Friday, June 13, 2008


Last night at Masters I heard something that made me reminisce; the high school water polo team was practicing and the coach yelled "Swim it up Johnson, come on", or something to that effect. It made me think back to my track and basketball days in high school and make some comparisons to when I coached 3rd and 4th grade boys soccer and basketball in college and our Masters coaches.

High School Coaches

Every high school athlete, good or bad, has experienced the verbal abuse dished out by a coach at some point. Often, the better you are the louder they yell. "Show some effort", "What the hell do you call that", "Move your feet", and "Get your ass in gear" are all popular sayings for these coaches. I can still see my pole vault coach ripping his hat off his head, throwing on the ground, point and me, and saying "What kind of shit was that?!?" "Have you considered trying?!?". Ahhhhhhhh - nothing like a little verbal abuse to help get my ass in gear. At the time it pissed me off and I had a few choice words to yell back, which of course led to me running laps for the remainder of practice (this was when I hated running so it was pure hell). Looking back I realize that it actually was quite motivating and when I did have a successful jump my coach was the first one to pat me on the back and tell me what a great job I had done.

Coaching Youngsters, aka YMCA Coach

Ah, these were the days. "Hey, great job", "We'll get em next time", "Great effort", and "That's ok, try it again", are popular sayings with these coaches. This is the time for development and having fun. Sure learning some skills helps, but believe me, getting kids to do drills when they would rather scrimmage, or play tag, or do anything other than drills is impossible. Everyone gets to play equal time, everybody is a winner, and everyone (for the most part) has fun.

Coaching Adults, aka Masters Coach

Masters coaches are great. This is the time in life when you know you want to be there so you try your best and don't get yelled at. All you need to get motivated is a friendly "come on guys, let's go". You realize that you will only get better through training/practice and that's why you are there. The socialization with fellow swimmers is great, it's a good workout, and it's enjoyable. I guess it's sort of like college, you are paying for it but don't really have to be there so you only go if you want to. Our coaches are good in that they nag you just enough when you miss a couple of swims so that you make sure to show up at the next practice.

The Tri or Running Coach

I've never had a tri or running coach (other than Jen) so I can't offer any insight on this subject. I have to assume that a good coach would have an excellent balance of motivational "yelling", great encouragement, and good advice. I imagine the fact that these people do this for a living, and since there is not a lot of people chomping at the bit to get on the team like in high school, these coaches are pretty good people that can help you achieve your goals.

Finally, Are You Your Own Best Coach

Really, what it all comes down to is, are you your own best coach? Can you take the advice given to you and work on it? Can you get up at 5:15am to ride 25 or 30 miles before work? Then after work can you go swim 3,000 yards? Will you get up the next morning for your six mile tempo run? "It's cold", "I'm tired", "I'll go tomorrow" - can you tell yourself to shut the hell up and get out of bed? I can be my own best coach but I'll admit that I can, and often am, my own worst enemy. Having a wife that shares my interests and trains hard is a huge help, but in the end the choice to work out or not is up to me.

I guess the best way to sum it up is that what works best for me is yelling at myself in my head like a high school coach, listening to the advice given to me by those that are better than me at X discipline and putting it to use, encouraging myself in success and failure, and remembering to have fun.


Judi said...

Yea, I have been yelling at myself too. The tri training gets obsessive and sometimes you just gotta say HTFU. My mantra.

jen said...

Great post. I think as my own coach I'm a combonation of all of those: tough, encouraging, and supportive.

With the addition of the critical negative bitch inner-coach that makes me feel horrible for missing a workout. :( Of course, that can be the most effective one sometimes!!

Anonymous said...

Remembering pointers from each type of coach you have had in your life so far is a great way to excel in everything you do, not just sports. Keep up the good work, smile & enjoy life itself.
Dragonfly on the Water...

Paul said...

Hey Zach,

Water temps down here are comfortable. Still need a wetsuit. The foot down stops are to keep us from getting killed at intersections. There are a couple of blind corners on the course.

Regarding your other question about tri shoes, the Sidi's are nice. Just make sure you get someting with a single strap that opens to the outside (inside catches the chain). Most will have a second strap to tighten the front but you'll probably never touch it.