Have you ever taken one of those personality/skill assessment tests aimed at helping you figure out what kind of career you should pursue? I vividly remember taking them in high school and getting feedback along the lines of
As a student at Vassar in the ’90s, I still hadn’t much clue where I was heading in terms of a career, but one thing was certainly true: Running cross country and track and field was as essential to my liberal arts education as any course I took. While I studied anthropology and followed my intellectual passions eagerly (though not without the occasional smear of collegiate procrastination), I also devoted myself to the relentless perfection of my craft: racing. I ran 100-mile weeks and relished joyful and strenuous practice sessions with teammates, many of whom remain dear friends 20 years later. I had lots of great races,
It wasn’t immediately obvious to me that coaching could be my vocation, and I shifted my trajectory among several potential paths after college.
Often I’ll let recruits know—“I didn’t get into coaching because I like losing.” The thrill of victory and the joy of seeing students surpass their goals and dreams is certainly a cornerstone of why I coach. There is the obvious win of crossing the line first or leaping higher or throwing farther than the competition. That is a particularly sweet taste, for the sport can be brutally numeric. We know exactly where we stand against not only our competitors of the
No student-athlete can be reduced to isolated parts: the student, the athlete, the friend, the daughter or son, or the myriad of other identities and experiences too numerous to name. In programming training, coaches may try to streamline our curriculum to maximize a facet of performance, but neglecting the whole won’t get us far. Humans are social creatures, and our relationships and identities are a part of our performing selves as well. In coaching a team to achieve, or any particular student to perform, what I am really doing is fostering an environment for individual, as well as collective, growth. I am providing a space to explore and expand the physical and emotional side of our human potential. It requires dreaming and aspiring to achieve greatness. It demands fortitude, resilience and the knowledge that failure is an important part of growing and learning. It takes integrity to see it
So why do I coach? I coach for the exaltation of helping students achieve their goals and dreams. I coach to shepherd students through the highs and the lows, to help them discover their strength and potential as they figure out how to get what they want. I coach in gratitude for the power of sport as a vehicle of self-expression and discovery, and to cultivate an environment that facilitates that experience for others. I coach to win—and there are a lot of facets to that winning.