It has occurred to me, after coaching (mostly young women) for the past 10 years, that maybe my reasons for doing so aren’t so clear.
Its definitely not about the money. (My fees are minimal at best and mostly cover my travel when we go to meets.)
Its definitely not about the attention. (Although they make me very proud no matter their level of success.)
I became a trainer in 2008, but in 2009, I became a weightlifting coach. And I had the most amazing athlete, Megan, who I was privileged to watch develop into not only a National level youth weightlifter, but an amazing track and field athlete and an accomplished equestrian. I’m only responsible for the weightlifting part, but here’s the thing about coaching young women: You aren’t there to create a commercial for your brand, you are there to help them transcend their self-imposed limits, to help them to see themselves for who they are, and ultimately let them move on to greater accomplishments and maybe a whole new story.
This goes for coaching anyone really, but for me, seeing these young girls unfurl themselves has been especially powerful. I didn’t unfurl myself until much later in life. I didn’t know it was an option.
Recognizing and training the individual to their own best potential is the signature of my coaching philosophy. Most sports programs are selective, NOT developmental. Most coaches know how to fit people into their system, NOT actually teach proper movement for the individual. Identify how the individual can execute the fundamental mechanics of the movement and THAT is what you need to understand to move forward. You have to understand physics and movement. You also have to understand that there is always a way to get better.
One of the things I love about working with and watching young athletes develop is how they figure a lot of this stuff out on their own. Show them the path and you’ll see the wheels turn. And if you make the path clear enough, they will be successful and enjoy the journey. And even when they aren’t mine, it is an absolute joy to watch happen.
I was reminded of this recently when we lost a young member of our throwing community. In 2014, I met her for the first time at the Southern Maryland Highland Games. She was 16 years old and I teased her in a facebook post when she complained about how her face looked in a group picture her mother posted that day. I remember a lot from that day. How much fun we all had. And how beautiful she looked.
Liesel, you are greatly missed.
I recall when my daughter was 16 and we were wandering a city in Spain — Barcelona, Madrid, I forget which city — and were in a green space filled with monuments. I had momentarily lost her, and then I heard her voice near a monument and came back up to her.
“Hey there. What ya doing?” I asked her.
“Singing. And thinking about how weird I look.”
She tossed the line off casually, but I thought that that was it. The rich and contradictory inner life of the teenage girl in a nutshell.
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