Coaching derby has been likened to herding cats and I suppose that coaching jr. derby could be likened to coaching giddy, crazy, attention-impaired cats. It's been a year and a half, now, that I have coached our Jr. Derby League -- a challenge at times, but one that usually puts a smile on my face.
Today we finished up our Level One benchmarking process with our latest fall session girls. These girls started just four months ago; many of them not even knowing how to propel themselves on skates. Shaky, doe-kneed cuties they were. It gave me a great thrill today to see their smiles and pride in accomplishing this goal that they were working towards; testing and passing a fairly long list of basic skills. Once benchmarked, they are now able to participate in non-contact scrimmage and bouts. It's kinda a big deal.
As always, there are some for whom these sorts of pursuits come easy. Divine combinations of natural athleticism, a healthy disrespect for bodily limits and possession of their body movements/actions (which roughly translates as athleticism, although after years spent training new skaters, I can say that these two facets are not mutually exclusive) make for an easy experience for some of our new skaters. They adapt and acquire these new skills with without difficulty, if not straight up Ease.
Many, however, are not so lucky. As a coach, they are my greatest challenge. Not because it is hard to teach them -- for the most part they are my eagerest pupils and very determined; a true pleasure to have in the group. But because most of them believe -- either due to school-ground or other organized sport experience -- that they are simply not good enough. They are full of fear and you can see through their gritted smiles the wariness of being singled out or ridiculed. It honestly sometimes breaks my heart to see an innocent little girl of 8, or a fragile-ego'd pre-teen already bearing scars of being told she is not adequate. The teens are better and worse all at once. Better at hiding it; but also, not able to show their true state of being in class. My challenge is to reach them all; to impart instruction that doesn't burden them with greater fear, but gives them hope and encouragement. To put a smile on their face when they're struggling with a certain skill or drill and hopefully to help them see that inside of them is something pretty awesome.
These ones are the ones who hold a special place in my heart. For sure, I enjoy seeing all my girls grow and yes, even blossom into the skaters they become. But it's these girls who strive and try and give their all to finally be "good" at something who touch me deeply and give me the greatest satisfaction in my job of coaching. And it gave me great joy today to tell each of them that their hard work had paid off, to see the shy grins and the big smiles and sense their pride in their accomplishment.
To be honest, there are days when I contemplate leaving this coaching role. Days when I'd rather not have to block out time in my schedule for practice, or have to plan practices or fit in extra admin time for emails, etc. Times when herding my group of willy-nilly cats leaves me with a hoarse voice and a head clouded with frustration and I wonder why I am still doing this. But today reminded me why. Little MacAdam's freckled face and Mighty's intense efforts and Devilyn's fortitude and Danimyte's shy smile and T-Bomb's enthusiasm... all just a few of the reminders I enjoyed today.