Coach’s Corner: It’s not all fun and games
This week was a difficult one in the coaching world. Not only were there the normal stresses of keeping our athletes safe, making sure progression was occurring and keeping everyone happy, but there was also the fact that we had to deliver bad news to a few of our athletes. This obviously works hard against the “keeping everyone happy” portion of training.
All Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard athletes must maintain a grade level of “C” or above in all their classes in order to miss school to train. When this is not the case for our athletes, it can be difficult to tell them they are not allowed to train. They show up in the middle of the week during designated training times to progress towards their athletic goals. They’ve worked hard during the season, we’ve bonded, built relationships and in an incredibly selfish manner we want to achieve their athletic goals for them but also to prove that we are warranted and doing our jobs well as coaches. To send them home with a desperate look on their faces before they’ve even strapped in is devastating for everyone.
Unfortunately this is sometimes what is necessary of us as coaches, as was the case this week. Coaches received an email from our academic adviser who works closely with the Roaring Fork Valley schools to make sure that all of our athletes are in “academic line.”
No one is infallible; things on occasion seem to slip through the cracks. Honestly, outside of the one night a week I had a math tutor during some of my high school years, I’m not sure that I ever turned in my math homework because I don’t recall doing it. At the time I was too focused on skating if it was dry out and driving an hour and a half to Indiana to try and snowboard if there was snow (or more accurately, ice) on the ground.
The point is, these athletes, nay, kids, don’t have it as simple as we grown-ups assume they do. Yes, perhaps they don’t have a mortgage or health insurance to worry about, but they do in fact have some responsibilities. It’s tough to work through a bunch of subjects that at the time might not seem to have any relevance to your life. I’m still not sure what the point of “A-squared plus B-squared equals C-squared” is, but that equation is pounded into my brain.
As I sit on the lift and listen to some of the problems or woes about horrible teachers, mean friends or cute girls from my athletes, I on occasion drift off thinking that it’s not that hard to sit for 35 minutes reading a history book, or knowing that there are other cliché fish in the sea.
Sometimes I have a reality check and realize I’m wrong. That’s from the perspective of an adult, with multiple decades of memories and schedules and bosses, among other things piling up inside my brain, and the maturity and wisdom and most important, longevity, to realize that every little thing doesn’t have to be as big as we think.
My athletes get upset if I tell them they can’t train because of grades or injury. They don’t realize that in the long run one day doesn’t make or break their life necessarily. They don’t have that understanding.
I’m realizing now when I have to make those calls on their behalf that they don’t know they don’t have that understanding. I now work on helping them best cope with that fact.
We ask for greatness from our athletes as such, but also as humans. They work hard, and they have stressors that we tend to overlook or dumb down with our broader worldviews. It’s not always fair, so I’m doing my best to appreciate their perspective and instead of letting them down by not allowing them to train, encouraging and informing them on how outside factors — such as decent grades — helps them in every facet of life, including allowing them the opportunity to go play in the snow.
Josh Ganz is a snowboarding coach for the Aspen Ski and Snowboard Club. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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