I first really started coaching at Barn Elms Boat Club, just up the Putney embankment. It was a way to fund myself having left my job with the international development charity Mary’s Meals, in Glasgow, and taken the plunge to move south and try and take rowing from my once a day hobby to my profession with the GB team. The hours worked around my training, and I enjoyed being out on the water, sharing the love of something that I am obviously passionate about myself. So apart from it providing the finances needed, it was also a good thing I felt in reminding myself, daily, of the simple pleasure of rowing. Good for the bank balance, aswell as the mind.
What I found frustrating though, was when I was coaching someone who it appeared really didn’t want to be there, or who wanted to be there but not actually to row as such, just to see their mates. I remember one girl saying to me on a nice sunny afternoon, “Miss, we don’t have to go rowing today, do we?”, and my heart sank a little bit… I don’t mind someone not being very good at rowing, but someone who doesn’t want to try, then coaching just becomes babysitting on the water. Only as a babysitter you usually get a tray of biscuits….
Obviously there are some differences coaching on the Tideway to on the Indian Ocean, on the Tideway I didn’t learn to navigate the deep channels by identifying particular palm trees on the bank… But understanding the mindset of the rowers is by and large the same.
Here, I’d say the majority definitely do want to row, and do want to improve, and I know I have made the right choice by coming here when I get such a buzz out of seeing someone improve! But sometimes, what I’m saying just doesn’t seem to get through, and I have to figure out which of the following is the problem: 1. they understand my english but cannot put it into practice (answer: try and describe the change in a different way), 2. they don’t understand my english (answer: same as number 1), 3. they maybe do or don’t understand, but either way, they don’t really want to make a change anyway. And it makes me wonder, which of these three I fell into when I was being coached?! I am pretty certain that I was never number 3, but I wonder if ever it appeared that way to my coach. I hope not. Because I have valued everything anyone has ever said to me who has tried to help me improve. And because I don’t want to have made someone feel like I do, when someone doesn’t care that I’m trying to help them. Like I say, this is a rare occurrence here, but when it does happen, it makes me think about my actions and outward attitude as an athlete.
A couple of weeks ago, one of our younger rowers and a development coach, went to Thailand to take part in the Asian Junior Training Camp and Championships. Oosam, the junior rower, only got into a fine single a couple of weeks beforehand, and while I chose him to go because I felt that he had the technical potential to improve, and he was well behaved and listened to coaching, I worried that he didn’t really enjoy it. He didn’t smile, he wasn’t very forthcoming. I hoped it was just shyness. Two days ago Oosam and Shiyan (the coach), returned. Coming back from my morning run I heard a call of “coach!” from the garden on my left, and out came Oosam, with a beaming smile and to tell me that Thailand had been excellent! It made me so happy to see that he was so positive, I honestly think that was the first time I had seen him smile!
If rowing, or any other sport or hobby, can give someone some confidence in themselves, and the belief that hard work and commitment will get them somewhere, then I am behind it 100%. There is nothing more destructive than the mindset that there is no point trying, that no matter what, the future is bleak. There are so many people in the world who perhaps don’t have the opportunity to lift themselves out of the situation in which they live. But I believe there are so many more who just need a helping hand to give them some optimism, to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel…
If rowing gives Oosam a sense of empowerment and self-belief that takes him on a positive life path, then it’s a good day for the rowing program.
2 thoughts on “I’m sure I was never like that with my coach…”
well done for finding your own light when it seemed someone else had control of the switch
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Super Stuff Imogen – another step along the way 🙂