Fun and Fitness: Putting yourself in your coach's shoes

It's a funny world we live in. At Fanshawe College, the saying is more along the lines of, “It's a funny building we work in.” Whether you are faculty, support staff or a student, we can all relate to this saying in one form or another.

For M building students, it may be the before and after radio or Fanshawe TV antics that could make up several hours of fantastic bloopers. For Tim Hortons staff, it's more than likely the profound sadness they witness from a customer who has lost 10 times in a row in Roll Up the Rim, followed by another ecstatic customer who is freaking out over winning a donut. In J building, it's been a common theme of athletes and other students alike who are concerned that their coaches, teachers, mentors and friends may be a little harsh with their expectations.

As some of Fanshawe's varsity teams progress in provincial tournaments or even nationals, other teams unfortunately meet a shorter season's end. Naturally, players and coaches can butt heads from time to time and it's often around this time that those animosities may be magnified. The echoes of agonizing personal training clients' voices are often heard through the hallways of the Fanshawe College Community Fitness Centre. You hear some say that their trainers pushed them too hard, or were a little intimidating in their overall approach. Paramedic, Fitness and Health Promotion and Police Foundations students are often also heard expressing similar concerns. Some feel their practical evaluations are too difficult or unfair in order to become successful, and that their professors are overly demanding. I'm not saying any of this is funny. However, it's definitely humorous that it's a very common theme around this time of year.

Between being a J building program graduate, co-op student, employee, personal trainer and professor, I've experienced the pressures of what it feels like to be on both ends. I can honestly say that I truly sympathize with both sides. I can testify that it's not only the coaches who have a “coach's mentality” so to speak, but this goes for many of the personal trainers and professors as well. Hell, this goes for any superiors in general. Many of them adapt some form of this coach's approach.

Miscommunication, lack of knowledge and other typical variables aside, most people can agree that the coach's mentality entails one main focus: to get the best out of his or her players/students/clients, even if it means having to give tough love. We have all wanted to run away from home at one point or another because our parents screamed at us to a point we could never imagine was possible. And who knows, maybe some of our parents did go a little too far at times. But when most of us look back, we get it now, and we understand why they did what they had to do.

Some people need a fire lit under their ass while others take care of themselves. It's just human nature, and tough love is often the only way to direct much needed adjustments of attitude and behaviour. But it's important not to confuse work and success. Some gain success without working hard at all, while others work as hard as humanly possible without much success at all. Those who have adopted the coach's mentality always applaud hard workers regardless of outcome. You may get to the next level, you may not. But if you work your ass off, you leave no room for regrets, and the coach sleeps well knowing that he or she did everything they could to make sure of that whether you liked it or not.

Coaches, like parents, can sometimes take it too far, and unfortunately we often realize that after the damage has been done. The important thing to understand is that it is never personal. What coaches have zero tolerance for is those individuals who don't work at all but find every conceivable way possible to whine and make excuses. I remember once having a student show up to his final practical exam but had never been to one single class the entire semester. He had already failed the course, regardless of whatever mark he could manage to pull on the final exam. I saved him the time of writing the exam for no reason and explained his predicament. He answered politely explaining that he understood and that he had nobody to blame but himself. Now, that guy didn't work at all for the entire semester, but any coach will respect a student, client or player who owns up to his or her mistakes.

Some people thrive on being pushed as hard as possible, regardless of how harsh it may be. Others cry at the most subtle hint of constructive criticism. Sometimes certain superiors and subordinates will never mesh because of distinct personality traits that can't be overcome for the greater good of the overall goal. Some individuals will never be able to accept the coach's “welcome to the real world” attitude and approach. Whether they like it or not, coaches have a point and it is that life is tough, so get ready as soon as possible or suffer the consequences later on or worse off, the rest of your life. Coaches have to remember that each and every individual is very distinct in personality and different approaches are absolutely necessary to extract desired behaviours and results. In the end, whether you're dealing with a teacher, a trainer or a coach, it's how you influence them in a positive manner that matters the most.