The greatest compliments I’ve received on my coaching are when my athletes see me years later and mention how much I inspired them. I find that interesting because I didn't enter coaching to be an inspiration. I just wanted to help people chase their dreams - and coaching was an avenue to that purpose. The more I developed as a coach, the more I realized how I coached, lived my life, and reacted to situations had a big impact on my athletes. Whether I asked for it or not, I had become a role model for my them. I also came to realize that my athletes were developing into leaders and role models for those around them. Whether we realize it or not, we are role models and inspirations to someone. Along that theme, here is a lesson I would teach my athletes.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” - Timo Cruz in the movie Coach Carter (based on a quote by Marianne Williamson).
We all have a list of people that inspire us; those that conquer whatever life throws at them. You need to be aware that as an athlete you may be that person to others and, therefore, will be held to a high standard. Just as with professional athletes, those outside of athletics will scrutinize your behavior closely. You will be praised for your dedication and successes as athletes but must be prepared to carry the burden of a role model. This is a tremendous responsibility as well as a tremendous opportunity to educate people on the type of quality individuals athletics can produce. Be the light to inspire others to be the person they imagine themselves becoming.
When you fall or fail, it’s okay. Life is not linear. It is a never-ending roller coaster. Inspirational people are rarely those that always win; they are often those that fall only to rebound higher than before. It’s that “badger tough” attitude that allows them to accomplish things others only dream of. As an athletes, you will be seen at your best and worst. It’s easy to be gracious and giving when things go well. You will, however, be remembered more for your faults and how you deal with failure. True heroes are those that can be dignified while dejected.
As you train and race through these tough summer months, keep in mind that there will probably be someone watching you. Be their inspiration. Be their light.
Good luck and happy racing!