A coach can make or break an athlete. A great coach will inspire, encourage, enlighten, support, educate, and bring out the best in an athlete.
I remember getting hit hard on the chin off a bad bounce when fielding a softball during a game in college – after that, I kept pulling my head when fielding groundballs in fear of taking another head shot…..when you pull your head, the ball rolls right under your glove, through your legs and right out into the outfield. I was playing shortstop and two more grounders got by me during that game – allowing players to advance – bases loaded – embarrassing. I looked over at our coach with defeated/pleading eyes (please take me out of the game). Instead, he called a time out to talk to me – really embarrassing as time outs are usually for the pitcher or the team – not for the shortstop. Essentially he told me to get my head down and play the ball; that there was no way he was taking me off the field and I needed to figure it out……those are really not the exact words he used, nor was that the way he said it – suffice it to say that part was really, really embarrassing. You can probably guess that, after that, I played the ball the way it was supposed to be played. I walked away from that game a better person because of the coach. I could have been benched after the second error and left filled with self-doubt knowing I had let down my team. Instead, I walked off knowing that I had the ability to execute the plays required but that I needed to learn how to manage my emotions and fear better during games – to work on my mental toughness. One of many lessons learned.
Although there are many, these are a few pearls I’ve pulled out from the past 30 years of coaching wisdom I’ve received. Most, if not all, are not just for athletes. They easily translate to the rest of life:
Coach Sampson (softball) – just because you might think you can’t, doesn’t mean you can’t. Move to the edge or outside of your comfort zone and opportunities will present themselves
Coach Jenkins (volleyball) – passion is just as important, if not more important, than skill
Coach Bright (swimming) – every person on a team is important; everyone has a role to play; good teamwork capitalizes on its members’ strengths and compensates for weaknesses
Coach Dinova (softball) – get your head out of your @#! and just do what you are supposed to do (love this one!)
Coach Chris (volleyball) – painstaking repetition, working on fundamental skills, and perfecting technique elevates good to great
Coach Kelly (triathlon) – sometimes, to be successful, we just have to give ourselves permission
Coach Kevin (running) – consistency, quantity, quality, and diversity combined effect the most positive change
Coach Eric (triathlon) – 1. more is not always better 2. smarter is always better
Thanks goes out to all of my coaches for their wisdom over the years and for not only helping me to be a better athlete, but also a better person.