I am just back from coaching some masters rowers for a weekend. As I reflected during the flight home I realised I had enjoyed it. But why? After a lifetime involved in high performance rowing, where the goal was to be the best, how could I be enjoying coaching rowers who were well past the date when their bodies and lifestyles would allow them to dream of being the best.
This idle philosophising led me to further questions: Why do Masters Athletes bother? Why do they train and race? As part of the weekend we attended a Masters’ regatta and I watched them racing with impressive intensity if not always impressive accuracy.
One thing I did learn at the regatta was that lycra (spandex in US speak) is not always wise; but that is another topic for another day.
From a personal and selfish point of view coaching Masters is comfortable in that there is no need for crowd control, there are plenty of volunteers to join the tired coach in some alcohol therapy at the end of the day, and there are no worries about impropriety or whether one of the children in your care is sneaking off to inhale something illegal, or to have a tryst with one of the opposite sex. I would prefer however to see my motivations in a slightly more favourable light.
Several times during our sessions one of the rowers had said “Oh, that’s what people have been talking about!” They were experiencing that sudden clicking of cogs into place and the realisation that they understood what coaches and other rowers had been talking about all this time. Such experiences are all too rare in our lives and are extremely enjoyable. For a brief moment we are in control and know how to make the world behave as we wish.
When I am coaching and one of my athletes has an aha! moment I also feel good. Watching a fellow human being take one small step along the path to enlightenment, even if only enlightenment about rowing, is enjoyable.
So maybe the masters have taught me more this weekend than I taught them? That’s an interesting thought. Is my coaching now more about teaching rowing than about winning races? If I am more excited about an athlete’s Aha! moments than their race results, have I going soft, or have I also taken a few steps along the path to coaching enlightenment?