Monday, August 17, 2009
Sara Gross and I began working together in October 2008 after Kona.
We started dating in April of 2009 while continuing our coach/athlete relationship.
Now all these months later I am asked frequently "How is that working out?"
People seem to feel that mixing intimacy and professionalism must come with challenges to either or both.
The truth is I've seldom given it much thought. We've got a lot mutual respect for each other and putting her plan together is largely a mutual event. Also she lets me believe I have the final say and we get along fine.
But the question is asked with increased frequency after a disappointing performance.
This weekend, after Lake Stevens (one such performance) I was again asked the question more than a couple times and a few things occurred over the weekend that had me asking myself some questions as well.
On the short trip back to Victoria Sara and I discussed it.
The question we needed to address was whether we were giving the professional relationship the proper attention it needed.
Was I giving her my best?
Was she giving me her best?
We both thought we were.
After nine months she was swimming and running as fast and faster than she ever had.
Her bike? Not so much.
Things take time and that's doubly true when it comes to a seasoned vet finding the right combination of training/nutrition/rest to step them up to a new level.
Sara and I agreed we're close.
But still I wondered if I was treating her with the same candor and bluntness I treat my other athletes.
The night before the race she made a comment that set off some red flags for me. But I said nothing.
Then as she entered T2, after the crushing ride, she asked if I thought she should drop out.
We only had a few fleeting seconds of conversation (I'm currently not capable of holding a 4 minute kilometer for more than about 25 meters) All I could think to say was that I didn't know what was wrong with her so she had to make the call. I got a bit of a scowl from her and off she went.
When next I saw her she was moving well and had already caught two girls.
She'd made the right decision - and so had I, leaving it up to her.
With IMC coming up in 2 weeks it was a tough decision for both of us.
So on the ride home I explored my silence the night before and my decision to not pull her when clearly things were going south.
Was I avoiding a fight? No. We don't fight.
Was I avoiding hurting her feelings? No. She knows I want what's best for her.
So why did I keep my mouth shut (SOOOO RARE!)
Because, I decided, despite my concerns, it was unlikely we would pull her from the event and all that would be achieved would be the planting of some negative seeds - bad coaching.
I decided to wait till after the race and then bring up the comment.
I did and the conversation turned out to be valuable - good coaching.
As far as pulling her and saving it for IMC? Glad we didn't. And that's all I'm going to say on that.
So is it hard to coach a loved one? I don't find it to be. My buddy Cliff coaches his wife Sam and they seem to do okay.
I stayed with them in Kona for 10 days before her race and I saw them clearly switch hats when it came to being a couple or creating a champion.
Tony and Natasha have had a good run.
I'm sure there's a long list of successful stories out there - as well as a pretty interesting list of big failures!
I guess time will tell but I like coaching my partner.