The Valuable Lessons a Student-Athlete Can Learn from Their Coach
I have always viewed the role of a coach to a student-athlete as being pretty important, and the better the coach, the longer their influence can last.
I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to witness the impact that my daughter’s high school swim coach has had on her and her teammates. The Magnificat Varsity swim coach recently resigned after nine years of coaching at the school to pursue a career as an Athletic Director. As the parent communication coordinator for the team, I asked current and former swimmers to write a letter to the coach that I would include in a book and have the girls present it to him at the end of the season banquet. I had always thought he was a good coach, however, I was still awestruck by the letters the girls wrote.
The age range of the respondents was 15 to mid-20’s, from freshman all the way to girls just beginning their careers. The girls described how the coach taught them what it was like to work as a team; the importance of being dedicated and balancing their time between family, school work, and their sport. The intensity the coach exhibited when guiding the swimmers; how he taught them to expect the best from themselves and nothing less. One of the girls wrote that the coach not only taught her swimming skills, but life skills as well. The coach paid attention to see what drove each individual swimmer so that he could use that to motivate them. He taught them the value of hard work and dedication and importantly to believe in themselves. The swimmers learned to trust their coach and that they could benefit from his years of experience. He taught them to never quit, even when it got tough (especially with the three and four hour workouts each day over Christmas break). One of the girls wrote that the coach didn’t care if she wasn’t the fastest swimmer on the team, he cared that she came to every practice and gave it her all; he valued her as an asset to the team because of her strong work ethic.
These are some of the same girls that I heard talk about how tough their coach was (after the four hour workout!) and how mean he was. So I asked them about their letters. Their responses? They said it was like a parent telling you to brush your teeth or eat your vegetables, it’s not something you want to do, but you know that your parents are right and you need to do it (parents take note). The girls told me that if their coach hadn’t believed in them and pushed them as he did, they aren’t sure if they would have pushed themselves. They truly knew that their coach believed in them and because he believed in them, they believed in themselves. They didn’t want to let him down.
The teenage years are tough. They are highs and lows in emotions and a lot of stress. I admire their now former coach for the way he responded to these girls and the way he lead them. Hopefully he will have the opportunity soon to lead another group of student-athletes and their coaches as a high school Athletic Director. I wish him the best.