The Subtle Power of a Good Coach
Fatigued, sweaty and snacking on high carb nutrient deficient snacks, and loving every minute. This was the feeling I had after completing the Blue Cross Broad Street 10 miler in Philadelphia this past weekend. Now no one would confuse me for a long distance runner at 6’4”, weighing in the 260s, and consistently reminded by the Clydesdale (+220 lbs.) moniker at every race. My time was not impressive either at just north of an 11 min per mile pace. So why am I writing this article? I may not have had this experience without two wonderful coaches that empowered my life.
In 7th grade I was the stereotypic fat kid trying to hide from attention. I always felt a foot taller and 100 lbs heavier than everyone else, and every god damn year we had to do the President’s Council on Physical Fitness Challenge. Most of my fitness coach friends looked forward to those days back then, but not this coach. That year I had an awful experience. I ran the 600 meter run in 3:38 minutes and then precede to throw up in front of the class.
The next year I moved to another state, and at the new school attempted to avoid the running challenge. Luckily though, I had a special PE teacher named Penny Hyde who took the time to work with me on running and trying to change my unhealthy ways. We came up with a goal to run a sub 2 minute 400 meter, and by the end of the year I succeeded. Penny never realized the impact she had on me and I often hope to help others in a similar way.
My freshman year in high school I went out for shot put and discus on the track team. The team had a rule that each member needed to run a sub 7:15 minute mile to participate. I almost didn’t go out because I thought it would be impossible for me to make that mile time. The first 5 times I attempted the mile I failed and puked after every attempt. My coach, Mike Boza, was extremely positive and helped me prepare, but stressed that I still needed to make the time to make the team. No Exceptions. He could also see that I was psyching myself out before every attempt, and that running during practice just increased my stress. On my sixth attempt, he had me come in on a free period. He gave me his running watch set to go off every 27 seconds. All I had to do was run 100 yards before the alarm sounded, and repeat until I finished. I could do that. 100 yards in 27 sec was very manageable, and as I ran I lost track of the time by trying to beat the alarm sound. I ended up running a 6:30 mile and didn’t get sick.
Both Penny, and Mike, helped me realize that I could be successful, and empowered me to work towards goals. Penny instilled a sense of compassion and empathy for people struggling that I use with clients to this day. Mike on the other hand showed that breaking tough tasks into smaller units made it easier for success. He also showed me that I had to work to get things in life. Mike and Penny probably never realized they had such a powerful influence on me. As I sat there post-race on Sunday, I realized how far I had come and how grateful I was for my coaches over the years.