Monday, October 6, 2008

Two Types of Coaches

I believe there are two types of coaches. One type is the "screamer" who provides motivation for those who are unable or perhaps unwilling to provide it for themselves. The other type seems to be most effective in working with those athletes who don’t respond well to the motivation offered by the screamers. You could perhaps call this type of coach the "swimmer whisperer," if you want to be trendy, but in reality I just call this type the "non-screamer."

Mr. Coach is this latter type of coach. He is, after all, the type of person who, on the rare occasion that he uses a curse word, will use it by spelling it out (fortunately he has me as a resource if he ever needs to know how to pronounce one).

He also has only lost his temper once with his athletes and it’s a story that those who lived it tell to this day.

Once upon a time, some of the student-athletes he had swimming for him were on a 200-yard freestyle relay that was close to qualifying for nationals. Early on in the conference meet, they just missed the cut, so Mr. Coach decided to have them try again with a time-trial swim between the prelim and final sessions on the meet’s last day. The game plan was they’d go back to the hotel after prelims, get their rest and then return for time trials before finals began. Mr. Coach meanwhile was stuck at the pool all day because the never-ending heats of the mile also took place that day between prelims and finals. So he was relying on the student-athletes to get themselves back in time.

Well, as the expression goes in kindergarten, the relay members "made a bad choice" and decided not to return in time for the time trials. And, as they sauntered into the natatorium, they compounded the badness of their bad choice by laughing it off.

This is how Mr. Coach responded: He set down his clipboard, walked past the bad choice-makers, past the starting blocks, past the diving well, and over to the other side of the natatorium where, in full view of the team, he sat down on a bench. He said nothing. He did nothing. He simply sat.

The whole team watched him. At first they chattered excitedly about what he was going to do to the bad choice-makers when he returned. But the longer he sat, the less they had to say. By the time he stood up, about 15 minutes later, the team was grim and silent, and some of the freshmen were hyperventilating. By then also, the bad choice-makers had apologized to everyone, penned their wills on the backs of meet programs, called their parents to tell them they loved them, and then sat down to await their fates.

So Mr. Coach stood up from the bench where he had been sitting. He walked slowly past the diving well, past the starting blocks, and returned to his on-deck post where he picked up the clipboard he had set down. He consulted it to see who was swimming next, then took out his stopwatch to get the splits.

Later that day, the same quartet of bad choice-makers had to swim in the finals of the 400-yard freestyle relay, an event in which they were not close to making a national cut. But on that day, they did make the cut.

As Mr. Coach later recalled proudly, "They really pulled it out of their you-know-whats."

(I would have said the same thing – just a little differently.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.