I have my dream job. I spent six years in the corporate world and generally dreaded going to work. I much prefer practices and working with athletes every day. In my current position, I get paid to coach full-time. I get to work with the top rowing athletes in the United States. They are motivated and talented and rewarding to work with. I get to travel the world for training and competitions. The main thing that I wrestle with when balancing coaching with my family-life is not in the chaos that is my daily schedule, or feeling like my performance in one is sometimes undermined by my efforts on the other. My biggest struggle comes when I have to leave my kids behind. In my last entry I wrote about some challenges one faces when traveling with kids and a Team. This week is a look into why and how I deal with extended absences.
With my position as an Assistant Coach to the U.S. National Team, it is not uncommon for me to travel for two to three weeks at a time. This year, in preparation for the Olympics, my travel schedule increases. I am currently ten days into a two week trip to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA. Normally based in Princeton, NJ, the team is training here for three months. I come out for two-week blocks to help cover the practices when the Head Coach takes a few days to return to the East Coast to check on the athletes training in New Jersey and to see his family.
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.