In July, I had the opportunity to coach a boat at the Olympic Games. I have assisted with the team and coached at the World Championships for the past four years, so I knew the athletes and the routine at international competitions. However, my last trip to the Olympics was in Atlanta in 1996 when I was an athlete not a coach. Occasionally I got nervous leading up to this event, but my general philosophy has always been: racing is racing, and we train for it every day. That said, from my experience as an athlete, I knew that the Olympics are a bit different … just enough that it can really throw off an athlete’s performance. My goal as a coach this summer was to make the environment and experiences as close to “normal” as possible to allow the athletes to perform at their best with focus and without added distraction. I was working with one of the most successful international rowing coaches, and with his guidance, we were able to have a successful Olympics.
This is a continuation on my theme of stories, some comical and some stressful and all of them learning experiences, about balancing family life with the demands of coaching. Again, these stories come from a number of Division 1 rowing coaches but could just as well come from other sports, other levels, or non-coaching careers. For those of you who have been in these same situations, hopefully these will give you a chuckle or some peace of mind that others resort to similar extremes. For those of you who consider having children someday, these stories may give you a bit of confidence that you can keep coaching although sometimes it is a challenge and you may question your decisions as they impact your team or your child.
Most, although not all, of us have supportive partners who share the challenges of balancing a family with work schedule. Sometimes we have to reach out to extended family or friends for coverage during racing season. However, there inevitably comes a time when there is no option but to bring the child/ren on the road. This week looks into lessons learned and some challenges while traveling with kids and the team.
My son was less than a year old for our first racing season. My husband and I both coach, so our son came to every race. I was determined to nurse for a year, so if we were at different venues, he came to every race with me. I usually took him in the truck and trailer or drove separately so that I could stop when necessary. However, there was one six hour trip, and I had bus duty. The long bus trips were nerve wracking because I did not want him to be fussy and bother the athletes. I also feared that he would go through all his bottles and still want to feed. I was not comfortable breastfeeding in such close proximity to a bus full of collegiate women. During that trip, I learned a few key tricks. 1) Food is key, so I was well supplied with bottles including: milk, dry formula that just needed water added, water and snacks (time consuming snacks like cheerios one-at-a-time are good). 2) Stay on top of diaper changes to avoid a blow out, but have a couple changes of clothes just in case. Have a whole box of wipes because it may come to a sponge bath. Also have a supply of zip-lock bags to lock up those stinky ones. 3) It is important to stick as closely to routines as possible but also to be flexible. For my son, meal times needed be as close to normal as possible. Nap times could slide an hour or so. I had to remind myself a couple of times that at some point he would sleep. Finally he did. 4) Have age appropriate toys that ideally do not make noise.