I remember the first time I was ever yelled at by a coach. I was training with our club’s swim team at the pool, and was probably around age 7 or 8. I had been swimming almost before I could walk, and my grade school routine included swimming twice a day. Once before school, and once after.
I distinctly remember hanging on the edge, trying to catch my breath, and thinking ‘I can’t do this anymore’ as they we watched the pace clock’s colourful arrows tell us when the next swimmer was to start. My coach’s booming voice (though he was just a senior in high school) yelled across the pool: “You’re not tired, keep going!”
I shook my head vehemently as I clung to the side of the pool. He came over, picked me up by my armpits and planted me on my feet as I barely registered being pulled out of the water. Standing on the deck, I stared at my feet, embarassed that I was singled out amongst the other kids.
“Do you want to be here?” He asked.
I nodded quickly.
“Then get in and swim.”
And with that comment he picked me back up and dropped me in the pool.
I remember the frustration, the heat in my face, but most of all, the renewed vigour with which I swam that morning.
I can’t say that it was probably the best way to treat a child, or that the experience didn’t change me. However, I know that every athlete, every individual has their own ways of being motivated by their coaches. There was something about the tone of disappointment, and the way you were spoken to, that they believed you could do better – that was what motivated me.
Some things never change.
I went to my first beginner wrestling class this morning after all the ‘hype’ I had heard from rest of my team. The wrestling instructor had an impressive resume, and his style of teaching was tough, brash, and you could always count on him for a good workout.
I had come off a night shift and hadn’t slept yet, since class was fairly early on a Sunday morning. I figured I could use the extra workout and even hit the morning BJJ class right before wrestling. In retrospect, going to back-to-back classes on no sleep and no food (I don’t eat on night shifts, since my stomach is sensitive.) wasn’t really a good idea.
The BJJ class was good, it was a review of back control and back escapes with RNC and collar chokes we had worked on the previous week. I saw one of the regular girls in class, and headed towards her when I noticed we had a new girl in (her first week – yay!) and grabbed us as a group of three. I even had a chance to roll with one of the larger guys in class, and worked on positional sparring near the end of class. This was great because it provided a real challenge to a few things I had been practicing. Note to self: Guys vs. Girls post for the future.
T hen, on to beginner wrestling. I ran back to the change room to pull off my gi and get into a rash guard and some shorts. When I got back, we had already started pummeling. I was paired with the new girl and I did my best to try to explain some of the drills (but what do I know?! I’m a total newb too.) I loved the format of the class, it was pretty much the same way ‘R’ worked me over in our one-on-one classes. Lots of positional drilling interspersed with circuit training of push-ups, sit-ups, burpees, sprawls…anything to get our heart rates up.
I know better than to take things personally in-class. Everything is an opportunity to learn and grow. But even with that mantra, it wears me down when everything I do is insulted, over and over again. The whole class felt like a series of ‘this is how you F#$@!’d up.’ I attempted to pay close attention to one thing, and quickly forgot everything else. Hell, I couldn’t even sprawl correctly. I had to reset my brain, and quickly pushed out one circuit of pushups and situps, grabbed a drink of water and thought to myself: “How badly do I want to be here right now?’”
R works me way harder when we train, and tells me I can do better, so why do I feel like shit? Oh right, I haven’t eaten or slept, suck it up and stick through it. I wasn’t looking for an excuse to leave, I was looking for reasons to stay.
So, I did.
I had a moment of self-pity afterwards, though the best thing I heard from R all day was “Don’t worry, when I’m done with you, you won’t need sleep to beat the boys.”
That’s right, I’m gonna be a fighting machine.