Four Inches · 6 April 2024

If you know me or have read my blog for long, you know that I coach athletes who throw the shot, discus, and javelin. I often say that I coach the throws, but in reality, I know that I coach the athletes who do the throws. Which means that I deal with personalities. Which is the best part of coaching. And perhaps the most challenging.

We all know that everybody is unique. I know. Some people think that they have doppelgangers out there. People who look and maybe even act just like them. But I do not agree with those people. I think that everybody is unique. Which is a difficult thing when teaching and coaching because it means that one size does not fit all. One coaching technique does not work with every athlete. One form of praise and encouragement does not work with every person.

Take Maddy. Maddy is an exceptional athlete. She works hard every day. She listens and takes instruction. She applies that instruction to get better. True, she does this in her own unique Maddy fashion. She has this gruff exterior, but it hides her softer side. It hides the fact that she really cares. Not just about her own performance, but about her teammates and everybody around her. Her false bravado hides her true nature. She is a softy.

Which is not to say that all her gruffness is a façade. In fact, I think she is tough as well as gruff.

The thing is that Maddy’s toughness and gruffness is only toward herself. Yes, she wants the best from those around her. Ask her lifting partner, Lily. They push each other to be better than they were the day before. They want the best for each other. And for themselves. In the weight room. On the mat (they are both wrestlers too). And in throwing. They want the best for each other, but Maddy does not demand perfection from anybody but herself. (Lily is like that too, but in a different way. But that is a different story.)

I see this drive for perfection every day of Track and Field (T&F). Maddy wants one more throw at the end of practice. She thinks that even her farthest throws are too short. There is something wrong with each attempt. And she is right. But nobody ever attains perfection. It is a matter of doing the best we can to get close. Maddy does not see it this way. She knows that she can always do better. I love this about her even though I try to temper it with a bit of perspective. Unfortunately, Maddy will not have any of that. She knows that she can always do better.

The most poignant example of Maddy’s drive, self-deprecation, and gruffness was when she got her first Personal Record (PR) this year.

Maddy is a rare talent in discus at our school. Her freshman year, she was one throw away from going to the state competition. (Sorry for bringing up the memory.) Last year as a sophomore, Maddy was chasing the school record. (I probably should never have told her how close she was.) Her farthest throw of the year was not the school record she sought. But even though she went to the state competition, she felt her season was not complete because she did not get the school record.

This season, Maddy has had some nice throws. One of those throws on the day before the day of this writing, Maddy got her first PR of the season. I knew it was a good throw. And I was pretty sure it was close to the school record. When we heard the distance, Maddy did not jump for joy. She did not relish her PR. Instead, she said in anguish, “Four inches.” She knew that she was a mere four inches short of the school record (which has stood for twenty-four years).

I love all my athletes and students. I celebrate with them in their successes. I grieve with them in their failures. And I do the best I can to give them the personal encouragement that they need regardless of the situation.

I celebrate and grieve with Maddy. She got her first PR of the season! Just four inches short of the school record.

[Note: The day after this writing, Maddy got her second PR of the season. She broke the school discus record this time. By more than four inches.]

© 2024 Michael T. Miyoshi

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