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« The Power of a Team | Main
Sunday
Nov282010

Why Coaching?

As long as I can remember I have always wanted to be a coach.   Growing up it was swimming that taught me about myself, about setting goals, failing, and being successful.  Honestly, it was swimming that unveiled to me a way of life which I found fulfilling.

Now that I am older it is much more apparent to me how blessed I am because of my swimming experience.  When I first started out not only was I not a very good swimmer, I just thought it was so hard.  Frankly it didn’t get much easier, especially as I failed time and again to qualify for the big meets.  But I never missed practice and I learned that “hard” does not mean “impossible.”  While I wasn’t very good at the time I loved being in the water.  I loved watching fast swimming.  I was fascinated as I pondered how these swimmers were going so fast.  It became obvious to me that this sport, this pursuit, took work, and when I did the work I felt proud.  When others did the work I could see they were proud.  And if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I’d say, “I want to be a Swim Coach!”

Fifteen to twenty years later I was a college swimmer and my former coach, Joszef Nagy, asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  My answer was that I not only wanted to be a swim coach, I also wanted to coach a swimmer to win the Olympics and break a world record.  At the time I equated that level of achievement as coaching Excellence and anything short of coaching an Olympic Champion would not be enough.

It has been 14 years since I started coaching and Excellence has taken on a totally different meaning for me.  Again I realize how blessed I am to not only have coached an Olympic finalist but to simply teach kids to swim.  I see the pursuit of coaching Excellence as having less to do with status, so to speak, and more to do with helping swimmers understand their potential and figuring out how dealing with both the highs and the lows of the sport can help not only shape their lives, but be successful in all aspects of their lives.

While I can’t really remember why I ever started swimming in the first place I know that swimming every day made me feel strong and special.  It didn’t matter how fast I went.  I did improve, and eventually I went on to represent my country at international competitions.  There were more responsibilities and there was more pressure, and I got lost.  I forgot what it was that I loved about this sport.  My swimming was no longer mine.  I let others take control of it.  They were the reason I swam.  Their expectations combined with my growing status in the swimming world took me away from my path.

Now I know that as a coach I have responsibility that is bigger than trying to create champions on the podium.  It is my duty to help the swimmers understand their own talent, tap into their passion, and realize that swimming is not about social status (such as national teams and Olympic medals) but rather about honesty, dedication, and awareness.  A swimmer who gives 100% in practice and 100% at a meet but competes at a “B” level meet has more to be proud of than one who gives 50% in practice, 100% in a meet, and yet wins an Olympic medal.  This is a sport about honesty and passion, and that is what I want my swimmers to find.

I still dream of one day getting to coach and Olympic Champion and World Record Holder.  Who doesn’t?  But if I were to retire right now I would have no regrets that I never had a chance to do that.  14 years of coaching has given me the opportunity to help hundreds of swimmers understand their talent, believe in their potential, and figure out why they love swimming so much.  Many have gone on to be very successful in life, and I truly believe swimming helped them get there.  So when I reflect on my day, my team, and my career, I think of all the swimmers who I have had the privilege of getting to know and I understand that coaching is not about teaching someone how to succeed in a sport, it’s about helping them figure out how best to succeed in life.

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