Friday, December 01, 2006

Why do you do it?

Coaching is hard, that there is no doubt. Those of us who do it and love it obsess over every practice, every email, every conversation. We watch video, design workouts, scour the web. Very few of us get paid, rather, most of us wind up spending most of our money.

For many of us, job decisions are influenced by rugby. I wonder if it will be easier or harder to get to practice? Will I be able to travel weekends? What if there's a tour, will have enough vacation?

The more you do it, the more you get sucked into coaching even more. We do camps, select sides, college, club, high school. If you are still an active player, two days a week you practice, two days you coach, and every Saturday you scramble to meet all your rugby obligations.

So why do why do we do it? Rather, why do you do it?

Here's my story, and why, I think, I do it. Bear with me, I'm in a mood today.

I started as a "player coach". That was ehhh..... ok at best. As a player coach, you're emotionally invested in the outcome so your perception of things is very skewed. Everything you see, say, and do is from your view on the pitch, wearing whatever number you wear. As a hooker, I had no clue what the backs did, all I knew was that it sucked to come out of a scrum or a ruck only to see the ball on the deck. Little did I realize that, had we forwards created a more effective attacking platform, the backs would have had less pressure and therefore more time been more successful. Hindsight's 20-20.

At the high point in my rugby career, I suffered the hooker's worst nightmare - two severely herniated disks. Playing career OVER, DONE. Coaching career begins. At that time, I coached because I didn't want to let go, I didn't want to stop being a part of it. My friends were still playing, I was socially so immersed in the rugby lifestyle that I could not comprehend life without it. I loved the game, but I loved belonging to that group more. Lesson learned, that's the wrong reason to coach. When you become a coach, you suddenly have to be objective. You have to watch. You have to give feedback, sometimes unwelcome feedback, to your BFFs. You have to participate in selection decisions, and sometimes that means telling your BFF that awsome college kid #2 would be a way better choice at flyhalf. Lets just say that the experience forced me to reevaluate who I am, how I identify myself, and how I measure the fullness of my life. I learned the difference between "rugby friends" and "friends".

Many years have gone by and I've grown as a person and as a coach. I learned that coaching someone I'd never met before was challenging and rewarding. I learned that I can contribute to another individual's world in a way that I never could before. I learned that I could take all my personal life lessons, and through the vehicle of sport, use that knowledge to help others be successful.

I also learned that some young players are hungry for someone to give them a path. They are faced with many different challenges and decisions, and in some cases they constantly question their self-esteem and self-worth. Even those from the most stable and loving families are looking for ways to make their mark on the world. They are looking for ways to become stronger, better people. They are looking for someone to ask them to make hard choices, commit to training, and be accountable for their actions.

Granted, some of them don't want any of this, and some of them already have PLENTY of self-esteem. I will always struggle with how to reach those players.

So I guess what it comes down to is that I coach rugby because I want the women of the world to be STRONG. I am terrified that our society of anti-bacterial soap, political correctness, law-suits, and religious conservatism is turning our young people into something I just don't like. I'm worried that in a time of real crisis, 30 years down the road, no one will make a stand. I'm scared that the weak will have no champion and that the poor will have no voice. I'm scared that heartfelt compassion and empathy are being replaced by "sensitivity training".

So, when I run into a player who who works hard, asks questions, takes risks, and displays courage and passion, I become truly excited to coach, whether she has the "supporting genetics" or not. When there are 30 like minded players, it's a dream come true.

Contact sports (rugby especially) are the ideal place to create and build character. Its a controlled, relatively safe environment where you have to operate as a team, make decisions, defend your mates, and confront danger. Its a place where you learn that preparation results in performance. Its a place where a woman can go, in a few short months, from a place of low-self-esteem and negative body image, to a place of confidence and power.

Playing sports, especially this one, is one of the few ways that a woman get get the life skills and tools previously reserved only for men.

And it never fails, every single season, I learn a boatload about myself from the players I coach. They influence me and force me to grow in ways I never imagined, and I thank them for that. And trust me, when I make a stupid mistake, they make me pay.

So I guess that's why I coach - I want to change the world. Call me crazy, call me idealistic - I'm a Sagittarius, that's what I am.

So why to you coach? What motivates you to come back day after day, week after week?

1 Comment:

Kentucky said...

After reading this I just wanted to take a time out to thank you for being my coach and for caring so much...not many people do, and it makes a difference. So yeah, just...thanks.