It’s The Coaches Turn: “I Know That You Think You are Difficult to Coach” and Nine Other Things Coaches Want to Say to Their Fearful Gymnasts

coach and gym

Earlier this week I posted a blog written from the perspective of fearful gymnasts to their coaches, “I Know That I am Difficult to Coach” and Nine Other Things Fearful Gymnasts Want to Tell Their Coaches.”

The response was overwhelming. Former gymnasts wrote telling me how fear drove them from the sport they loved. Coaches commented that it gave them insight to how their fearful athletes think. And, parents mentioned to me how relieved their child felt reading it. One little girl’s comment that really touched me was “this is the truest thing I ever read.”

Then I came across a heartfelt response from the coach’s perspective that I found both honest and charming. After reading her essay, I was tempted to hop in a car, drive to her state and kidnap her to come coach at JAG. But since there are laws against such behaviors (I am kidding people…well, sort of, because after you read what she wrote I am betting many of you will want to hire her too) I restrained myself.   Instead, reaching out to her to ask if she would allow me to share her words on this blog.

Gratefully, she agreed. So, I share with you all what Coach Michelle Ernst wrote on her Facebook wall.

It’s really beautiful:

“I saw the article about “I know I am difficult to coach”. After reading it, I felt the need to respond.

  1. I know that you think you are difficult to coach. It is true. You are difficult to coach, but it is because of you that I love to coach. Just like you, I feel less accomplished when I am not effective.
  2. I worry that you don’t like me. I know that my pushing you is annoying to you. To your parents. To your other teammates. And even sometimes to me. And I worry that it is not just my pushing you that annoys you, but it is me that annoys you. So, in addition to trying to help you cope with your fear, I am worried that you don’t want me to coach you.
  3. Being fearful is different than being stubborn. You are right that the outcome is the same, but the source is different. If I didn’t care, then I would not take the time to know the difference. I know the issue is much deeper than the skill and it is something personal within. When I am upset, it is really not about you. In fact, I feel terrible that you are upset with yourself.
  4. I can’t just “stop it”. I wish I could. Believe me. But I really am teaching you many different types of coping skills even when you do not recognize them in the moment. So, it’s not that I am ignoring you, there are times you do need time by yourself to work things out.
  5. Yelling or threatening doesn’t SOLVE your fear issues, but does make you stop and think. That goes back to the issue of stubborn or real fear. My daughter, who had true fears, once told me that if you are truly fearful, no yelling, threat, or bribe (which she feels is the worse), will make you go. She said that if you do go because of one of these, then you are just stubborn and make it harder for those who are truly fearful. I have always treasured what she told me because she knew of what she spoke and spoke from the heart. Sometimes you do need that stern voice or time-out to help tighten up your mind.
  6. Your fear is a real thing. When you say that you are sometimes scared for no good reason, the reason does not have to be good–it just is. As long as you feel it, it is real.
  7. I do love gymnastics and I do want you to improve. You are the reason that I keep coming to practice and I keep trying. I do want this for you. I do care.
  8. I would give anything for you not to be scared. I am trying everyday to help you get better at coping with your fears, but please understand that this is a process. Everyday will be better.
  9. Please be there for me. Help me to help you to work through your fears. Be patient. Take the time to do the small steps. Be accepting to do alternative skills that may be different from your teammates. If you are still struggling, communicate with me. Do not just stare at me and cry. Maybe your problem is bigger than gymnastics. Be open-minded about it. Pay attention and realize that I am here for you, not against you. You are my athlete, and I need you!!!
  10. You are not alone. We can get through this together.”

Thank you to Michelle and for all of the coaches who share similar sentiments in working with athletes.

You are influencing eternity by your teaching, and the world needs you!

As the American author Arnold H. Glasow wrote, “The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”