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.

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