The Simple Life
By Michele Meier Vosberg
“Put Me in Coach”
I have just been coached. It did not involve sports, games or any sort of ball. No uniform with a number on the back was required. As I write this, I have no bruised shins or sore arms. For these things, I am grateful. My experience with being coached in the past has been less than stellar, but this is a new field, personal life coaching. This is a type of coaching that interests me.
In my past, I admit, I have not had happy experiences with coaching. I grew up in the days before girls, except for a few tomboys, played sports. It was just not expected or encouraged. Today’s girls have a whole array of sports opportunities, starting when they are very young. We had the Girls Athletic Club, otherwise known as GAA. Involvement in GAA required wearing a one-piece snap up the front pink cotton jumpsuit. If you joined the GAA, which was our after school sports opportunity, you had to wear the lovely pink attire not only for gym class but after school as well. I was not fond of the pink jumpsuit. Think about it, how many women really look all that good in a one piece pink shorts outfit? I may not be a fashion maven, but those pink jumpsuits scared me out of after school sports. Even at the ripe old age of twelve, I had some sense of fashion. I knew what worked on me and what did not, and the pink jumpsuit definitely was a fashion “don’t.”
Title Nine came along when I was in high school. It promised equal opportunities for women in school sports. Our phy. ed. classes suddenly became more evolved. We played real sports, often with the boy’s phy. ed. class. Out went the pink jumpsuits (too racy for mixed company?) I remember playing baseball, or maybe it was softball…at the time I didn’t know the difference, with the boy’s phy. ed class. The boy’s phy. ed. teacher was our coach. His coaching consisted of telling me to go out to third base. That was it, no direction, no instruction. Certainly there was no guidance or modeling. I had only the vaguest notion of what to do when I got there, but I was savvy enough to at least know where third base was. The first ball that came my way hit me square on the shins. Of course I didn’t catch it, I had my baseball mitt on the wrong hand. I figured that I was right handed, so that was where the mitt should go. No wonder it didn’t fit very well. I was branded a baseball imbecile and banished out to right field. I was happy with my lot in right field for many years; balls rarely came my way. It was better that way. When it was my turn to bat, I prayed for a pitcher who threw lots of balls. If I didn’t have to swing, I couldn’t make a fool of myself. It usually worked. I got myself through a lot of spring phy. ed. seasons that way.
Fall meant football, that is an even worse story. At least in baseball, I mostly knew the rules. I played in many a flag football game and I bravely admit now that I didn’t have a clue about what I was doing. I am not stupid, I was in fact an honor student, I was probably teachable, though probably not talented. Where was the coaching? Where was the person to say, “here is how you hold the bat” or “these are the rules of football?”
In my twenties I was fortunate to have a coach who understood what coaching was. Looking to meet people in a new town, I found myself involved with a women’s softball league. I had a coach, a former professional baseball player, who realized that I knew nothing, had not even the basic fundamentals. He taught me, starting with how to hold the bat. He explained the rules, told me when to run and how to throw the ball and miraculously, I learned. The value of a good coach became very apparent to me. For one brief, glorious summer, I learned to play ball, and more importantly, loved doing it. But that coaching experience turned sour too, my coach battled problems with alcohol, and as he turned angry and abusive I found myself drifting away from the team.
I had not really thought about coaching or being coached in a long time when I attended a conference for my job where the guest speaker was a professional life coach. Her job is to help people reach their full potential in the business or personal arena. Personal coaches help people to recognize their strengths and weaknesses and assist them in goal setting. They provide an objective voice, helping people think through problems or communicate more effectively. The seminar was fascinating; the field of life coaching was new to me, but I was intrigued.
Have you ever learned a new word and suddenly you start to notice it everywhere? That’s the way it was with me with life coaching. I was initiated into the concept and suddenly it was everywhere. I turned on Wisconsin Public Radio and there was a discussion with a life coach. I saw articles in the paper and in magazines. Oprah featured a life coach. It was starting to speak to me. Was this coincidence or was there a message in this for me? I bought a couple of books, and checked out a few more from the library. I investigated the concept.
Life coaching seems to work for those who are interested and motivated to learn and change. It will help you set goals, think through problems and organize time in different ways. A coach will advise, guide and encourage you. According to Talane Miedaner in her book, Coach Yourself to Success, “coaching closes the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.” Who doesn’t want to be better? My lists of goals and self-improvement plans are long. In the game of life, a little coaching seems helpful.
I attended another job-related required seminar last week. We spent the first day in long, boring discussions of things that needed to be done. State department regulations and paperwork were overwhelming. I was not eager to go back for the second day of the conference. On the way to the conference site I thought of all the ways I might get out of attending day two. Maybe I would have a flat tire and I wouldn’t be able to get there. I thought I felt a headache coming on, maybe I was sick and should go home. It was about to storm, perhaps a power outage would force the conference to be cancelled.
I arrived at the conference and received a surprise. We would be having a full day’s training on leadership with a life coach hired to work with us. She greeted us enthusiastically and promised that we would leave that day with a written plan to improve our effectiveness in an area of our choice. A few people groaned but I smiled. I was ready for this, open to the possibility and willing to admit that there are probably areas of my life that could use a little work. I am open to the possibility that somewhere, there is a coach who can help me learn the rules or teach me how to hold that bat. In the game of life, I am willing to spare my shins any further pain. I pulled up a chair, sat down and got ready. This is my kind of game, I thought. Put me in coach…I’m ready to play.