Urging On

Some people find it hard to exercise regularly.  I find it hard NOT to.  I hate going to the pool on Saturday mornings for the reason I’m about to illustrate, but this morning I went anyway.  The swim teams are there on Saturday mornings, and they tie up 15 of the 17 lap lanes.  The 2 open lanes are like a traffic jam on the D.C. Beltway.  I tried the traffic jam for awhile and then retired to the hot tub.  The hot tub is out in the open and overlooking the swim lanes where the younger boys practice.

You get used to all the swim team noise.  You get to where you seldom even notice it.  But then, nearby, I heard unusually loud hollering.  Angry hollering.

One of the swim team “coaches” was giving the devil to a young boy.  Face red, arms waving, fingers pointing.  The poor kid just standing there with his eyes staring down at the pool deck.  I put the word coach in parenthesis because I’ve never seen a one of these guys doing what I would call coaching.  Their job seems limited to getting the kids organized in the water, timing their laps, and urging them on.

“Go, go, go!”  “Don’t let him pass you, Cramer!”  “Alright now, I want to see some better times.”

They do not teach about swimming.  Their deal is to motivate the kids to try harder at doing it the way they came there doing it.

I felt sorry for the boy who was being berated by his “coach.”  Although warm and comfortable in the adjoining hot tub, I felt his pain, his embarrassment.  It made me wonder about the men who do this.  Were they super athletes when they were this age?  Or are they taking it out on these kids as a make-up call for their own lack of achievement?  Do they have jobs where someone bosses them around, where they have to take a lot of crap, and this is a way of getting to unload on someone else, even a poor kid?

When I was the age of the swim team kids, I had a wonderful Boy Scout leader.  His name was John Murphy and we called him by his last name, Murphy, like we called each other by last names.  Murphy was devoted to us boys and we knew it.  He deserved to be called a leader, both in leading by example and also through his advice and encouragement.  There were certainly times we disappointed him, but never did he berate anyone.  Achievements were about us, not about him.  Murphy was someone I still feel indebted to.  My better self would like to be such a person and be remembered so long and so fondly.

To be sure, there are times for urging people to try harder.  There may be times for taking people to task.  But showing them the way, teaching them how things are, those speak louder and last longer.

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