Many people from outside the United States don’t understand the value or importance of playing sports when you’re younger. For me, sports wasn’t just sports, it was my life. From cheer leading to gymnastics to lacrosse, I trained my way up to the top and quit at different points. The quitting part was the greatest lesson for me as it showed me how not to run a functional two way relationship.
I had many hardships playing sports but simultaneously had many moments of glory that I’d like to share with you today. As Brene Brown notes, there is power in vulnerability and it’s no surprise she had a record breaking TED talk with many best selling books to follow.
Here are 5 stories of my five coaches and the leadership and life lessons they taught me.
1. Robin + Fidget, my gymnastics coaches. These two characters were my first and last gymnastics coaches. I worked with them for 5 years, from 5th grade to 9th grade. I quit in 1996, after hurting myself during a gymnastics meet from falling on my neck on a dismount gone wrong. I remember the meet like it was yesterday. The uneven parallel bars were my worst event of the four female events in gymnastics, which include vault, bars, beam, and floor. I had a 9.4 routine but blew it when I over swung my dismount after casting in too high of a handstand on the too bar before a dismount. I let go of the bar too late and as I flipped into a back tuck my toes hit the top uneven parallel bars on my dismount and I fell to the floor. My parents ironically came in from a funeral as they saw me blow my dismount. I had sprained my neck, but was thankfully able to get up after the fall and present after as I knew I would lose points if I didn’t, LOL. After 5 years I had really excelled in gymnastics but didnt didn’t get the long term play until I was much older at 40 years of age. After the fall the doctor said I would never do gymnastics again. I knew that wasn’t an option. So while I lay our of gymnastics for a few months to recover, I continued to weight train at home. Sit ups, push ups, leg lifts, and anything in between, if it was a building muscle move and stretching I was doing it daily desperately waiting to get back into the game. I realized a lot about myself. The number one thing is that I didn’t want to quit even after a big fall. Within the year I placed in the top 3 to 15 in New York State Junior Olympic competition. The judges saw me move and really lived what they saw, mainly because I put all that lonely teenage self loathing into it. I learned a few things from Robin and Fidget. It’s never too late to start over and second, you will be better than before with the lessons you learned.
2. Joe, Robin’s first now ex husband who was my gymnastics coach. Joe used to have epileptic seizures at the gym and at our gymnastics meets. He would always get up after them, and some would be more serious than others. He would still show up after though. He didn’t let his disability take him under. So the lesson here is no matter what adversity you face, you always get back up.
3. Mrs. Holsclaw, my cheerleading coach. Mrs. Holsclaw was known as the teacher who was divorced in our elementary school. She was overweight and had similar characteristics to Ursula, the maleficent character in The Little Mermaid who steals Ariel the mermaids voice as she turns from a human to a mermaid. She didn’t take a good liking to me mainly because I was always raising my hand for every answer in class (the benefits of having an older neighbor that taught me Math, English and Science when she’d get home from school, then concurrently make me do her homework).
4. Mr. Castle, my lacrosse coach. I went to a coed boarding school that had day students and boarders. I just so happened to live right outside of the cutoff and ended up having to board at the school. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget. Mr. Castle was the men’s lacrosse coach at the time, but also just so happened to be my bible teacher too. He told a very vulnerable story about his drug addiction, and I was grateful for it as I never got into drugs. Alcohol was really my go to in my early teens and twenties like most others. He told us a story about him doing cocaine and getting addicted to it. On New Year’s Eve Day he woke up naked on the streets of New York City without any clothes, money, or electronics to get him home back safely. That was his rock bottom. I’ll always remember this vulnerable story and it kept me off drugs for a lifetime.
5. Mr. Brooks + Coach Kenny, my lacrosse coaches. They demoted me from captain when I purposefully cut practice consistently to avoid the intense workout. The training was hard and I just wanted out. When I was demoted, I wanted to quit the team but they didn’t let me. I was furious. Why do I have to still play on a team that ostracized me? The reality was, they were right. It was a damn privilege to be the captain of the team and not showing up was selfish and rude, mainly for my other teammates. I learned that when you give up, so does your team, in work and life together.
Who was your favorite coach growing up and what lessons did they teach you?
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