Was You First Coach Good Enough? Part Deux

Why part two?  Because I went completely tangent on part I and never got around to making a point.  If I am not careful I will end up there again.


Definition of a vocation “Where your great joy meets the world’s great needs”

Eric Greitens Tufts University Commencement Address 2012

I have no idea why we had arranged the meeting but I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.  It was Chipotle off of Johnson Drive and it was with a guy named Kevin who I was going to hire to be my triathlon coach.  Triathlon coaching was his chosen vocation in this life.  I really didn’t know why I needed a triathlon coach, I think I was even still spelling it tri-ath-A-lon.  Maybe I knew enough to know that I didn’t know anything at all and should seek greater counsel or maybe I had heard it was the thing to do.

That is the funny thing about triathletes, they are the only known social group of full grown adults who universally acknowledge that another grown adult dictates what they do in their marriage, sport, kid’s games and pretty much their entire lives.  If you’ve met one than you know what I am talking about.

Either way, fate led me to this meeting and by the end some sort of open ended arrangement in which I would pay him to tell me what I was supposed to do to be a better tri-ath-a-lete was agreed upon.

Years later I’d find myself on the other side of the burrito and convincing another that my services would enable them to be fitter, faster and better than they were right now.  I’d have completed 10 more ironman triathlons, had greater command of the general spelling and terminology of most the words in the common jargon of not just multi but endurance sport by that point.

Certainly more advance, educated, experienced and supposedly more evolved.  I suppose that happens to anyone who does anything with enough repetition and some success.  My intent was to take some of the pain out of the very painful process of becoming a successful ironman athlete.

Okay, hold on.  Let me clarify two very important things…

1.  As a coach and athlete I define success by three key metrics which I’ve found seem to be at least universal enough to work in most cases.  They are:

  1. Are you getting stronger, faster and generally better at your chosen sport or discipline?  If you are chronologically advanced or for some other reason unable to get faster are you becoming more competent?
  2. Are you healthy and injury free?  If you cannot train, race or participate than you cannot very well expect to achieve the first standard.
  3. Are you having fun?  If you are not, you shouldn’t do this or anything for very long.

2.  Anyone who promises you that they are going to take the pain out of the process if full of shit.  Anything worthwhile, certainly anything that will have you competing against others for placement/position/money etc. etc. is going to require a bit of pain.  This concept will always be the same, what isn’t is our gradual creep and demise towards a crazy sense of entitlement to comfort, safety and success.  Too many people pursue endeavors like this looking for the fastest and easiest way to the finish as opposed to the most honorable.
I suppose the reason I am aware of those two key points is because I have been at this process for some time now.  What it really means is that since that first moment when I asked for another to guide me down the road to being better at the goals I had set out for I’ve assumed a higher level of mastery but also appreciation for the process.

Today I’ve got a new coach and I use him for different reasons, he is compensated to address new issues that have arisen as well as the new questions that have come from a different experience.  I have always paid my coaches and I have never asked for a discount.  If you want something for free than download it from the internet and expect to get what you paid for.  I’m not interested in taking another person’s time without giving them something in return.

My original coach?  He lasted two seasons and when I moved on from him it was time, he served his purpose and he enabled me to take enough action with his assistance to advance forward. It is safe to say that I needed a bigger bowl to swim in and someone to teach me how to swim faster (literally and figuratively).

Would I hire him today?  Not in a million years, wouldn’t be a great fit and I’m now far too arrogant to listen to what he has to say.  Once you have lost confidence in your coach than it is time to move forward and move on.

Don’t be a pussy about it, regardless of what side you are on.  I’ve had athletes I thought the world of as people and friends but knew that I could either no longer serve their needs or knew that they had already far exceeded their natural abilities and wanted more than I could provide.

I was fired by a world champion (I was the athlete and he was the coach) once and it was crushing.  Try being an aspiring young athlete and have a guy who has risen to the pinnacle tell you that “not only haven’t you got what it takes, but I don’t want to waste my time messing with you.”.  I’d hire my first coach back before I used that guy again.

I also swore to god I would never, not once treat another athlete (or person) that way.  Lesson learned, albeit an expensive one.  Today I am fine and have recovered from the experience, I would suspect he is too.  I bet he hasn’t once thought about it, I obviously have never let it go.  Ha!

The best coach I ever had? I’ve had two exceptional coaches.

The first would be Jim whom I met on a message board as I was looking for a roommate to shack up for during a big race weekend and he let me share his digs at the booked out resort.  I don’t know if I ever retained him nearly so much for his services as a coach as much as a mentor and friend in life.  He brought me through a brutal divorce, a couple nasty injuries and had me start treating it like a business.  We don’t talk nearly enough anymore and I was certainly one of his worst athletes.  He taught me more about the sport than he could possibly imagine.

The other would be my boxing coach Doug.  We met when I left triathlon and thought it made the most sense to try boxing next.  I love Doug for many reasons but above most is that he didn’t give two shits about whether or not I could run off the bike.  Once you think you are super impressive at something and have surrounded yourself with enough people to sign off on it, go and try something different and with people who aren’t impressed easily.  Doug had no idea what was required to travel 140.6 miles point to point as fast as I had in triathlon.  He did know I couldn’t throw a left hook without leaving my right foot and that I was too soft to take 3 minutes of legit body blows from another gull grown man (there is some discrepancy as to whether or not I am all that full grown myself).  He taught me how to do both and a lot more, he held me accountable and got far more out of my body than I would have ever gotten out of myself otherwise.  He was the coach who made you run through a brick wall for him, even if you weren’t sure about the whole idea.

Both brought me further along than I could have ever done on my own.  They brought more out of my body than I was capable of doing on my own.

The whole point?  If it were not for the first I’d have never met the later.  It hasn’t ever been a question of whether or not any coach/teacher/mentor was able to give me what I needed rather whether or not I was ready to be taught.





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