Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On becoming the Master of my domain

Last evening, my husband and I tried a new Masters swim group that is being offered through our kids' swim club.  It is a near-perfect situation: the class is immediately after our daughter's practice, it is coached by our son's coach, and therefore the comfort level is way up there.

Now, I have not been coached in many, MANY years.  I was 17 when I last took instruction from my high school swim coach, Coach Lavallee, and I am now 40 (ugh).  You do the math, it might give me an aneurism to do a subtraction problem that large.  What I remember of Coach L was that he was very kind, never raised his voice, always demonstrated the breaststroke on-deck with the left side of his body, and repeatedly told us to "undulate" our hips during butterfly.  What I remember of myself during those days is that I hated kick drills, especially freestyle because I just about went backwards (I was so slow) and would cheat with frog kicks when Coach wasn't watching, and that I loved being guided toward doing something that I truly loved better.

I have been throwing around the idea of joining Masters swimming for a while now, not because I want to be super fast (lie) or swim in meets (another lie) or even win races (yep, that's a lie, too), but because in the last few years of training for triathlons, I have rediscovered just how much I love being in the water (that's the truth).  It's like I was born to be there.

I don't have the benefit of a childhood filled with hours of swim practices, dry lands, and swim meets to quell my idealized and romantic notions of the sport of swimming.  I came late to the party, and only enjoyed the briefest time as part of an organized club and team.  And even after being a swim mom for the past few years, and spending pretty much half of every single weekday driving one kid to one pool then the other kid to another pool and then BACK to the first pool to pick the first kid up, and also sitting through the hell that is a weekend swim meet, not to mention practically mortgaging my house for practice fees, meet entries, fundraising, kick boards, goggles, paddles, buoys, caps, swimsuits, drag suits, gear bags, fins, team t-shirts, team sweatshirts, and hotel rooms for travel meets, I am still not disillusioned by swimming.  But, I digress.

Back to last night's Masters trial.  My husband and I surrendered ourselves to our wide-eyed coach (Well, I did. More on husbands reticence in a bit), and as he outlined the workout he would have us do, I realized how ignorant I was to all of the drill and interval terms - base, drill, descend, build - that are part of my own kids' vernacular.  After getting clarification and then MORE clarification, we were sent off to drill, build, kick, and descend for the next hour.  I have to say, that even though I found myself worried the entire time that the coach was shaking his head, face palming, and even wondering why he was wasting his time trying to teach this old dog any kind of new trick, I had a fantastic time.

I realized that, despite my personality, which tends to be headstrong, stubborn, and pretty omniscient (don't I sound like great fun to live with?), I actually respond really well to coaching and critiquing.  I guess it is because I have an openness to getting better, to knowing more about the strokes and how to get faster, that it doesn't bother me to be told not to bring my knees up during breaststroke and that I don't roll enough when I swim the crawl.  And I think I was even like that back in my pissy teenaged days, too.

My husband, however, is a completely different story.  Though he was perfectly willing to succumb to the expertise of a coach (and one that is LITERALLY half our age at that), once the down and dirty instruction started happening, he clammed up and acted really reluctant to heed any advice or instruction.  This surprised me somewhat, because I've always thought of my husband as a pretty open guy.  But when the coach gave him some tips on keeping his legs together when kicking and to use his feet in a less, um, spastic, manner well, he wasn't having any of that.  Head shaking, eye rolling, and downright ignoring followed, and I began to wonder why he was being so closed off to the idea of getting an outsider's viewpoint.  He's the one who always says he wishes someone could watch him swim and tell him what he's doing wrong (MY opinion on that does not count, because I have offered it more than a few times).

After we finished the workout, my husband acted totally annoyed. "I got NO feedback." "That was NOT what I expected." Yes, he did get feedback, but you can't receive something that you are not open to.  And it wasn't what he had expected because it was something new, and again, he was not open to it.

I suppose some people can be coached, and some people try to rebel against it.  Is it an ego thing?  Possibly.  In my situation, I think there really was a reversal of roles where I, the one who usually thinks she knows it all, welcomed the coaching with open arms and where my husband, the more "agreeable" of the pair, shut his mind off to any feedback and criticism completely.

When it comes to being coached, where does your ego land? Are you coachable or not?

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