As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published June 5, 2013.
I attended three sports banquets last week, as the spring sports have now concluded. During the boys’ tennis banquet, Coach Williams was telling a story about one of his athletes taking time at different points to thank him—for help, advice, whatever the case may be.
It brought back a phrase I, myself, made a habit of saying at the end of my practices as an athlete at Bellarmine University.
“Thanks for the workout, Coach.”
I probably started saying it my junior year at the end of each practice—maybe even my sophomore year. Most of us on the team said it. And that is because our coach had always said it to us.
It was always odd to me as a freshman when we would be concluding a tough workout—or even an easier one—and Coach Washington would smile, and his quiet, Washington-way, say, “Well, thank you for the workout, ladies.”
I wasn’t sure what it meant. We had not given him a workout. He stood there the whole time and was definitely not as exhausted as us. Was he thanking us for working out? But we were on a team… on scholarship… we had to be there, so why did he feel the need to thank us for doing what we were supposed to do?
But with our small workout group, I began to realize what his thanks meant. He was our coach, but he saw what we did together every day as an all-in effort. He was there for us and we were there for him and seeing the effort we put into a practice—sweat and pain and pushing through pain—he never failed to tell us thank you for that. He knew we could just as easily show up and not give any effort.
In the same light, I came to see that his dedication to being there deserved my thanks as well. He could show up and not care what we did, not pay attention, never do anything new. But, instead, he masterfully planned each workout with the intent of making us better athletes. He spent his time with us—and away from us—thinking of ways to help us become better athletes. He didn’t have to put that kind of effort into it, but he did. And for that, it only seemed right to end each practice saying, “Thanks for the workout, Coach.”
Athletics become a different ball game (no pun intended) when you begin to realize that making yourself the best possible is something others are investing time and dedication into as well. It changes when you realize that you have a coach or family or friends or teammates, that are going to put work and care into your improvements, not simply because it is their job or because they are being paid, but because they genuinely want you to succeed.
It can easily seem “expected” that the athletes show up and work hard at practice or that the coach shows up and have a workout planned. But remember the special relationship you share and the silent promise you are making to each other every day you show up to practice is something special and different than the effort you put into actual competition. Practice is where you show each other your dedication to becoming the best.
With summer here, most sports are now “optional” as the high school seasons are not active. The time put into athletics for both athletes and coaches is the proof of the level of dedication to success for both. So, especially during the summer, it won’t hurt to walk away saying, “Thanks for the workout, Coach.” My guess is your coach is thankful for the hour or two (or three!) of work you just put in as well.