To those who have come before,
Thank you. All of you.
As we launch LTRD, LLC today (literally, in a few hours, with Max Heid representing the Seattle Scullers at the 2018 USRowing U19 World Championship Trials!), we do so armed with all the things I've learned from you through the years. Which is to say, quite a lot.
I learned the importance of play from the first athlete I ever coached: my brother Gerik. The seven years in age between us were bridged by the five years, three as head coach, I spent coaching his basketball teams. We were good. Real good. 3 losses, 2 championships and 1 undefeated season in three years good. [Well, at least Gerik was!]
This idea that talent (and work ethic) could trump bad coaching is something I carried with me into my early career as a rowing coach. This time I watched as my cousin Patrick and some fast friends of his built a culture of committed play--nobody played harder--and transformed it into the kind of developmental momentum that ended in a SRAA National Championship. Their accomplishments as junior athletes are too many to list; tree of them rowed in A Finals, all in different boats, at the Junior World Rowing Championships, even bringing home GOLD!
These first athletes I worked with taught me almost everything I needed moving forward. They taught me about commitment. Belief. They taught me the process. Get better. Every day. They inspired me to bring the same critical eye to my own professional practice that they brought to refining each and every practice-related behavior.
They taught me how to start with the athlete. How to listen to the human sitting in the boat, adapt the plan to utilize their strengths while supporting/developing their weaknesses.
They brought their own ideas (and research!) to the party too. As a young coach, I didn't have much competitive experience worth sharing. My best races came as 3 seat in a relatively fast Midwestern Scholastic HS 8+ around the turn of the century--so, there's that.
But, more than anything else, they showed me what Long Term Athlete Development was before LTAD was even a thing. Not only did I get to enjoy working with them directly for several years, first as their Novice, then Varsity Coach, but I did the smart thing and made my way East just in time for their collegiate careers. I learned to budget for extra gas during the spring racing season on the Charles once I discovered nobody bothered to yell at me when I trailed races in the basin with my Mad Max launch. I watched them work their way up through the ranks, battling against each other for 200 strokes and change at regular, yearly intervals.
I developed too. I met my wife and started the IRL. In that order (necessarily so since she wrote the logic model!). Boston was good to me to put it mildly. The city introduced me to the wider rowing culture and to a diversity of athletes that expanded my conception of what my own role could and should be in an athlete's development.
Before Katie and I followed our next opportunities to Seattle, I had to make it to one last regatta, where for the first time in my career, I neither competed as an athlete or coach: the 2014 IRA National Championships, where I got to see those guys race again. One. Last. Time.
The above picture was taken in the fleeting moments between the final horn of the 1V and the inevitable rushed trailer evacuation as teams set out for their respective corners of the country. Not pictured are the other two athletes who also completed their careers rowing at IRA schools. (Hi James! Hi Patrick!).
Needless to say, that is a big smile on my face. The biggest. What's better is that my joy has yet to abate, as many of them continue to develop past the Train to Win phase of their careers, off the Podium Pathway and right onto the Competitive for Life road I hope they follow on for as long as humanly possible. Whether that's touring the competitive circuit in China, winning the San Diego Crew Classic, setting records at the HOCR, or raising funds to race Henley for the first time--and that's just in the past year!--these guys, and all those who have come after, continue to show me how it's done.
Thanks guys. Keep it up. And, never stop working to get better, or I won't have anyone be able to show me the way.
See you on the water,