Sitting in our 2 bedroom coaches apartment listening to the subway trains whistle by. The thunderous distraction makes it difficult to sleep through any night, but last night presented the largest challenge. The eve of the Team preliminary competition. The meet that sets the games in motion. The qualifying round for Team Finals, All Around Finals and all the individual apparatus. Wake up on the wrong side of the bed today and the sting of misfortune may endure for years to come. I did not sleep well.
Kathryn arrived yesterday, which helps direct my wondering mind towards the vicinity of a comfort zone. All the “better halves” are now in London and by this I am referring to the halves that seldom get the credit for the work they do. Silvia Brestyan (internationally respected Brevet Judge) , Galina Mainova (1980 Olympian and 2 time World Team Member for Bulgaria), Liwen Zhaung (beam coach for Olympic Gold Medallist Shawn Johnson), Howie Liang ( Producer of numerous USA and China national team members) and Kathryn (Beam and Floor coach for the 2011 World AA Champion). Each athlete represented here has 2 very capable and respected coaches, yet sometimes they exist silently in the shadows. These are not “secondary coaches” as they are sometime referred to by the national office. These are Olympic coaches that miss out on a little bit of the glory due to the limits enforced by the USOC, FIG and USAG. Their contributions have created the athletes that will represent the USA today.
The final 2 training sessions were very light. We were limited to one session on the day of opening ceremonies (the day after podium) and chose to do only one session yesterday being that it was the day prior to the real competition. I purposefully backed off Jordyn’s numbers. She needs her rest and Martha has little issue with this strategy provided it is not something we overuse.
It is the day of the single biggest competition of my 36 year coaching career. My thoughts drift back to the days of teaching my little brother and sister to do back handspring in the front yard when I was 14 and teaching some after school tumbling classes to the elementary schools while I was in high school. I was hooked early on. I loved coaching. Influences that contributed to this passion are not forgotten and in fact respected and appreciated. My elementary school assistant principal, Roger Witherbee who invited me to participate in a special after school gymnastics program, my high school coaches Jack Discher and Ray Timm who basically instilled work ethic and integrity as well as how to do things the right way. My first club boss and mentor Gary Anderson (the originator of the Capital Cup format) who instilled the strategies of organization and disciplined training. These are people that I owe a great deal too. They pointed me down a path that twisted and turned, went uphill and downhill and eventually led me here to London. I am grateful.
Then there are the countless athletes that helped mold my ever evolving coaching style and philosophy. It to has taken some twists and turns over the years and some of my early athletes paid the price for my lack of knowledge at the time. This is one reason I pledge to assist with coaches education, to help shorten that learning curve for those coaches that wish to pursue excellence in this wonderful sport. But back to the athletes that stretch over the years… I thank them for enduring, achieving and putting me on the coaching map.
Likewise there are a long list of parents that have supported and endured as well. Those that believed that beneath the often gruff exterior was a heart that truly had that best interest of every athlete in mind. Parents that believed in the tough love approach to discipline and training. Parents that assisted in forming what has now become a gymnastics program with international acclaim. The numbers are too great to mention, but let it be known that I remember. I know and appreciate all that have contributed to this quest.
The clock nears the departure time. I close just in advance of slipping on the Red White and Blue Olympic Team Warm Up. This is a proud moment.