There are some amazing things to be taken from coaching. The default response everyone gives is that it is ‘so rewarding’ which is true. Being part of someone's journey and watching them progress is awesome, but what I love about coaching, is getting to know the people.
These are people I might never meet in normal circumstances if roller derby didn't exist. Most of them I have zero things in common with, other than wanting to put skates on our feet. Yet I spend an hour and half a week with them and possibly see parts of them someone they have known for years might not have ever seen.
You see the people you coach at their highest and at their lowest. When they are vulnerable and when they have enough confidence that they literally think they can fly. That's what I think is awesome. When people walk into the sports hall for the first time, they are putting themselves out there, and as adults this can be a big deal. Everyone joins for a different reason, whether it's fitness, to make new friends, or to find confidence. I'm also pretty sure half the people that walk in don't even know what roller derby is and aren't actually aware of what they are getting themselves into! But the reason doesn't matter. What is important is the fact I they have the guts to walk into a room of strangers that they are likely to fall on there ass in front of, and this is where my respect starts for the people I coach at our skate academy.
Everyone's first session is different because everyone is different, but they range from extremes from overly nervous to overly confident. Everyone progresses at different speeds, some people will struggle with the first skills they learn and others will take months before they hit a barrier. But everyone will eventually reach something that is a struggle for them. The way a person approaches these challenges shows me a little more of the kind of person they are and is where I start to get to know them better. When the frustration kicks in, when a person starts to get stressed out, their confidence drops, sometimes there are even tears. When you dig a little deeper you find out all of these emotions are entangled with someone’s actual life drama which they open up to you about and then suddenly you've become an (untrained) life coach! And this person is no longer just someone you teach skills to, they become someone you know and someone you are rooting for to get over that challenge and continue to progress. And that is what I have come to love about coaching skate academy.
As adults we generally don't put ourselves in positions where we are learning new physical skills, which can make asking for help harder and doing it the actual physical thing harder too. I see so many people feeling disheartened when it doesn't seem doable or they just can't get over a hurdle or a specific skill keeps holding them back.
I don't always say the right things and sometimes I probably make frustrating situations worse. I don't have any coaching qualifications, this isn't my job, but I just bring my life experience and derby knowledge to the table and see what we have to work with. And most of the time, if they want to stick it out and keep coming even though it's challenging, we find a way through it. I work with them to get them over the barrier and hopefully we laugh about it when we look back at the frustration. Sometimes it's doable within ten minutes (after a quick cry and pep talk), other times it takes hours and hours of frustrating skating. But if that person comes back every week with a smile and an attitude ready to learn, how can I not want to coach them? And when they finally master it, when it all clicks, I see the look of pure achievement, mixed with relief, on their face and it makes it all worth it. It's a feeling I can share with them as their coach and it’s the absolute best!
Some keep that smile until the end of the session, some just need to sit down and quit while they are ahead or some of them, and these are my favourite ones, look at me and say "what's next?" And yeah I know you’re not supposed to have favourite kids, buts that's impossible for me. My favourite people are not those who are good at skating from the start, it's those who want to be! And on top of it all, even though I'm mostly there to coach, I'm also there because I want to hang out with these people and make them want to come back. Because the best part is, when they pass all their skills, I am no longer their coach, I am their teammate. And building something with them is important for what lies ahead.
Through their Skate academy journey I see them under pressure and frustrated, but I also have seen their determination and success through hard work. They might be brand new teammates to other people on the team, but after coaching them through their min skills, they ain't no stranger to me and it's awesome.