Tag Archives: coaching

Finding the right words…

Today marks the third 5K race in 8 days for the Haymaker Varsity Cross Country team. We are into the “tough” part of the season where fitness is critical and mental determination creates success. As a coach, I sometimes find myself struggling to find the right words to help the athletes believe in themselves and continuously engage in the running journey.

Words are powerful.

When chosen carefully and delivered effectively:

  • They inspire.
  • They create.
  • They bring beauty to our lives.

In order for words to bring about positive change, they must be heard and they must be meaningful. The bottom line for us is that, as a team, we must celebrate our differences as we build team unity. A culture of hard work and excellence plays a critical role. And, it extends beyond the physical to include our ability to be good teammates.

What are the top 5 qualities of a good teammate?

Heart: Packing your FAITH to trust in both yourself and your teammates creates a team with heart. Building a positive culture inspires a unity dedicated to greatness.

Work Ethic: The road to excellence is never comfortable. Expect to work tirelessly under conditions that will be uncomfortable. Success is often found in the midst of challenge and surrounded by hard work.

Integrity: Truth in thoughts, words and actions creates a team worth fighting for. Love yourself enough to be true to your uniqueness – Love your teammates enough to embrace diversity – Love your sport enough to give it your all.

Leadership: Supporting and mentoring others inspires greatness. The team is bigger than any one individual or race. What you build together is infinitely greater than anything that you can build alone. Life is a journey – one that contains a vastness of joy that can only be tapped through community.

Passion: Race with passion. Give it your all, recognizing that you bring honor to your God, your team, and your sport when you dig deep to compete with perseverance.

Go Haymakers!

 

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A Solid Core…

Ask any member of either the Cozad Swim Team or the Haymaker Cross Country team and they will likely tell you that Coach Anne is a core nut. While there may well be an implied double meaning in that statement, the main reason for my reputation as a core nut is that I believe in the power of having a strong set of core muscles. Regardless of your chosen sport, strong stomach and back muscles improve your body coordination/balance and protect you from injury.

Just like anything meaningful in life, a strong core requires dedicated work to achieve and maintain. The V-up muscles do not appear overnight and planking can be downright uncomfortable the first few weeks; but the exercises give you a solid foundation of fitness that leads to success.

As I close in on a decade of coaching, I think about the core of my athletes not just in a physical sense, but also from an emotional and mental standpoint. While I teach my athletes how to swim and run, likely more importantly I help them to learn how to make good life choices.  The vast majority of my kids will leave organized athletics when they complete their high school careers; but it is my hope that the life lessons that they learn in the swimming pool and on the cross country course will continue to impact them throughout their lives.

The Cozad Swim Team found great success last Saturday at the Plains Tsunami Championship meet. 174 swims by 45 athletes led to 6 records and 143 top 8 medal earning finishes (33 of which were gold); but I do not believe that the success of the season was measured in those statistics. The medals may have resulted from a successful season; but the true value came from the development of a solid core during the hours of practice that led up to the championship meet.

As a coach, I know how to train the athletes’ bodies; but I also recognize that attaining fitness to find success is a personal choice that must be made by each individual team member. I encourage and direct; but it is the responsibility of the athlete to put forth the effort. I watch as the season progresses knowing that the kids who work the hardest will go home with the victory. That victory may not always appear in the form of a medal; but it most certainly creates a tangible culture that propels the athlete to lifelong success.

There is tremendous power to be found in an innate desire to work hard in order to find excellence.

It comes from Packing Your FAITH (fortitude, attitude, integrity, trust, and humility).

It results in Competing with GRACE (gratitude, resilience, awareness, compassion, and eloquence).

It creates a winning culture where believers are born and achievers thrive.

Photo credits to Corbey Dorsey 🙂

I love the kids that I coach as well as the sports that together we work hard to find success in; but what leaves the largest imprint on my heart is the knowledge that my leadership may one day result in my athletes working hard to make the world a better place. That’s what carries me through each season and inspires me to pack my own FAITH to coach with GRACE.

How do you work hard to pursue excellence in your life?

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Goals, Accountability, and Teenagers…

  • I believe that setting goals and working to achieve them gives life purpose.
  • I believe that accountability empowers integrity and results in making good decisions.
  • I believe that in all of my life journeys, the one that I take as a parent is the most important.

I live in a house full of teenagers.  My girls bring me intermittent bouts of joy and exasperation as we make our way together as a family.  They are both my greatest pride and my best challenge.  What we build together provides life’s greatest blessing.

I am a habitual goal maker.  Setting and working toward goals keeps me passionately excited to be better tomorrow than I am today.  I set goals in every facet of my life and hold myself accountable while working toward achieving them.  I try each and every day to pass this habit on to my daughters. This often results in interesting feedback from them 😉

agstatexc3I remember a couple years ago when my favorite brunette was struggling during track.  I asked her at the dinner table one night what her goals were for the season.  Her reply caused me to grit my teeth as she stated: “I don’t have a goal for the season.  I am afraid to set a goal because I might not reach it, and I don’t want to fail.”

