I had this tennis coach in high school. He also happened to be my middle school math teacher. His name was Mr. Anderson, but like all of the coolest teachers, his students called him by his nickname, Mr. A. We used to bet sodas on NFL games. He was one of those teachers that snuck puns into his lessons to keep us engaged and he told jokes so cheesy that you couldn’t help but groan in between the chuckles. I loved going to his class, but his math lessons aren’t what impacted my life the most.
See, I was always pretty confident in my academic work, but out on a tennis court? Well, that’s a whole different ball game (See what I did there? That one was for you, Mr. A). I had taken a few basic tennis lessons as a kid, but I was completely out of my element. And I was the biggest person the team (and I don’t mean the tallest) and, by far, the slowest. That meant that I couldn’t keep up, even on our warm-up laps around the field, much less doing (hundreds of thousands of) suicides on the tennis courts. I remember feeling completely inadequate and entirely out of my comfort zone in the first few practices.
I almost quit the team.
Mr. A was the reason I stuck it out (along with a very persuasive friend on the team).
I know he saw my physical deficits, but he never once pointed them out to me. He studied his players, noting our strengths, and figured out ways to draw out the best in each of us. He never lowered the bar for me. I was always expected to run just as far as everybody else, but as I was huffing and puffing and wishing I could just collapse on the pavement, he would drop to the back of the pack and run next to me, encouraging me to keep going. And because of him, I did. Instead of emphasizing my snail-like pace on the court, he taught me the strategy and technical of the game and showed me how to develop a killer spin serve that won us quite a few matches (hidden bonus – when your opponent can’t return your serve, you don’t have to run as much!).
It was still embarrassing that I couldn’t fit into the cute little tennis outfits that everybody else wore and that I always came in last in every running drill we did, but by the end of the season, it didn’t seem to matter as much. I was so proud of the skills that I had developed and even though I was still the slowest player on the team, I was so much faster and stronger than I had been at the beginning of the season.
He taught me to push my boundaries and do things I didn’t even know I was capable of. He was able to see the potential in me that I couldn’t see in myself. He was able to see beyond my excess weight, my puffy red cheeks, and all of the other things that could have held me back and instead, he drew out hidden strengths that minimized my weaknesses. I am forever grateful for him for giving me the confidence and the courage to do hard things, during and forever after those tennis seasons. Even when it’s difficult. Even when I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. Even when I feel like I can’t do it…I do it anyway.
That, my friends, is the beauty of coaching. It’s the ability to see past the weaknesses, the weight, the circumstances, and all of the other roadblocks that might be in the way and see success, even when you can’t see it yourself. It’s dropping to the back of the pack to meet you where you are and encourage you to just keep going, even when you feel like collapsing on the pavement. It’s the person that can draw out the best parts of you to shift your focus from your failures and inabilities to your long list of capabilities. The person that will believe in you when you don’t even believe in yourself.
That is what my new program, Finding Freedom, is all about – support, encouragement, and seeing beyond. One of the bonuses that I have added into my group program is a one-on-one session with me (over Skype or the phone) so that, together, we can figure out a way to break through the mental and physical barriers that have been holding you back, and get you moving forward, losing weight, and seeing the results that you are more than capable of achieving.