As most of you know, I coach my community’s swim team. Last weekend, we competed in the Qualifier Meet and next Saturday we will travel to Championships. I used to think that the best thing that I got out of competitive swimming was the ability to study and compete at an elite Ivy League college. While I truly treasure my time at Dartmouth, today I realize that the best gift that I received from competitive swimming was the skills and ability to coach the young people in my beloved town.
Each one of the swimmers on my team holds a special place in my heart, and I believe that coaching them allows me to do God’s work in a meaningful and unique way. Below you will find a letter that I wrote to my athletes this week as we prepare for the final meet of the season. I am sharing it here in the hopes that it will speak to you, and be an inspiration for you to do youth volunteer work. Our children are our future — our greatest asset as well as our greatest responsibility.
We spend many hours together learning from each other as we journey through each season. As we approach the 2015 Championships, there are a few things that I would like to say to you.
- I am proud of you and I love to watch you develop strength and fitness. I know that there are times when you think that I am crazy because of what I ask you to do each day in the pool, but I know that those things will take you one step closer to triumph. I believe that “the only place that you find success before work is in the dictionary” (May Smith), and it is my job to teach you how to work. I created the Pitchfork Challenges that we do each week in practice to help you realize that personal victory stems from reaching above and beyond your capabilities in order to accomplish far more than your dreams. It isn’t meant to be easy, easy does not create meaningful improvement.
- My goal for you is physical strength and fitness, the development of a tenacious mental focus, and the creation of emotional confidence and personal belief in your own God given ability. I look at each of you at the beginning of the year – I watch you grow during the season – and I hope for improvement in each of these things by our final meet. I do not compare you to other swimmers, rather, I compare you to yourself as you continue down your own unique swimming journey.
- Please know that we share every challenge and success that occurs along this journey. When you stumble—I hurt for you – When you find success, my heart is filled with joy – We are in this together. I do my best to provide you with appropriate leadership. I promise that I will harass you when you do not give your best effort. I promise that I will push you to search for excellence, rather than settling for adequate. I realize that you may not always think that my actions are “fair” or “right”. I understand this, but please know that I have your best interest at heart. While I love to be your friend, it is more important that I be your coach.
- The most important thing that I can teach you is to believe. The weakest muscle in your body is your brain. To be successful you must learn to trust: acting as your own advocate, as well as an advocate for your teammates. There are no limitations in life, other than the ones that you place on yourself. Learn to open your mind so that your body can fly.
- I care. I care about you – not just the athlete, but the person that makes you so very special. I will always be your biggest fan and I will always believe in you. Realize that although sometimes it might be easier for me to do it for you, I care enough about you that I will back away so that you can learn to do it for yourself.
Next Saturday you will compete at the Championship Meet. You will represent yourself, your team, and your community of Cozad. All of the hard work that we have done will come together to help both you and our team to achieve greatness. I ask that you give of yourself – for yourself—and for the other 52 swimmers that proudly wear the Cozad Pitchfork on their caps. Be physically strong, mentally tough, and emotionally confident – It is these three things that will lead us to victory.