Fear is real.  It is part of being human and affects the decisions that each of us makes every day.  Acknowledging it empowers you to deal with it and ultimately move past it.  Setting goals that are challenging, yet achievable is one of the best ways to keep fear under control and gain confidence on the journey.

Although that night at the dinner table I wondered if my mentoring was flawed, the maturity and fortitude that my daughter went on to show in the next two Cross Country seasons demonstrated that we were both on the right path.  She ended both seasons as the lead runner on the respective XC squads helping to bring home the runner up team medal in 2015, and garnering an individual medal in 2016.

While she would likely tell you that the hardware was her greatest achievement, I would argue that learning to set goals and finding the personal strength to hold herself accountable for them creates her greatest accolade.  Over the last 18 months, I have watched her dig deep, over come adversity, and persevere with greatness.

This weekend, I will watch proudly as she competes in her first 1/2 marathon.  Completing the race accomplishes a long term goal and checks off a bucket list item.  She loves to run, and I love to watch her love to run.

Finding the appropriate balance as both her parent and her coach provides my greatest accomplishment.  While I want her to find success more than anything in the world, I realize that success only holds meaning when she learns to do it for herself.  From finding the personal discipline to get through the daily grind to daring to dream and packing her faith to go after it — that’s what makes her a winner.

She may be a teenager today, but tomorrow her contributions will help to shape our country.  That’s plenty of motivation to fuel us both on the journey 🙂

 

 

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Sitting On the Bus…

This fall, the majority of my blog posts were written on the Haymaker school bus traveling to Cross Country meets. Riding the bus as an adult provides an interesting perspective. You learn more than just to appreciate the beautiful Nebraska countryside.

In addition to being on the coaching roster, two of my three girls also ride the bus. My oldest as a varsity runner and my youngest as a 6th grade student manager with big dreams for competing next year. In the height of the season, when both the junior high and high school athletes competed, there was hardly an open seat on the bus.

The following provides a short list of things that float around in my mind while sitting on the bus.

1. The bus driver is the team’s unsung hero. Not only does he hold the welfare of our kids in his hands — his cheerful, caring nature sets the stage for a good beginning and ending to race day.

2. The Haymaker Cross Country team personifies a positive culture of respect. When the coaches set the standards high, the kids deliver. Anything less is unacceptable. The medals go to the fastest finishes during the race, but the concept of team is what leads to the win — both on and off the course. True character shines through on the bus just as much as during the race. A positive culture produces a higher level of character at the end of the season than existed at the beginning of the season.

3. Teammanship provides a coach’s greatest prize. It is truly beautiful when athletes compete with heart, unselfishly taking care of the team and raising the bar for those around them. The drama meter on the bus should always be low signifying a heathy team experience with good athlete leadership.

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Haymaker Cross Country qualified both varsity teams for state yesterday. The bus ride home last night will be my second favorite bus ride of the season as I’m really looking forward to taking a bus load of awesome runners to the Nebraska state meet next Friday 🙂

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Life is a Series of Callings…

anneagxc.jpgI believe that life is a series of callings.  Although my faith is deeply personal and generally manifests itself outside of church walls, my relationship with God leads me on the journey.  I followed my heart when I became involved in work to improve animal welfare for cattle and this same desire for positive change led me to coaching youth athletics.  Likely the only two things that these topics share in common is my passion to make a positive difference.

I had a brief foray into coaching immediately after graduating from college and moving to Nebraska.  I served in the volunteer role of assistant coach to the high school Cross Country team in the late 1990’s prior to the birth of my favorite brunette.  A busy life running a cattle feed yard and raising a young family took me away from coaching for about a decade, but life has a way of placing a person in the right place at the right time.

I had a wake up call the year that I turned 30 as I lost my health due to an autoimmune system disease.  The following five years provided a personal battle that reminded me how precious a gift each day truly is.  God has a way of putting life into perspective and, as I worked to regain my health, I found myself inspired to coach again — this time at the swimming pool.  Seven years later, with the help of the same awesome lady who guided me in my first foray of Haymaker XC coaching, our local community has a thriving recreational swim team where fitness and fun combine to teach life skills to almost 50 budding athletes.

This fall I took on an additional volunteer coaching gig — coming full circle back to the Haymaker Cross Country team.  Ironically, my favorite brunette is now a member of the team which makes me smile as I was eight months pregnant when I hung up my XC coaching hat the first time.  I am back on the Haymaker roster as an assistant which allows me to mentor just under thirty junior high and high school athletes on their quest for greatness.

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Coaching refills my cup — it touches my heart as I see God in the young people that I get to mentor.

