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Tag: student athletes

Connecting With The Unexpected

Connecting to others is really important to me. It’s why I have a degree in Communications and a Master’s in Health Communication. It’s really something special when connecting comes unexpected, though.

If you put your device down and have your head up, you leave yourself open to connecting. You give yourself the opportunity to connect with people who probably wouldn’t be on your radar. The other day, when I picked my children up from school, I hung around for a bit talking to a mom. She’s a parent of a high schooler and 5th grader. I coached her daughter in track and field for two years. In that two years I hadn’t really ever had a solid conversation with her.

Within five minutes of connecting, we seem to have a few things in common. Mom guilt is high on the list – dangling over our heads, pretty much. Balancing the work-mom life is a thread that we both seem to share even though our children are fairly spread apart in age. We share the same views on running in adolescence and the growing pains associated with the sport. The need to be grateful for what we do have and discussing that with our youth. Lastly, our Bucket Lists! What a deep conversation for a 1:30pm, after school, sunny, warm, playground connection.

The mom guilt is real, but is it necessary?

Our mom guilt is about wanting to do more with our brains and interests but also wanting to be there for our kids. The both of us want to take a step back and analyze our energy and efforts. To consider and possibly execute the notion “can we step a bit farther away yet?” is in our head space. This guilt seems to be a popular one among many moms I speak with. Although mom guilt is an obstacle, it’s not anything we can’t hurdle over.

Student-athelets go through a ton of growing pains and we need to support them in figuring out what works for them.

A common ground between many parents and coaches is adolescent bodies in sports, specifically running. As adults, we can forget what it was like to have a growing body. Coaching middle school and high school athletes is a daily reminder of those growing pains. Knee pain and shin pain are the most common, but of course back, hip, and ankle pain pop up as well. Everything is connected, so when we become an athlete our bodies are tested as a unit – the entire body. If one area is weak, it will effect everything.

When athletes reach puberty a number of changes take place. Hormones, in particular. From our mental state to our physical bodies, so many changes occur in the high school years. In boys, they get a surge of testosterone which makes them stronger and faster. They also switch to a higher metabolism and typically have a lower BMI due to an increase in lean muscle. On the other hand, females get a surge of estrogen, higher body fat percent, and a lower rate in metabolism. Often, there will be girls who are faster than boys in 8th grade but in high school the girls plateau or get a bit slower and the boys excel. The whole process of growing can be frustrating and exciting; it can also be a rewarding experience with the proper support.

Having patience, listening to our body, making sure we rest when we are supposed to, and also pushing our limits while also understanding and accepting the body we were given are all necessary. It’s important as parents and coaches to teach this to our kids/student-athletes. This is a conversation that I wish I could have with every parent who has a child entering athletics.

Occasionally, we can get caught up in what we can’t do or don’t have.

Bringing into our awareness to have gratitude for what we do have is so much more productive than to dwell on what we don’t have. Maybe our time isn’t the fastest, but our legs are working. Maybe we don’t have the best training shoes, but we do have a pair. We can often get caught up in the details of life, rather than the big things that make life brilliant.

Drive is a good thing. Having a drive to do and to be is how we end up getting to a place within ourselves that we love!

It’s pretty magical causally talking to someone when a ‘bucket list’ conversation pops up. My bucket list seems to grow every day. Some days I feel like I don’t come close to reaching one bucket, but other days I feel like I can smell the bucket being checked off the list. To have that drive inside, to push us to do something and be someone more than we were when we woke up is a pretty incredible feeling. It may take a month, or a year, or a decade, but we will keep on driving ourselves till we do it!

As I finish writing this post, four days have past. I thought for sure that I’d get it done that night. It’s ok. I did it and I didn’t abandon my initial words. I still feel completely connected tho this conversation that I had no idea would transpire so naturally. If we can just keep our heart, eyes, and minds open then who knows what type of connections we can make.

 

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What Coaching Has Taught Me

Coaching taught me these things:

  1. Be Patient
  2. Be Yourself
  3. Read/Study Everything You Can
  4. Trust Yourself
  5. Inspire
  6. “Listen” with your eyes and ears

If you are a new coach, read on my friends. This past spring, I coached highschool track & field for the Portland Waldorf School. It was a learning experience like no other. So much so that I think everyone should coach at some point in their lives. I’ve coached in the past, as a young 23 year-old in RI and the second time as much more experienced version of my former self, in San Francisco.  Both groups of kids were completely open to me and my approach. I loved every second working with them, but life took me down other paths and now I’m in Portland, OR 13 years after my coaching journey began.

Coaching this season was actually a surprise. I had told the AD earlier in the year that I’d love to help the PE department or running teams in any way, as it’s my love and profession. Little did I know that the head coach would get fired and the assistant would quit, leaving me as the first option for coach. I thought I’d be walking in to the same excited, welcoming environment like my two previous experiences but it was quite the opposite. The kids wanted their old coaches and so did most of the parents. My first several weeks as coach was HARD, to say the least.

Having over 20 years as an athlete, plus the addition of multiple certifications, I knew what to coach, but it was how to coach these sensitive, yet extremely talented young student-athletes that had me stumped. I knew I didn’t have all the answers so I sought out some of my favorite coaches and asked them a bunch of questions over FB, text, email, and phone. I also got one of my new, track geek friend, Sam Smith, to help me coach a couple days a week. My husband’s high school track coach, Dave Counts, gave me lots of great info, but one thing he said that stood out was, “find a way to connect with them aside from giving workouts.” Being a writer and a lover of good lyrics, I choose to share a quote or lyric at the beginning of each practice. It was fun for me and I think the athletes liked it too. My  high school coach, Mr. Croughan, was my main support system. I remember in one phone conversation, after a trying week, that I said “I need to prove to them that I’m a good coach.” Mr. Croughan replied, “Well, if you want to prove it to yourself, that’s fine but you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone else.” Once I let that sink in, everything seemed to “click” with every athlete. I wish that I could’ve recorded the transformation somehow.

Through workouts, visualization, my quirky quotes/lyrics, pasta party, t-shirt making, laughs, sweat, and incredible performances, we ended the season with every athlete PR’ing and four female athletes qualifying for states – individual and 4x100m relay. It was exciting to be their coach because they were just so excited, focused, and determined. I helped get them there, but they made the choices to come to practice, to work hard, to become mentally tough, to give it everything they got and more. Watching them this season, I can see that they will honestly tackle every opportunity that comes their way in life.

The day before our track awards, my family and I were spectators at Pre Classic in Eugene. First, AMAZING! Second, after winning the 200m Justin Gatlin said something like, (loose quote) “I just did what my coach told me to do. Coach is always right. But if something goes wrong, it’s his fault.” The crowd laughed, including myself, but it also made me realize that that’s the way I had approached the season – trust my coaching and if it doesn’t work out, blame me! Luckily, the season felt successful with PR’s and happy faces, so no one needed to blame me for anything!

A week after all the meets, practices, and festivities ended I came across this quote by the legendary Amby Burfoot, “Coaches don’t make athletes. Athletes make coaches.” After all the ups and dowins the season brought, in the end, the athletes made me a better, stronger coach. I’ve had a good share of jobs, from owning my fitness business to being a health educator and honestly, I have never worked so hard in my life. Knowing that this small group of athletes wanted to be the every best, made me work 10x harder than I ever have in any position I’ve ever taken. So yes, the athletes do make coaches.

Cross country is next on the agenda!

Be well.

 

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