Monday, March 01, 2010

Back in the Saddle

I am coaching again. My god, it feels good. I maintain that coaching is way more satisfying than playing a sport, at least for me. I am coaching a select side team, which means low commitment in terms of time. An ideal situation for a mom struggling to get back into her life. Because it's an all-star team, it means that a lot of the girls I coach are better rugby players than I ever was or will be.

Which is totally fine, because I am a better verbal communicator and organizer than they ever were or will be. Which is why I like to coach!

Yesterday, I coached the girls in a scrimmage against Penn State, my alma mater. It was so surreal to drive onto campus, pull into the parking lot of Holuba Hall (in a car! Alone! Without 8 other teammates on my lap!) and pull rugby jerseys out of my hatch back. I had a total Twilight Zone moment as I walked in those front doors and went to the bathroom.

Then I started to get nervous--not because my girls might lose the match, but because my former coaches were going to watch me coach! For those who don't know, Penn State has the best collegiate rugby program in the country. The current team has several girls on the national team, a dozen All Americans, and they won the national championship by over 60 points last year. The coach (my former coach) coaches the nation's coaches. I failed to tell the girls any of this information beforehand.

When they came out of the first period down two tries, I did tell them this information. That they held such a team to such a score was awesome! I have some stunning athletes and I wanted them to feel really proud of how they were playing. But more than anything, I wanted to shake the feeling that I was being personally observed and analyzed. I saw their performance (which was strong!) as a reflection of my coaching abilities, all judged before the men who taught me how to play rugby over a decade ago. It was very intense. I got great loads of armpit sweat out of the situation.

When I coach, I use a visualization technique my favorite ref Lois Bukowski taught me: get in your zone and put on your coach hat while you are in the car. From the moment you open that car door, you are "coach Katy" and you need to emit that energy.

So there I am, trying to maintain my zone, conduct warmups, wrangle the troops, and my former coaches are all walking over to give me hugs and say friendly hellos before the match. I was so torn! Do I hug them, or do I maintain my bubble of coaching energy? I went with the hug and totally lost my focus.

Which was nothing nearly as bad as after the game, when Pete was talking to me about what I should be saying in my pep talks (ah, how I miss that man's pep talks) and chatting about some of the mental stuff associate with rugby.

Talk about bursting my energy field! It was like I was 18 again, mesmerized by the aura of Penn State rugby and too sheepish to claim authority. At any rate, I feel really good about the game, proud of the girls, and totally ready to face the rest of this season. Let's go Trees!


Jane said...

It might be more fun to watch you coach than it was to watch you play.

Katy said...

i'm going to try to play this spring a little bit. i am rooting for practices and trying to play in home games! once miles is off the boob, maybe i can even play in an away game again. we'll see...