I wear many different hats in my life, but perhaps the hat that brings me the most pride is my coach’s hat. When I think back to my own teenage years, outside of my parents, my swimming coach played the single largest mentoring role in my life. He taught me to work hard, believe in myself, and most importantly to be tough.
My successes in the swimming pool and on the Cross Country course were plentiful. I graduated from high school a two time finalist at the 18 and under National Championships in both backstroke events as well as being an All-American High School 100 Backstroke qualifier. I also brought home two Florida Cross Country Championship team victories playing the role of the #2 runner on the team placing individually in the top 10 my Freshman year and 2nd my Junior year of high school.
Although the medals and recognition brought me pride and self-confidence, it was the hours spent training and working with my coach that most shaped my character. Though he was a man of relatively few words, he inspired me to dig deep and always persevere with excellence. Although I never fully appreciated this gift until my adult years, I am now inspired to try and do the same for the young athletes in my community.
Saturday the Haymaker High School Cross Country team participated in a day long “training retreat” that combined a local road race 5K with additional fitness running, a swimming and running duathlon, and a blend of motivational speakers throughout the day. I was honored to be one of those speakers. My favorite teenager is a member of the team, and her coaches are two of the finest people that I know.
While I shared a variety of things with the runners, my talk had three main points. Today, I share them with each of you…
- The road to excellence is never comfortable. The brain is our weakest muscle and must be toughened in order to achieve excellence.
- The most important part of a race is the moment you decide to believe and push through the pain in order to achieve victory.
- Every race, every practice, every moment in life is an opportunity. Respect yourself enough to take full advantage of each of those opportunities as you will never get them back.
I learned these lessons as an athlete from an amazing man who cared enough to not only coach the swimmer but also to mentor the person. I internalized them and have used them every day of my adult life.
Good coaches don’t just build athletes, they build the future by shaping the character of those that they mentor.