One criticism that i've received in this space is that it is overly negative. If it has been, it's only because I am writing about something that has received far too little attention. I don't love talking about dark issues any more than the next person, but more of us need to do so.
But, this post is about optimism. This is a word that I find a great many people are confused about. Quite often it is associated with relentless positivity. In contrast, discussing problems can often be seen as "negative", and therefore not optimistic.
This is not true. Real optimism acknowledges that bad things have happened. With an optimistic eye, you try to create a new reality where such bad things are unlikely to happen again, and where the environment is conducive to better outcomes. Finally, you move to do everything you can control to make sure that bad thing does not happen again. That is true optimism.
So I feel optimistic in this moment. I believe that there are more people talking about problems in coaching than there have been for a long time. That will lead to more coaches than ever acknowledging those problems and trying to create a new reality. And that will lead to more than ever great amounts of energy towards improving the experience for everyone involved in our sport.
Since I began coaching, I've traded endless stories with other coaches. Inevitably we go back to some of what we experienced in athletes. The conversation usually follows from how much "nicer" we are than those who coached us before.
When I was in High School, I had a coach for two weeks once. He managed to pack a lot of crazy into those two weeks.
Among other things, he asked us all to do blindfolded flips off the diving board. He thought this would build toughness and claimed that he drew his coaching resources from his time swimming at Mercersburg Academy for John Trembley.
He also encouraged us to jump from the stands into the pool headfirst. An easy four foot jump, but certain spinal trauma if you missed.
This coach was extreme. But there were a lot of more "benign" behaviors I can remember from other coaches, from punishing swimmers with grueling swimming sets to screaming at a kid for missing a flip turn, that don't have a place in the modern swimming world.
The people we are hearing from at the moment have experienced the worst of the worst in coaching. They deserve more than a defensive, head in the sand response from the coaching community. They deserve to have their message amplified. They deserve to have us humbly ask them what we could do to make things better going forward.
So let's be optimistic together, for the good of the sport. Let's draw all the brain power away from defending "coaching" and into making coaching better. It starts by acknowledging the problems exists, and then working to create a new experience for everyone in the sport.
Want to train your own, or your team's optimism? Write me.