Coaching is a privilege, and whatever path led us to the craft, we step into possibility the moment we choose it. Coaches get to see our athletes often. More importantly, we see them through moments of personal significance- insecurity, struggle, uncertainty, and triumph.
Potential resides in the proximity to that personal significance. But potential does not evolve into actuality without deliberate work. Only after we decide to value our artistry as something more than correcting movement alone, and so respect it as the privilege it is, can we be capable of fully investing our time, energy, and selves into the success of others. Our role as coaches is one of active guidance through creativity, compassion, endurance, encouragement, loyalty, and love. Allowing the natural weariness we experience to give way to complacency, or alternatively, confidence to ego, greatly limits our impact not only in our interactions with our athletes, but also our own development as coaches. Coaches who commit to an active guidance will find ways to guard against stagnation and choose to mentally prepare for the patience and discipline the growth process demands.
Inevitably, every person will arrive with their own struggles. Each athlete’s journey, as uncommon as the body they inhabit, is also a reminder to coaches to always return to the adaptation afforded by struggle. Coaches, too, can learn to acknowledge their weaknesses and quickly bounce back from failures. By doing so, we model and practice the invaluable skill of “recognition then recovery” our athletes will need. Through honesty and the admittance of our own imperfection, we can give our athletes the room to be human as well.
Just as we ask our athletes to journal their workouts and reflect on their mood, coaches can take note of circumstances that impact our craft. What qualities in an athlete cause our compassion to vanish? How long can we endure excuses before losing our temper? What external stressors are keeping us distracted? In that last class where we know we just went through the motions, what was our mindset? What did we do the morning we had enough energy to really give our best each time we coached? How can we repeat that?
A coach should be an example of the process in more than fitness or training; the qualities we develop in the gym are meant to be directly transferable to our daily lives. Expect more from our athletes in their movement, and they learn to believe they are capable of more in all areas. Show them they can fix a physical imbalance with time and patience, and they start to see deeply ingrained habits as changeable too. Confidence transfers, and we as coaches get to encourage and reroute people towards their goals when they lose focus and remind them of their purpose.
A coach becomes the calm, respected voice in an athlete's head, pushing them to new levels of performance or tempering their ambition when patience is the priority. We get to share their very real fears and proudest moments. It isn't easy, but when we can frame these small acts within a bigger picture, physical movement and simple connections work together to create something worthwhile.