The Ups and Downs of coaching under the Midnight Sun

The thing about big life altering decisions is that don’t realize you’ve made them until you’re staring out from the crater pit your life has become thinking…’what the eff?’

Two months ago I decided to quit my job and move back home. The decision to step away from my job at CCO was never meant to be a move away from coaching. In fact, it was motivated by exactly opposite reasons. As a Provincial coach I rarely had opportunities to work with athletes in a direct, consistent manner. I was always fighting for more opportunities to do so. In the end it wasn’t a place that was going to allow me to grow into the coach I want to be.

So here I am at 28, living with my mom, cobbling together enough part-time work to afford volunteer coaching three senior athletes. On bad days it feels like my career, the place where all my passion is- is just an empty pit. What happened? But everyday I watch the Air North flight take off above my house and everyday I’m happy I’m not on it. Even on the bad days.

People sometimes think you need to be an ex-World Cup athlete to be a great coach. I disagree. The most important trait of a great coach is to understand excellence and the drive it takes to achieve that. It’s not a casual whim, it’s an innate need, a disgust of mediocrity, a strong conviction that you are capable of more than anyone will imagine.

Knute, Colin and Kendra are all proving to be challenging athletes, each in their own way.

Writing a program for Kendra exemplifies the challenges of working with Senior Women in our country. Kendra is an extremely talented Canadian athlete. She’s also pursuing school, working to pay for school and interested in engaging in extracurricular activities. A lot of people would say working with her is a waste of time. Maybe. But it’s not as if Canada has a  great track record right now when it comes to producing competitive female skiers who stick around our system. If Canada wants to retain female athletes at the senior level we’re all going to have to learn how accommodate a person’s life outside of training. So that’s what we’re doing.

Knute and Colin pose their own challenge. For one, I’ve never worked with athletes as strong and fit as they are. It’s a mental adjustment for me to figure out what they’re capable of, both in terms of training sets and in terms of technical execution. When I imagine they’d be exploding from effort they’re pushing lactates of 6 [nbd]. When I think they can’t move any faster they kick into a sprint. But they do need coaching, and what I’m learning is when and where senior athletes need support.

So that’s where things are at right now. It’s a bit rough. I feel like I’ve fallen off the face of the earth, and that I’ll never get the chance to formally coach a team of Junior and Senior athletes. But I continue to believe in excellence, and as of yet- I’m still not ready to settle for mediocrity.



3 Comments on “The Ups and Downs of coaching under the Midnight Sun

  1. As a leader, your goals and aspiration must be strong enough to sustain you through the toughest of times.
    – Brian Billick

    I’m going through a similar existential crisis, also having left a full time gig coaching junior nordies.

    Would love to share words of encouragement and thoughts via email!

    The difficulty of your current situation can cloud WHY you made that initial decision. Trust that you made it for the right reasons, and charge ahead.


  2. Thanks for your sharp reflections. Their extremely thought provoking for me who is in a position to start to form Jackrabbit coaches and while I get back into training myself as well as coaching midgets and others. Will see you at Lappe in March 2015.

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