I had lunch with my old friend Ed the other day. We coached together over 20 years ago, I coached 2 of his daughters and in fact met my wife at one of his daughter’s wedding. The best part about reconnecting with an old friend is how you re-validate who you are, or possible the converse of that, maybe you realize how much you have changed. In the case of our lunch, I found re-connection to a kindred soul and met myself again in the conversation.
Ed told me how he ran into a young woman that we coached so many years ago. They spoke for some time while in a store. As her children grew antsy waiting for the grown-ups to stop talking she shared with Ed how her life had some rough spots and that there was a time when she was very nearly homeless. At the time she was out of work and her first child was due soon. It was stressful for her but she overcame it; she worked tirelessly to finish her education, get a new position and establish some security. The baby was born, 7 years ago, healthy and happy. She explained to Ed that she was so happy now and has a family of 3, a great job, a loving husband and a truly fortunate life. Ed, as any of us would, felt so happy for her that he got a little misty eyed even when relaying the story to me weeks after it happened. As they separated and went off to finish shopping, Ed had a fleeting thought. He called her back and explained to her that he was no longer coaching and was retired from his career job as well. Left to ourselves, guys like Ed and I, could wander into a belief of self-doubt that we ever had an impact, or a belief that we did when we didn’t. Introspective people like us are always seeking a sign of validation. He wondered, again, as we all do, if he ever made a difference for her. Was there anything that he taught her that she found of value? She responded, I’m sure with a smile, “Of course coach, you taught me to set goals and keep my eyes on them. Without that lesson I would have never made it through those hard years.”
When Ed shared this story with me we both had tears in our eyes because it’s short stories like this that remind us that gymnastics is only a vehicle that we can provide that gives these children valuable life skills. They learn so much from us aside from cartwheels and somersaults. I think that every once and awhile we need to check our perspective and remember why we have this job. We teach perseverance, determination, focus, and goal setting. We bring skills, strength, flexibility and healthy lifestyles to children. We teach physics, anatomy, bio-mechanics and psychology. Gymnastics is merely an activity that allows these lessons to be presented.
I’ve had champion gymnasts and champion teams, but the things I brag about most often are the wonderful children that turned into strong and healthy adults. I’ve coached scientists, therapists, business people, doctors, moms and all points between. I can confidently say that gymnastics; that I provided, helped them, one and all, be who they are; successful and healthy people. This is what fuels my day. What does it for you?