Complete Strangers

coaching a workout

Coach Lynne explaining how to navigate a transition area

A coach asks her athletes a question and answers it herself.

This season, Team Training New England ran a contest that encouraged our athletes to answer the question “Why I Tri?”  The prizes were  a brand new road bike, a triathlon suit and a new pair of running shoes (courtesy of national and local companies). Our goal was to learn a little more about our athletes, challenge them creatively and do some research, all at the same time.   Surprisingly, as I read the entries for “Why I Tri” I discovered why I coach.

After five years of coaching groups of women to train for and complete their first sprint distance triathlon, it seemed that I had lost sight of why I coached. As a professional organizer, I had become very efficient at organizing the marketing, the training and the race preparation I needed to make TTNE successful. It had all become automatic and somewhat predictable. Every season, there was a new group of women filled with fears, hesitations, and excitement.  A new group of women with obstacles and challenges that would stand in their way of getting to that starting line.  A new group of women whose lives would be forever changed by this experience.  A new group of women that had no idea what new challenges awaited them once they crossed that finish line.  And this year was no different.  I expected the athlete’s lives to change.  I was no longer surprised by it.

Then, as our training session was coming to an end, I received a note from one of my athletes that changed my perspective.. She wrote, “You are an incredible [person]…to take complete strangers and infuse them with your love of sport and empowerment is truly amazing. These past eight weeks have totally changed me in so many ways.”

Complete strangers.  These two words immediately jumped out at me.  While that is a factual statement, it just seemed to be so far from the truth.  Complete Strangers.  Yes, it’s true I didn’t know any of the women until the first day or training.  But something about this training program and this physical challenge spoke to them.  All of these women are choosing to take this challenge and try something new.  I had never met these women before, yet they were willing to put their trust in me and let me show them the way.  They were willing to let me guide them to the race day starting line.  They were not complete strangers, they were kindred spirits.  I had become so focused in making sure the athletes met their personal goal, whether it was to finish a race, try for a personal best or just have fun, that I had forgotten to share in it.    Every season, these complete strangers enrich my life because through their achievements I renew my own love and passion for this sport.

During these past few years of training, I have learned so much about my athletes.  I have learned what motivates them, what inspires them, and what scares them. I have learned about the challenges they face to accomplish their goals and how they overcome them, stay focused and ultimately persevere. But this season, as I read their contest entries, I had the opportunity to really hear their stories.  I was educated, moved and inspired by their challenges. They used music and videos and words to express their joy in this sport, joy that each year I rediscover and share.  I realized that the question I posed to them was also to me.  Why do I TRI? Why do I coach?

I coach so more women will be fit and empowered.  I coach so more women will challenge themselves in ways they could never have imagined.  I coach so a woman will be a better daughter, a better mother, a better wife, a better doctor, a better lawyer, a better teacher, a better human being.

I coach because there is nothing more rewarding than turning a group of complete strangers into training partners, into athletes and into friends, all facing challenges and reaching goals together.

And I coach so every spring, I can renew my love and passion for the sport of triathlon; a sport that gives me so much joy in every way, season after season!