Now that I’m heading back to Vancouver I’ve had some time to let my feelings and my thoughts settle, look at issues from a different perspective, reflect on my own experiences and form some opinions, so today this is gonna be one of my famously opinionated blogs! Yessss!!
So last night I went out for dinner with a bunch of my teammates and among them was one on the national team coaches. I’ve know him for years, but have never had a really good chance to get to know him, so sitting beside him that evening proved to be an excellent experience.
Now, to shamelessly toot my own horn, i was more then ecstatic when he complimented me on my skill level and talent as a boxer and athlete. This coach isn’t one to throw around compliments, so I felt very honored by his praise. He told me that with the right coaching – and I’m talking the right coach really – I could go as far as I wanted. After the week I’d had, this was such a great thing to hear as I was beginning to doubt my own skill level. Anyway, this whole week got me thinking about coaches, their roll to an athlete and what truly makes a great coach.
Our two coaches at nationals, I believe, are great coaches. I wish they lived closer so they could be mine. It was so refreshing to see a coach who is 100% dedicated to his athlete. And I’m talking 100%. Many coaches say that they do this for the athletes, that it’s not about them, it’s about the athlete, but in most cases that’s not true, because in most circumstances those coaches are looking for some kind recognition or gratification, whether it be from their peers, their athletes or even spectators. But the truth is coaching is a thankless job.
You see, being an athlete, especially being a boxer is a selfish roll. Everything we do and everything our coach does should always be in OUR best interest. The best example I can give is when I was preparing for nationals and my mother and I were moving into a new place. I couldn’t help with all the moving because my training got in the way. One of my mother’s friends mentioned that this seemed selfish of me – to put my training above helping – to which my mother replayed “Right now Jaime is number one and I will do ANYTHING to help her reach her goal. If I have to get up every morning for a month, make her oatmeal and spoon feed it to her in order to help her excel I will!”
Luckily it never came down to that, but my mom got it. She understood that this goal of mine, the importance of my success was key, and she was willing to do anything she could to help.
One of the two coaches summed it up to basically being a slave to your athlete. They need food, you get if for them, they don’t have time to do laundry, you do it. But he also expressed that both a coach and athlete need to put in the same amount of effort. Having that balance is truly the gratification a coach gets. I know many coaches who are heart broken by athletes who don’t put in the same amount of effort as they do. I also know even more athletes who have coaches who don’t put in as much effort as they do. I, myself am one of those athletes! I’ve always been told I am one of the hardest working athletes at our gym, I just wish my coach would match that instead of just say it.
On a side note, I’ve been struggling with my boxing coach for the past 6 months. We don’t seem to have the same plans or goals for my boxing career. I have made the decision to take a few months off after nationals (I’m having laser eye surgery) and find a new coach who will give as much as I do. However, I still believe my coach is an excellent and very skilled coach, we are just no longer on the same wave length. I have different needs.
Another key quality I believe a good coach must possess is a desire to learn and grow their knowledge base in order to be able to help develop their athletes. I’ve met many coaches who tell me “I don’t believe in that” or “that doesn’t work” but very seldom do I meet a coach who is inherently curious with a desire to learn and develop new ideas and tactics. I’ve met very few coaches who desire to educate themselves outside their athletes (a boxing coach will only know about boxing and will not learn about strength, conditioning, cross training, recovery, nutrition, etc.). And I’m not saying a coach should know it all, that’s a lot to learn; but they should be curious, they should WANT to learn because it’s going to benefit their athlete and make them a better coach.
Lastly a coach needs to know how to adapt their style of coaching to each individual athlete. I’ve seen a lot of coaches who use tough love in boxing because its a tough sport. They believe that they need to harden up their athlete. And sure this works for some, but not all. Personally I don’t respond well to tough love at all. In fact I’m most likely to talk back, get frustrated or quit when pushed with negativity. I certainly don’t need to be coddled, but if you encourage me, give me instruction that is constructive and are positive and calm about it I will push myself to the death for you. My conditioning coach is great at this. Each week we’ll do a challenge day and Evan will yell at me but it’s always encouraging. At one point during a challenge I literally fell on my face. Evan took one look at me and instead of yelling at me or cursing me for my failure he told me “hurry, get up, keep going. Your fine, you can do this.” Sounds like the obvious reaction? I guarantee you, it isn’t for a lot of coaches.
Along with reading an athlete, coaches need to know how to fire up their athletes, support them, build them up and make them mentally strong. This can mean a lot of ego stroking. The truth is, as athletes we’re perfectionists and we are exceptionally hard on ourselves. Its very easy for us to fall into self doubt and a good coach needs to be able to recognize this and be the mental support for their athlete.
So in saying all that, I’m off on my search for the perfect coach. Maybe I’ll find one in Vancouver, maybe I’ll have to relocate to PG for a few weeks at a time. It all depends on the fit. All I can say is really good well rounded coaches are few and far between, so if you have one, give them your all, hold onto them and remember to thank them every once and awhile.
Note: In 2012 I took on Sam Sheppard as my coach when I turned pro. Although my career as a pro athlete was short lived (2 years and only 3 fights), never have I enjoyed or had such focused, dedicated coaching as I received from Sam. He still remains a close friend and was at my wedding in 2015.