Life coaching: But last year...

I wasn't much of a swimmer, but for some reason, I joined the swim team anyway. I don't know what motivated me to inflict this punishment on myself.

ben goldfarb 88 (photo credit: )
ben goldfarb 88
(photo credit: )
I wasn't much of a swimmer, but for some reason, I joined the swim team anyway. I don't know what motivated me to inflict this punishment on myself. I dove into the ice cold water every weekday morning of my summer vacation at 7 o'clock. I asked myself the same question that many athletes ask during challenging times, "What am I doing out of bed?" Our team had a meeting at the beginning of each week. We would discuss various issues such as upcoming field trips, facts and fantasies about the teams with whom we would be competing, and whether or not Mark Spitz would drop by for a surprise visit to show us his 7 gold medals. Invariably, Molly, our "butterfly" champion, would utter her infamous phrase during these meetings. Her tonality was not unlike the sound of a hamster doing a Madonna impression. "But last year….." In her 11-year-old brain, she would look at current reality and compare it to a similar situation the year before. If the realities were the same, she would remain quiet. However, if the two scenarios were different, her nervous system would send a command to her mouth to say those words in a whining voice "But last year….." I'm a patient guy and I have a high tolerance for pain. I can tune out annoying people and their wretched tonality. However, our coach was different. Yelling was one of his hobbies. Anger shouldn't be managed, he reasoned, it should be cultivated. Coach Miller used to be a truck driver, a Latin tutor and a short order cook. He was forced into early retirement because he tried to do these jobs at the same time. He was stuck with us now. Ironically, Molly was only the subject of his wrath one time per season. He could hear Molly's whining "but last year" the entire summer without reacting. However, when the red line was crossed, he blew up at Molly way out of proportion to her offense. Towards the end of the season, Coach Miller started talking to us about the upcoming swim meet. We were instructed to bring our own lunches this year. He was about to explain why this was different than last year when Molly raised her hand. We all signaled to her to put her hand down. Her best friend was begging her to be quiet. Molly was insistent. We all braced ourselves for the fallout. "But last year…" Molly started. Coach Miller stopped what he was saying and looked deep into Molly's eyes. I could smell the chlorine rising from the pool and the faint odor of Jack Daniels on Coach Miller's breath. Someone's transistor radio was playing "Free Bird." He clenched his fists and was about to throw his clipboard to the ground. Suddenly, his central nervous system gave him a new command. He had some kind of epiphany. He took a deep breath and said the following. "The Good Lord didn't bless me and my wife with our own kids. I see all of you as my own children. I love each member of this swim team like you are my own flesh and blood." "Then why do you yell at us all the time," I asked, expecting to be thrown into the pool. "I'm tough on you because I want to prepare you for the real world, which is a lot tougher than I am." Coach Miller continued, "I'm not just speaking to Molly now, but I'm speaking to all of you. Just because something was done "last year" doesn't mean it was right. It may have been the correct thing then, but not necessarily. We have to learn to think out of the box and do what's best for us this year and next year, and not just what we did in the past." "I admire Molly for speaking up. And I want to publicly apologize for every time I yelled at her, and for that matter, for every time I yelled at all of you." We had never heard the coach apologize for anything. "My yelling came from a place of love, and now I have to show how much I love you in a different way. I want to thank Molly for teaching me a great lesson." With that statement, the coach hugged Molly. We had never seen the coach hug anyone except his wife when she picked him up after practice. We lost the swim meet, but we had a good time. Coach Miller smiled a lot and was very encouraging. He was definitely a new man, and not like last year at all. At the awards banquet, I received the "Most Improved Swimmer" trophy which I think was a way of thanking me for not drowning and thereby sparing the team from a nasty law suit. Ben Goldfarb was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, and is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. He moved to Israel in 1988. He is the founder and director of Paradigm Shift Communications. He has given seminars and training sessions at Israel Aircraft Industry and Philips Medical Systems. His book, "Double Feature: A Nostalgic Peek into the Future" will be published in the summer. He lives with his wife and children in Jerusalem. For more information about his coaching practice, visit the Paradigm Shift Communications website, or send an email to [email protected] © Copyright 2008 by Ben Goldfarb