Saturday, April 13, 2013

What a Coach Should Be

With the flare up over the Rutger's basketball coach's completely inappropriate behavior and lack of self control, I feel like I feel prompted to tell thank all the coaches who have helped me for the last three decades of my life - coaches who were instilling a lot more important traits in me than a decent fast ball, barely adequate jump shot, and a pretty awesome tackling ability.

Unfortunately, it would be impossible for me to list off every coach from when I started T-ball at age 5 through my college rugby years.  So first, I would like to make a long overdue, public "THANK YOU" to every coach that got up early for morning practices, traded their free evenings for a stinky bus ride, and spent weekends and summers helping me.

The help I am referring to was, too get all value-laden on you, was moral development.  I learned to sacrifice for a team, encourage others, set goals, manage my time well, and push past physical discomfort (and sometimes a little pain).  I learned to win with grace, lose with grace, and not apologize for my best effort.  My coaches taught me sweat was good, aggressiveness is not bad, and you can always do more than you thought you could.

There is one coach in particular that gave me what Oprah would lovingly refer to as an "Ah Ha" moment.  Coach K was my basketball coach my sophomore year.  He pulled me aside at one practice between drills.  he had something he considered praise that he wanted to tell me.  I can remember word-for-word what he said.

"Kristin, you don't start for me because you have a lot of talent.  There are A LOT of girls on this team with A LOT more talent than you.  The reason you start for me is because you are a hard worker."

Ugh.  Isn't that just the suckiest thing a coach can tell a 15 year old girl?  I just wanted to be good.  I wanted to have so much talent it oozed out my feet and spilled onto the basketball court.  I wanted to be the girl that people would look at and say, "Wow! That girl has a lot of talent." 

So I clung to that assessment of my dearth of natural athletic ability.  I think I may have secretly already known it.  I wasn't effortlessly good at any sports.  I did work hard.  I felt cheated thinking about how far I could go if I had the ability.  This is the pity story I told myself for years.

Then I stopped being so stupid.  In college (yes, it took me that long to get rid of my stupidness) I truly realized what a big compliment Coach K was trying to give me. 

People with a lot of natural ability in sports (or anything really) can go far.  Or, they can rely on their God-given talent and fold under pressure when talent isn't enough.  Talent will take you far.  Hard work and perseverance will take you farther.

It took till I was almost out of my teens before I latched onto this worker bee description of myself.  Now, it is one of my favorite self-acknowledged attributes.  Doggone it, I am a hard worker. 

And, to all the other talentless hard workers out there, I'll share a little secret.  This tenacity can allow you to do anything.  Really.  ANYTHING. 

Get a book published?  Sure.  I can persevere through a lot of rejection.
Have a busload of kids?  Yup.  A hard working mom does what needs to be done.
Learn how to make fondant, or solve a Rubix Cube or bail out literally tons of water over a few days time?  You betcha.  It just takes the willingness to accept a few failures and some discomfort while trudging along the yellow brick road to success. 

So, thanks to all my coaches that helped me along the way.  And a big "THANK YOU" to Coach K.  You helped forge such a positive identity in me.  Without resorting to Rutger-style chair throwing, abysmal name calling, or intimidation.