"I have learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." ~Maya Angelou We all have people who motivate us, encourage us, inspire us to change for the better. One of those people for me was/is Heather Smith.
I was a rower in college. I LOVED my time as a collegiate athlete and have to credit Heather, my novice rowing coach, with instilling in me a love of rowing, coaching, and athletics in general. I remember when I joined the rowing team and was told that we would be running 3 miles on one of the first actual training days. I immediately became nervous because I hadn't run 3 miles before. I didn't do a sport in high school due to the fact that I had gone to 3 different high schools in 3 different states. There wasn't much consistency and, though I did very well in school, I didn't enjoy it. I was excited to go to college for several reasons, one of which was athletics. I began training for my sport (I didn't know what sport it would be, but I knew that I would find it) the year before I went to college… actually it was more like the summer before. That summer prior to college I joined the local YMCA and began running 2 miles a day. I thought I was doing great at around 12 minute miles… and I was, for the beginning. So when I heard, during that first rowing practice, that I had 3 miles to run I thought, "Dammit! one more stinking mile than I had ever done!" I finished the 3 miles by bringing up the rear and by walking here and there… but I finished. My coach was encouraging the whole way. She would run ahead to talk to the lead pack and then slow down to talk to the ones having a hard time, like myself. I remember being amazed at how she never seemed out of breath.
I remember when we did hills a month or so later and Heather ran past me saying, "your butt is looking good!" It made me feel GREAT! My body was changing and I hadn't even thought about it really. I was rowing because I was enjoying every detail, every moment, everything. My body getting toned was just a by-product. Heather was always there, cheering us on, keeping us focused, and pushing our limits. We did what she told us because we knew she had a clear vision and, well, we won… everything. Besides, how can you complain about working hard when your coach barks orders at you while she is doing pull ups using only her fingers? At that point you will do whatever she says because she is badass! Seriously. I mean, what an example! She was (and still is) a Goddess!
A couple more months passed. We did stairs and I was in the lead. She looked at me. She congratulated me and I felt great. I was feeling good about being a competitor and getting better. I didn't know what it all meant but I loved it and kept going.
In February of my freshman year the rowing team had an indoor rowing event. We raced on the rowing machines (we call them 'ergs' for 2000 meters. Basically for a rower 2000 meters is death. It sucks. You lose sleep over having to do a 2000 meter piece, an erg test, as they are commonly called. Well, during this event we had to do TWO erg tests!!! One for the "heats" and then you get placed into the "finals." All the women, varsity and novice compete as a group and the same with the men. Somehow I ended up in the Grand Final… the only novice that did. Being a novice and new to sports in general I took a nap after my heat and basically didn't think about it. I was relaxed because I didn't know I was supposed to be nervous. Heather knew that I would probably need a little encouragement because I didn't really grasp how awesome it was that I was in the grand final. She came over to me after I woke and said, "All of the varsity girls are saying that you won't do well… that experience always wins." Well, I have never had a shortage of ego and was shocked at their complete disregard of me as a true competitor. I got on the erg, in the middle of 7 other varsity women and sat ready. Just as the coxswain said, "ready all, row!" LL Cool J's 'Mama Said Knock You Out' played through my head, "Don't call it a comeback, unh, I been here for years, rocking my peers, puttin' suckers in fear…" I pushed all the way to the lead, all of the women not in the grand final and all of the guys were standing around us, screaming my name! It was awesome and I won! I won.
Heather pushed me to be more than I knew I could be in rowing. She also showed me how to be a completely present and solid coach. She saw something great and made it better. After that year I knew that rowing, sports, and coaching would be in my future somehow. Each day I get clearer and clearer on my future in sport, athletics, and motivation. It is a beautiful journey.
Who has motivated you? Pushed you? Seen more in you at some point than you have? How have you risen to their fantastic expectations? Who are you encouraging and shining light on?
"You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him discover it within himself." ~Galileo Galilei