I am coaching my son's middle school rowing team. Three coaches, thirty two kids, two volunteers and thirty two pubescent kids who have never rowed before. Might well be a recipe for a migraine but I am finding myself absolutely loving these kids. My experience in sport spanned twenty years, rowing was a wonderful teacher, and to now have the opportunity to pass a little bit of this on--an absolute privilege.
My knowledge of rowing might be better used at the level where the kids know the difference between the drive and the recovery of the stroke, but I find that giving these kids their first experience with this incredible sport is really fun. I have seen the kids going from not knowing how to hold an oar, or the difference between the front and the back of the boat, to actually rowing in an eight and making it five hundred metres without stopping. I see their pride when they know they have pulled hard, and the amazement in some of the "non athletes", upon discovering they can be an athlete.
Sport is an incredible teacher. When I was thirteen years old and first running track, my coach asked me to set my first goal for the season. I didn't have any idea about what he was talking about, but working together I set my first goal, and throughout the years goal setting became a fundamental part of everything I do. I learned alot about perseverance and the power of belief, I learned how to concentrate, and how to balance school, sport and other interests. I also learned a profound kind of personal honesty. I learned how to check in with myself to review whether I had really done my best, what areas I needed to work on, and what might have contributed to a less than perfect performance.
On the weekend we had our first regatta. We went to put our boat on the water for one of the boys races, only to discover that the boat was broken. We were given another boat and that too, had mechanical problems. Once we got the third boat on the water we were told we were too late, the race had already started. A huge disappointment, and rather frustrating as a coach. I took this opportunity to talk about all the things we can't control in sport, the wind, the lanes, other competitors. I talked to the boys about the importance of staying positive and using only positive language to the officials and the organizers. Hopefully they will remember these words more than the fact that they missed a race. As luck would have it, we were allowed to race later in the day and the boys put on an impressive effort, finishing fourth and actually beating one high school entry. The boys were thrilled and hopefully they came to see what at first was a frustration, became a positive opportunity.
I would love to hear your experiences coaching and having your kids coached. Please post back.