**Note: This article was originally written for Moonshine Ink, where an abbreviated version of this one was published. But with such a limited word count, I wanted just a bit more space here on my blog to talk about why coaching is important to me. You can also check out the original (shorter) article here.**
“Why I Coach”
As someone with several jobs who also recently stepped up to the professional ranks of triathlon, I’m often asked why I continue to coach the Nordic Team at North Tahoe High School. It’s no secret that coaching is not the most financially lucrative job out there, and it certainly takes considerable time and energy that I could otherwise be putting in to my own athletic pursuits.
But the rewards of coaching are unique and extensive, and there are so many reasons why I coach, and why I absolutely love it.
I coach because it’s the most fun I have ever had on snow. From “adventure skis” in the woods to sparkly spandex tights, to dance-offs at pasta feeds to singing at the top of our lungs in the car on race trips… my skiers are full of so much positive energy and enthusiasm for skiing and for life. Their spirit is infectious. It rubs off on me, and helps me see the fun in everything.
I coach because the NTHS Nordic team is truly something special. These 26 kids are each amazing in their own right, but there’s nothing quite like seeing the way they come together and operate as one team. The camaraderie, support and sportsmanship they share are evident through all that they do. Nothing quite compares to watching the spirit and drive of a brand new skier as they work to get through their first full ski race, and even more so the dedication and genuine love of a team as they ski behind that new skier to encourage her up the final hill. It is these special moments that make coaching unmatched. I’ve watched these kids learn how to work hard, to dream, to believe, to push, to win, to lose, and most of all, to be teammates. And I have watched them blossom into not just great athletes, but incredible people.
I coach because these kids help remind me what skiing is really all about. Our team has a style that is all its own, and they own that style wholeheartedly. We are not always the fastest, and certainly not always the most “serious,” but these kids understand that skiing is about much more than the results. They understand — and they’ve taught me — that it’s okay to take snack breaks, to stop at a viewpoint on the way to Mammoth (even if you’re running late for the race) because it’s just too beautiful not to take a group selfie, and to sing (loud!) while waxing, no matter how many people are around to hear it. They know that what is truly important is not the order in which they cross the finish, but everything that went in to getting there, all the memories they created along the way, and how much fun they had making it happen. (And, let’s be honest… sometimes having the coolest spandex really is important!)
I coach because even on the tough days when it seems you’re working way too hard and wondering why, it just takes one athlete doing something that reminds you why it’s all worth it; and almost always that something has nothing to do with a first place finish. I coach because there are kids who just won’t give up for anything, no matter how hard things get.
I coach because there’s nothing quite like seeing someone else’s dream come true, and knowing you played a role in making it happen. At times I feel I’m almost more invested in my athletes’ successes than my own, having witnessed everything they went through on their journey to get there and stood by their side along the way. I get nervous for their races; I get excited for their results; I get emotional about their successes. To watch these athletes break down barriers, believe in themselves, discover their potential and push to reach it is amazing. And to know you played a role in that process is truly something to be proud of.
I coach because I know just how important of a job it really is. Because I know that I am helping to give these athletes a gift that will last a lifetime, and playing a role in their lives that is different from anyone else. As a former high school skier here in Tahoe myself, I know firsthand just how much the lessons they learn from this sport will help them get through all aspects of life. I know how long they will carry these memories with them. And I know how much the lifelong friendships they are developing on this team will come to mean to them in the future.
I coach because while I am a teacher in that role, these kids teach me too — and they push me to be better. They remind me why sport really matters, and just how much fun it can be. They remind me of the importance of being a leader and setting a good example. I can never give up because I expect them not to. I can never give less than 100 percent because I ask them to do the same. As coaches, our aim is to inspire the kids we work with to become the best version of themselves. But what I never expected was just how much this group of kids would actually inspire me to do the same.
So why do I coach? Because, so far, I haven’t found anything that quite matches up to all of that. Thank you, North Tahoe Nordic athletes, for the inspiration and for letting me be a part of your lives. I am so proud to be your coach.