I just came from the pool where I swam about a ½ mile with a friend. When I jumped in my goggles popped off my head and I couldn’t find them. I looked all around me, scanned the bottom, and glanced thru the sun’s glare into the lanes next to mine, to no avail. As I was searching, I could hear the swimmer in the next lane being coached by a woman who was standing outside the pool giving him both directions and discouragement. Yes, you read that right, dis-couragement. At first I thought she was kidding, or being sarcastic, but when I saw the look on his face I knew otherwise. “That was terrible…terrible, that was terrible,” she said…loud enough for the whole pool to hear it. I cringed and felt bad for him. How can anyone really believe that putting someone down is going to help them do anything well? I don’t know, maybe it’s me. I don’t buy into all that screaming, harassing, mean crap. It tears down a person’s self-esteem. I’ve had the privilege of working with a wonderful coach. The first time we met (and every session after) he was kind and encouraging. Even before he video taped my swimming, he gently warned me, “don’t be hard on yourself, everyone hates the way they look on video, just watch your strokes and try to see the things I’m commenting on.” I appreciated that so much.
Our sessions lasted between an hour and 90 minutes, and as I worked on the different drills and tried to improve my form and speed, he would tell me what I did well, followed by a non-judgmental, factual explanation of what I needed to correct, why it was important, and how to correct it. He would then follow up with another encouraging comment and then explain what to work on next. I felt inspired and motivated, and not only did I want to do better, I believed I could.
I don’t know, hearing that coach today stirred something up in me. Aside from wanting to jump out and push her in the deep end, it got me to thinking how important our words are. When someone is working hard to improve themselves, it’s especially important to encourage, not disempower them. The up side is that it got me to realizing that every day I want to be more encouraging and inspiring to others. Oh, and my goggles…well, they were floating in my neighbors’ lane. His coach spotted them and told him to get them for me…so… I didn’t push her in. ;)