Last week, I wrote about how parenting made me a better coach. The reverse is at least as true. While the old saying "you're never ready to become a parent" is true, there are many ways in which being a coach, and a swim coach in particular, gave me a leg up in my humble beginning as a father.
More than anything, parenting is the ultimate coaching job. It is extremely long term, constantly evolving, and it takes tremendous time and energy. It's also the most rewarding. Watching a swimmer go a best time is crazy fun. Watching your child learn makes you feel like the most important person in the world.
Before I get too weepy, there are some really practical ways that coaching prepares you for parenting:
1. Early morning wake-ups? No big deal- Babies do not come into this world sleeping 10 hours through the night. The early days of parenting are a sleep struggle for all new parents, and sometimes it feels like there is no end in sight.
If you've swum or coached, you've had plenty of tough wake-ups in your life. Waking up to hang out with a very cute little bundle that looks like you is far more pleasant. Even if she is screaming like a banshee.
2. Knowing when to say "no"- As a coach, you'll encounter swimmers at many different ages and many different stages of development. All of them should be at a stage where they can handle hearing "no" from an adult. If you've encountered fifteen year old who can't handle hearing no, you'll be pretty motivated to go differently with your own child
As soon as my daughter started making phrases, she started hearing no from me. Especially when she fixated on "wanting" something and threw a temper tantrum about it. Instead I gave her a hug, reminded her that I loved her, but under no circumstances was I going to accede to a whirling ball of limbs.
3. You know how to trust other people who care for your child- As a coach, you are constantly working with other people's children. You know how frustrating it can be when parents react emotionally to something with their child and lash out at you. When you become a parent, you instantly understand the emotions these parents are feeling.
So when my daughter started daycare, and subsequently pre-school, I started from a position of trust with the people that cared for her. I said "thank you" at the end of the day when I picked her up. When my daughter was struggling with one thing or another, I came to them to ask for help and we tackled problems together.
It's an unfortunate climate in swim coaching that so many workplaces are not good for family life. Workplaces that recognize how much value they can get by giving their coaches the space and time to build these relationships will see a huge advantage.
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