There’s only so much love to go around at a swimming pool. Sometimes, a bit too much. I’m not sure I know too many people who like to be around a pool more than I do, working with swimmers, watching them laugh and have fun. There is a dark side, however, that comes out when kids cross the line of reason and decide that EVERYTHING is supposed to be fun.
My own children wrestled for years, trying to figure out who was coming out to play each day — Dr. Jeckyl or Coach Glenn. The older I get, the more I realize how this can really mess with a kid’s head, and I can only hope that I’ve taught my children the difference between mean…and nice…to allow them to live normal, happy lives.
You are probably wondering what this article is all about? Well, the other day at the pool, a swimmer said to me something to the effect about how much I disliked my coach. While I never remember saying this, he was pretty certain it had come out of my mouth at some point. Through the course of our conversation, I realized that at one time or another I did, in fact, REALLY DISLIKE MY COACH! (notice how I’m avoiding using the "H" word in this article).
When I go down the list of coaches for whom I swam, I can remember specific times for each of them when I really didn’t care for them as people, or as coaches.
Mary, my first coach at the tender age of 8 or 9, used to get my attention by lifting me out of the pool by my hair. Not sure why she did that; I’m sure I was always paying attention.
Rich, my summer and high school coach, used to make sure that I got to swim ALL the events — LOVE THAT 500 FREE!
Richard, my advancing club coach, made me swim breaststroke in the freestyle lane. I swallowed MORE water that year than I could have EVER taken in at the drinking fountain.
Skip (yep, that one), gave me NO pity when I moved to his team, and was the slowest breaststroker in the lane. I remember him saying something to the effect of, "you may be able to swim like that in Cleveland, but NOT here…pick it up, or PACK it up." Point made…uh…NO PITY. (By the way, this is not a dig on Cleveland, just something he said…I AM from Cleveland, so watch the river jokes!)
Denny…hmmmm…yeah, I remember the day he smiled. It was monumental. This man created more pain in one day than I ever thought possible.
Jonty, while he would laugh every once in a while, there was something to the fact that he was the fastest man that ever lived at that point, that sorta made you listen, and DO everything…even if he did put a lot of pressure on us.
Don (the legend), just do it! No questions! A lot of pain, and he expected me to swim BACKSTROKE to help my IM for TEAM POINTS! What a concept.
Jay, the ONLY man who ever actually made me CRY in my goggles during practice, and I remember that day till today!
Why am I telling on all my coaches? Well, to set the record straight. Yes, at some point, I had issues with EVERY one of my coaches. I didn’t like them. I questioned them. I did, however, do what they told me to, if even somewhat begrudgingly. We had many physically tough days, which led to many emotionally tough days. Through the years, I remember much struggle, and a lot of pain.
Years later, when asked if I disliked my coach(es), the only thing I can think of right now is…NO…not ONE of them. In fact, it was THEIR combined caring and effort that led to who I became as a swimmer. They made me do things I didn’t want to, when I didn’t want to do them. They demanded performance when I didn’t want to give it. They taught me techniques that I didn’t think would work, but really did. They did their job, which meant that sometimes they had to sacrifice being popular for doing what was necessary to create successful athletes, me being one of them.
Today, MANY years after I stopped competing, I LOVE each of my coaches for helping me get through all of those rough days.
As a young swimmer, when you experience tough days with your coaches, please understand that they are really trying to help you become successful. It’s their job to pull from you the effort a "sane" human doesn’t want to give. It’s their job to make you do things you wouldn’t normally do.
Personally, I owe a big debt of gratitude to all my coaches, from my first, to my last. I thank them all, and someday, you’ll thank all of your coaches, too. Why not start today. When was the last time you actually THANKED your coach for a practice? Give it a shot, and see how he or she reacts. You may be pleasantly surprised, especially if you do it on a particularly tough day.