Last Wednesday I was strolling up Fifth Avenue with earphones in and cruising along. I had been in NYC for less than 24 hours and was admiring the marathon route flags all over the place and still enjoying the excitement of just finishing ours. As I was daydreaming a woman walked past me and I noticed her stop. Then she tapped me on the arm, “Coach Sarah! What are you doing here? Thank goodness, I need your help. I am running the marathon in a few weeks and I am a bit lost in my training.”
I have to admit, it felt pretty awesome to be stopped like that. I felt a bit like a celeb (just a tiny bit). It was the parent of a student I have worked with and she had heard from other people that I was a running coach. I was relieved to know I hadn’t been forgotten here in NYC while I was away.
On Monday my husband and I went to the first hockey practice for a school here in the city. For over eight years my husband was the director of their early hockey programs and I was one of his assistant coaches. From the moment I met him he has always had a very special patience with children. They flock to him and he works wonders. It has never been about the actual sport to him nor worrying about being the best athlete. For both of us it has always been about instilling a joy in whatever the activity is and about feeling good about yourself.
For that very reason we have always taken the group of skaters who cannot stand up or are struggling. On Monday there were about 15 of these kindergarten boys who needed help just standing up. Together we crawled on our knees, held boys up, and showed them how to stand on their own and march across the ice.
It would be easy to get frustrated with ourselves, each other, or the children but we have both learned that things never go as you expect and a little sense of humor is the key to everyone surviving By the end we had 15 little penguins moving across the ice and some hilarious stories to share later that evening.
As we laughed about some of the funnier moments at the rink my husband said, “It was nice to be out there again and to remember just how good we are at that.” He didn’t mean it in a cocky way. It was just an honest and proud moment for both of us. Over the years we have watched coaches come and go in various sports. Some were great athletes and others were just new to the sport. Those that lasted and succeeded understood that each child is different and not everyone is going to love this sport. But our job as coaches is to be patient and make sure each child or athlete receives the love and attention they deserve.
It blows my mind that I have been coaching for 18 years now. I started coaching figure skating at the age of 16 when my own coach was looking for an assistant. When he saw me succeeding with students he helped to encourage me and share his knowledge, less about skating and more about being a good coach and ambassador for any sport. I was lucky enough to be taken under his wing and travel with him around the country to teach clinics. Despite the fact that he was a figure skating coach he encouraged me to also put on hockey skates and work to understand that sport more as well. He emphasized a positive attitude and caring demeanor, both of which will be passed on to those you are teaching. He also taught me that an end of the day Chardonnay can improve just about any rough session.
My beloved coach was lovingly known as LKS “Lord Kollen Sir.” He will forever hold a special place in my heart.
I once went into a political science course in college and the professor said, “I love political science. I realize not everyone else does and that is okay. But I hope I can make this a fun enough course that you come away with something you like about political science.” It worked for me because I switched my biology major over to political science a year later. What I loved most was that he understood that the subject wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. A good teacher or coach finds a way to bring out something about that subject that you enjoy. Great coaches motivate!
Over the years we have taught dozens of sports to children. Some kids stick with it and others move on to greener pastures. Sometimes parents will see my husband or I and sheepishly say, “Oh Bobby doesn’t play lacrosse anymore.” My husband will quickly say that it is okay and ask what activity they are doing these days. “Oh he’s really into soccer now,” they might respond and my husband’s honest response is always that it is great to hear. Sometimes lacrosse isn’t for everyone but it is great to see that an athlete has found something that works for them and gives them enjoyment.
I think this is important for all of us to keep in mind as coaches, adults, and parents that we all should strive to find something we truly enjoy. For me it is running, although there was definitely a time when it wasn’t. But I also know that running isn’t for everyone. And I wouldn’t recommend running to a person who doesn’t like it. On the other hand, as a coach I always try to be like my political science professor. I KNOW running can seriously suck and I try my hardest to find something, anything, about running to make it fun for an athlete.
Find something you love and enjoy and stick with it. We are never too old to try new things. It honestly is all about staying active and having fun. Give everything a shot, because you just never know….
Thanks Coach LKS. I love my hockey skates!