I think I have always been searching for a specific event to create this contentment, but perhaps I was searching too far away from my own soul.

As we all know, the things that are most important aren't things... in fact, they are feelings. I can't guarantee the culprit of these feelings or the change in my heart, but I do hope it to be quite catching and extremely contagious. For even though I am sitting alone, eating alone, with what should be bed-head, but isn't and what should be pajamas and what aren't; I am eager and prideful for this moment and all those to come.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Am Who I Am: Fourteen Years in the Making

One of the most fascinating and rewarding parts of life is that it is, in fact, ever-changing. Moments of quick prediction is NOT what life is all about. Life is about the twists and turns, it's about the unforeseen and ridiculous. Life is about the things that jolt and surprise you. Life is made up of all of these things, and feeling each one of them reassures your own existence.

Fourteen years ago I didn't realize this. Fourteen years ago I was naive and small.

But because of the unforeseen, because of those jolts and turns, I am here today-- and I am ever so proud of that.

I am who I am because of all of these unexpected moments that have shaped me. Some fortunate, like gaining recognition from those you mentor, teach, or coach--some very much less than. Whatever the case may be, I am thankful for all of these moments... for none of which I could have LIVED without.

My journey in swimming is the metaphor for all of this, and I hope it to continue to be so. One day, I hope to share this journey to those who know nothing about swimming but still appreciate and grow from the statement nonetheless.

Fourteen years ago, I laughed and played and understood none of it. Today, I laugh and play and understand that it's not to be understood. So long as each moment becomes a lesson and each lesson becomes an opportunity to share and teach, I will continue to thrive and grow and love.

I am who I am because of the past fourteen years. I owe it all to the tragedy that gave me the will to love life and those subtle reminders since.