My last training update was in January. Its now April. Much has happened since then, so its time for an update! This post includes two parts: two trials and a triumph. Trial #1 is posted today, while trial #2 (Monterrey 70.3) and THE Brazil 70.3 podium triumph will be posted on Tuesday. I’ve been fired, I’ve been sick, and I have performed. This post highlights a sudden change in coaching leadership, the concept of resiliency, and how adversity has challenged my process.
As many know, I have a PhD in Counseling Psychology, with a minor in Health Psychology. The concept of resilience has always been exceptionally intriguing to me. In fact, resilience and hope was the precise topic of my dissertation. During my academic training, I worked in a rehabilitation unit and helped patients cope with life threatening illnesses, spinal cord injuries, amputations, strokes, and other disabilities. My job was to facilitate meaning making, build resilience, and help patients bounce back from adversity. Academically and professionally, I know the term ‘resilience’ quite well. Nothing was more special to me than to gradually witness patients begin to process their traumatic disabilities and diagnoses within a life-propelling framework, and begin to reject the idea that their situations were destined to be life-ending events. My studies were curious about those people who flourished despite negative circumstances. For some, resilience helped transform and reframe their life, take control, and naturally cut out unnecessary garbage that once seemed important. When this process unfolded, joy and opportunity in every day moments transpired. Patients were now able to thrive and enjoy life’s process, as daunting as their path lay before them. This is the essence of resilience. Finding the joy in difficulties and finding new meaning and opportunity.
So, when I have trials, it might seem that since I have obtained a doctorate on the topic, teach it regularly, and have had my own share of non-sport tragedies, that I am perfectly equipped when suckiness strikes. But like a physician whose own father is having a cardiac arrest in front of him, all training and expertise disappears when in the midst of it, and the doc is left panicked and distraught, unable to effectively act. Here’s my latest ‘test’, my latest trial, as it relates to sport.
TRIAL #1: YOU’RE FIRED!
I’ve been competing in sports since age 6. I have probably had over 20 coaching/athlete relationships over the years. I’ve been blessed with outstanding coaches and mentors who have believed in me and worked along side me to help maximize my performance. In my soccer years, my coaches had 18 players on the team, and the best coaches adapted the program to the particular set of athletes. They utilized athletes’ existing strengths to build a solid team foundation. Forcing a ‘square’ athlete into ‘round’ team doesn’t work. The system must adapt to the athlete, all while growing the athlete physically, emotionally, mentally.
Disciplined….focused…hard working…leader….determined…relentless…are some of the traits that I know my past coaches would use to describe me. Robotic is not one of the terms. I’m an athlete who needs to understand what exactly is expected of me, clarifies for precision, and one who enjoys constant learning and engagement. As a daughter of two Irish immigrants, I have also been taught that my voice is important, and that collaborative relationships make me thrive. That’s enough context….
Three weeks before my first race of the season, I was fired by my swim coach, Tim Floyd, of Magnolia Masters. Six months of believing in his unique and historically effective system, speaking with him almost daily, and executing his workouts to the very best of my ability disappeared overnight. Our personalities and ideas clashed a few times in those 6 months, but nothing that a discussion couldn’t solve—any relationship takes work. There was no drawn out drama, or constant arguing over objectives. Interestingly, quite contrary to my previous coach/athlete relationships, from time to time, Tim would tell me that I was THE most difficult pro athlete he was coaching. I never understood these statements and his examples were vague. Perhaps I was a ‘square, and his program was a ‘circle’. More often than not, however, I believed we were on the same page with our direction. So what happened? One night, Tim and I had a misunderstanding, he became upset, and I became upset at his reaction. The next day, and I received an email of termination. Done. It’s over. There are two sides—I’m certain his frustration ran deeper than one misunderstanding, but I honestly hope his side makes better sense than my side.
If you want to know details about the misunderstanding, I’ll tell you, but really there is no need—in fact, the details lack any substantial juice, but let me tell you this: this event floored me, paralyzed me. The rug ripped out from under my feet and I could no longer stand. The stress I felt was palpable and my head was spinning. I felt sick to my stomach for days, and questioned whether I wanted to continue competing. The opposite of resilience was occurring. I was allowing myself to be negatively transformed, instead of propelled by this event. Typically a tough athlete, I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t bouncing back as quickly as I thought I should.
Tim and I worked together as close as a remote relationship would allow–I was in Minnesota, he was in Texas. I had seen some much needed swim improvements. For the last 8 weeks or so, however, I had plateaued, but continued to believe in the process and put in the hard work. I believed I was in the best hands, hands that gave me some hope. But let’s be real here, there is no perfect coach, no perfect system, no perfect athlete, but there needs to be a mutually compatible match. From his perspective, after the misunderstanding, our work together could no longer continue. I’m not interested in condemning the swim program or vilifying the coach. Tim was also a friend, and the Woodland’s swim community was also like family, so my perceived losses were great.
So, where did my resilient “joy” come from? Pure gratitude. My prayer life flourished, and a sense of peace and growth came across me during these moments. Since when were we promised a trial free life? A trial free life offers no opportunity for personal or spiritual growth. This is also swimming, not even close to what my patients have had to endure. I’ve worked too hard to allow another person’s choice dictate my objectives and destination. For me, perspective and prayer is everything. My faith to “run my race” still exists, pools still exist, my hard work and determination still exist, my goals still exist, other great swim coaches still exist, and my treasured relationships with my friends, family, and triathlon coach still exist. A problem that once seemed monumental was shrinking, and, now, the ‘problem’ doesn’t exist anymore. Time, prayer, and meaningful conversations have allowed for moments of clarity to shake my thought destruction and get back on track.
To adequately move on requires resilience. It also requires a softened heart, rid of anger or resentment, and full of introspection, perspective taking, responsibility accepting, but complete with forgiveness. I held onto anger for two weeks too long. Forgiveness can come in various forms, but self-destruction occurs when one holds onto such anger or resentment. I also have no interest in defamation. Tim is a great coach who has a successful swim program. Check out my January swim camp blog. I wouldn’t change any sentiments about Tim, and I’m very grateful for everything he taught me. That said, I am not going to give this situation any more attention than it deserves. I’ve moved on. I choose to be resilient. This life-propelling choice has fueled my fire and my drive for 2015 Kona qualification. It has fortified my reliance on my faith and trust in God’s funny little plan, and has allowed me to teach my children rich and priceless life lessons through this experience. For these life propelling opportunities, I am truly grateful.
Next up Tuesday: a few race reports!