I went to school for seven years, and attained a Masters degree in criminology from Simon Fraser University. For the last several years I have had a fairly straightforward plan: after I retire from sport I will use my education in a law enforcement or law-related field .
However, in the months since the Olympic Games, I have taken on a larger role in coaching than I have in previous years. This role has had resulted in me second-guessing my life plan.
Could I make a career as a wrestling coach? Would I be satisfied and happy in this role? Would I even make a good coach?
The girls on the SFU wrestling team are some of the kindest, most respectful, hardest working, and most dedicated group. Are all groups like this? Or is this just a special group that makes only them so enjoyable to work with?
These are all questions I ask myself (and some of those closest to me daily, as I try to come to conclusive answers. I don't think these questions are easy to answer,.. and perhaps I wont ever know the answers unless I explore life as a coach further.
I think what makes coaching so fun and so rewarding is that you can see change and growth in your athletes. You get to see them mature, learn, and grow as athletes and as people.
As a coach you have so much responsibility, as your beliefs and your actions influence the behaviours, values, and decisions of your athletes. You are a mentor, role model, and teacher for young people- what an amazing privilege! But with privilege also comes responsibility. Coaches must be aware of their influence and take this responsibility seriously, as a coach’s behaviour and their teachings can greatly impact the trajectory of young peoples' lives.
As a coach, you get to clearly see the fruit of athletes’ labour. You see athletes working hard, and listening to your every word and every piece of advice. You see them struggle, and you see them persevere and succeed. Watching others train and compete over a period of time makes it easy to see improvements through an outside, objective eye- and that has to be the best feeling as a coach. Seeing these improvements, and seeing those athletes who train hard and deserve success and progress- make progress and achieve success.
However, I have also come to realize that coaching is extremely challenging. It’s emotionally exhausting being invested in so many different individuals. I win with the athletes I coach but I also lose with them.
Mike Jones- the SFU women’s head coach, the best coach I have ever had, and the most liked coach in Canada wrestling (okay- the ladder title was made up by me)- recently told me- “I have been doing coaching for over 40 years and what I can tell you is that you are rarely truly happy in this job”. When I questioned him on what he actually meant by such a negative statement he gave the 2016 Olympic results as an example. Helen Maroulis, his past athlete/ SFU wrestler became an Olympic champion- the highest accolade you can achieve in this sport, and therefore he was ecstatic! However, on the same day, I, who also was his athlete, had the opposite result. I was injured in warm-up at the Games and unable to compete. Mike said coaching is filled with days like this. Days where you are so proud of certain athletes’ achieving their goals,and accomplishing successes but also saddened for other deserving athletes who have failed to achieve similar successes and triumphs. These remarks reflect the exhausting and constant reality that exists in the coaching world and a reality that seems unavoidable and emotionally tolling.
Additionally, the amount of work and energy it takes to be a good coach I have also come to appreciate fully through my coaching experiences this year. It's a 24-7 job. You’re planning and running practices, recruiting, replying to emails, attending meetings, balancing finances, applying for funding, planning and traveling to tournaments and camps, doing other paperwork… I could go on but you get the point. As athletes we just think about the coaching but do not realize what goes on in between, before, and after practices. There is ALWAYS something to do. The “to do” list never ends. You can always be doing something, or improving something. Everyone wants more from you. This knowledge had me think about all of the past coaches I have ever had. It has made me further appreciate all the GREAT coaches I have had. What a difficult job it is to adequately do everything required as a coach. I can so clearly see that it takes a very special kind of person to make a good coach and be able to commit their lives to this role.
(Thank you to all the great coaches who have coached me in the past! I can never adequately thank you enough. Special thank you’s to Mike Jones, George Grant, Clive Llewellyn, Paul Ragusa, & Leigh Vierling for being such great, consistent, passionate, and loving coaches to me. You all are truly special.)
Anyways... I am not a person to do anything half- way. So, until I am certain that I would make a great head-coach and be happy in this role as a career, I will not put myself in that role. For now, I am so happy and excited to continue learning and improving my coaching knowledge through my role as an assistant coach at SFU!