So you may or may not know that I coach 7th and 8th graders on how to row. And we’re coming to the end of the season, and evidently yesterday I came to the end of my patience for the six girls I coach.
Don’t even get me wrong: I am crazy about these girls. Coaching these kids is the funnest thing I’ve done in years.
But these girls seem stuck. Stuck in princess mode. Even though they get along really well, when they’re in a boat, all bets are off. I see very little improvement from most of them, and rather than make changes themselves, I see them blame each other constantly for everything that goes wrong in the boat.
Crew is often labeled as the “ultimate team sport,” and at my old company the CEO used to take his executive team out on the water as a team building event. Rowing is relatively simple to perform, but the devil’s in the details. And there are a ton of details. Needless to say, blaming other people or waiting for someone else to fix an out-of-sync or off-set boat is a viciously frustrating exercise.
So yesterday I had four girls out in a quad (four girls in the boat with two oars each) and two girls in the launch with me. And I (spontaneously) announced that for every catch (when the blade enters the water) and/or finish (when the blade leaves the water) that was out of sync, I’d make everyone on the team do one jumpie (squat jumps). I made the two girls in the launch count with me, and we ended up with over 200 violations. I finally capped the jumpies because it was getting ugly.
But I still didn’t see them row together for any length of time. They just started yelling at each other.
I took sick pleasure in watching the girls do all those jumpies.
This is not like me. I’m not generally in favor of punishing people into submission. And for the rest of the day I had a nagging guilt in the back of my mind. I was too hard on them. They won’t be able to walk for soreness today. And nothing will change.
Isn’t that always the fear? That no matter what we do, nothing will change? Isn’t that why it’s so easy to stop working out, or indulge in the food you’ve been limiting? Because we don’t believe that we can achieve growth and change through love?
So that’s what I’m sitting with today. These girls are acting like spoiled princesses, avoiding responsibility and waiting for some knight in shining armor to rescue them from a terrible row and deliver them into a fast, fun boat. In the meantime, they stay in the tower, pining, rather than looking for a doorway out.
I want to see precocious princesses, who are absolutely in tune with their environment. It’s not necessary for them to be in charge yet, but I’d love to see them experiment with a little bit of leadership. And work with each other in a constructive way to have a fun, harmonious time at every practice. I want them to know deep in their bones that they can change any situation in which they find themselves.
Because that’s always the endgame: to stop flinging yourself against a wall, and just move two inches over to the open door. It really can be that easy. Just stop fighting yourself for long enough to find a simple solution, and walk out of the cage.