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There is something so truly special in playing a leadership role in an athlete’s journey.  You learn to coach the athlete in the moment that they need you — filling each unique void — giving direction while also inspiring good independent decision making.  Athletics teach toughness, work ethic, empathy, and personal sacrifice.  They are about developing fitness: mental, emotional, and physical in order to work toward a common goal.  There is nothing more rewarding than watching a culture of greatness develop amongst teammates.

The Haymaker Cross Country team personifies all of these things, and I am truly blessed to be a part of it.  Like many coaches, I don’t coach for the win.  I coach for the athlete — focusing on developing personal life skills that create leaders.  The development of this positive culture brings the win, and it is so much sweeter when the athletes lead the way.

The calling of a coach is a special one.  It comes from a quest to use your talents to make a difference in the lives of the young people who will create the future.  When I see the athletes dig deep to persevere during competition or unselfishly reach out to teammates in need, I know that God is at work and my heart fills with optimism for all of those times yet to come.

Go Haymakers!

 

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Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance…

The Haymaker Swim Team took 46 athletes in 170 individual events and 23 relays to the Plains Tsunami North Qualifying meet last Saturday.  All 46 of those athletes earned the opportunity to compete next weekend at the Championship Meet.

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The kids would likely report that the fun of competition and the excitement of getting to the next level provided the highlight of their day.  Mine was the fact that although I only get to coach and mentor these kids for 8 weeks each summer, our team completed the meet with no disqualifications and a large number of excellent athletic performances.

Each swim season we create a mantra which appears on the back of our team shirts.  This year our shirts carry the statement Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance.  As the coach of a recreation league summer sport, I try to focus on fitness and the development of strength and work ethic.  I know that learning to do it right at practice sets the kids up not just for success in the pool but also in life.

While the glory of competitive victory glows brightly, a true winner shines just as radiantly during the hours of practice.  It is during those hours of preparation that true character is revealed.  Convincing my swimmers of the necessity of passionate effort creates one of my greatest challenges.  Settling clearly provides the enemy of greatness, and is spurred by unfocused practice.  Each year I create Pitchfork Challenges to help the kids find focused goals to strive for during practice sessions.

For the 2016 season, Pitchfork Challenges included long Individual Medley swims requiring correct stroke technique, sprint freestyle swims with no breathing, and a blend of core “on land” strength challenges.  I always enjoy watching the kids accomplish far more than they envisioned possible, and I know that these challenges play an important role in creating a successful season.

This week provides the culmination of the 2016 season.  The kids look forward to competing at Championships with a blend of nerves and excitement, and dreams of coming home with medals.  I spend the week trying to prepare them knowing that perfect practice makes perfect performance.

Go Haymakers!

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Haymaker Swimming…

I competed in my first backstroke race the summer of 1979 at the age of 4.  My mom taught me to swim almost before I could walk, and USS Swimming played a huge role in the first 21 years of my life.  In addition to allowing me to compete as an athlete at the national level in high school, it also helped me to matriculate at Dartmouth College in the fall of 1993.  I wasn’t as smart as the general Ivy League student population, but I knew how to work and I was never known to back down from a challenge.

Although I drifted away from the sport during my twenties as I built a life on the farm and gave birth to my three greatest blessings, I became reunited with it the year my youngest turned 3.  At that point, swimming provided a healing influence, and played a vital role as I regained my health after a difficult struggle with Graves Disease.  The combination of physical fitness challenge as a swimmer and the mental fitness that I acquired as a coach enabled me to find the “old Anne” and shake off the deflated self esteem that often develops when battling a chronic illness.

Looking for a "high 5" at the beginning of the meet...

Looking for a “high 5” at the beginning of the meet…

Years later, our local swim team thrives with 46 young competitors aged 7-16.  Coaching is the highlight of my summer and I love to watch the sport play a positive role in the growth of our community’s young people.  It is not just speed and strength that gets developed in the water — it is character, work ethic, and respect.  The almost twenty hours a week that I put in as a volunteer coach during the summer months nurtures my altruistic side despite the fact that during hard workouts my athletes have been known to classify me as evil

What they likely don’t realize is that I push them because I care about them: both the young people that they are today and the awesome adults that they will grow up to be tomorrow.  I hope that sometime ten years down the road each of my swimmers will rattle off one of the many motivational phrases that I am known for and take a moment to appreciate what we built together.

Our league also allows for adults to swim, so each week I get to hit the water to prove to myself that I still can.  I love that I demonstrate with each day that passes that swimming is a life sport and fitness is fun.

  • Every practice is a challenge to be met.
  • Every race is an opportunity to embrace.
  • Every awesome effort proves that while the road to excellence is rarely comfortable, success thrives in an uncomfortable environment.

annecoach2.jpgGo Haymakers!

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Dear Swimmer…

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.

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Dear Swimmer,

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Go Haymakers!

Coach Anne

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