A task for me over the past year has been to figure out how our gym classes can have an impact on children’s lives way beyond that short experience. That’s been me for the past year - i’m motivated by the big picture, and it’s been as frustrating as it has been enjoyable.
Here’s a couple of experiences of mine. The 2nd is a little provocative - but these things make us think ;D
My time to shine. I had a realisation whilst driving today (I have many of these). I played soccer as a kid, firstly as a goalkeeper. I think it was because I didn’t have the greatest ball control, and I was pretty tall as an 11 year old so filled up a lot of the goal. I got some enjoyment from winning games, but the most enjoyable ones were the games against the hard teams where I was in the thick of the action. I remember hoping that players would shoot at me, and I got ridiculously bored in the games where we were on top.
My realisation was that all I wanted out of the game was a little time to shine.
To make that great save no one expected and to have my teammates pat me on the back. I started playing as a centre back when I was 13/14 and I didn’t enjoy the game as much - I think because it’s a position that is hard to be recognised, the good stuff you do goes unnoticed. This is why all kids want to be strikers, they want to score goals, it’s an obvious reward. I have vivid memories of the good saves I made, the good strikers on the opposition teams, and It was because of the value I placed on doing my job well. It was more important than winning...
Kids just want a time to shine, they want to be good at something, this carries on all through life.
It’s why getting likes on instagram, or being good at video games, or answering those difficult questions in class, gives you those little hits of joy.
The problem these days? We can get too many empty hits of joy. What do I mean by empty? They come without physical experience, they come without physical nutrition, they’re all in the mind.
I got the hit from saving a goal. I was with a group of mates, I was outside in the cold, I was covered in mud, I was getting knocked by players and diving around on the grass, my body was getting fed with enormous physical nutrition. And I still have those memories and friendships from when I was 11…26 years ago…Do I remember that person who liked my photo 5 minutes ago?
How does this relate to the gym?
I’ve realised it doesn’t matter what we do in each class, it’s about giving kids the chance to shine, whilst giving them as much physical nutrition possible.
If kids have a positive relationship to movement, it will serve them well through life, that’s what we’re aiming to achieve.
My frustration with parents. Being away from swimming has allowed space to look back. I realised that one aspect that served me well as a coach was always looking for that little good thing my swimmers would do. I got so frustrated with some parents at swim competitions.
Their child would race and all they would see was a time, was it better or worse than their personal best?
They would be generally, encouraging, ‘well done, you almost got it,’ but they failed to see the bigger picture. This 11 year old would be training 5 times a week, turning up and pushing themselves, working on all aspects of a race (the start, the streamline, the breakout, their speed in the first quarter, their turn entry, the turn, the streamline, the breakout, the effort in the second half, the stroke rate, the power, the breathing, the finish), yet they would be judged simply on their time.
They were 2 seconds off the best they’ve EVER swum.
They’re at the pool, expressing themselves physically, hanging out with their mates and feeding their bodies with positivity, to be told ‘you’ll get it next time.’ As a coach all my hard work in preparing this swimmer and teaching them positive lessons was constantly being eroded by a well meaning but harmful sentence.
So what’s the point of these emails?
I want to share my experiences as a human, and as a someone who has spent over half their life trying to help kids shine. I have stuff that’s failed, and things that have worked, and I think these stories and experiences are valuable.
You are the most important people in your kids lives. No matter how much they won’t listen to you, they do. They will mirror you from the day they come into the world (another email).