Lessons From Nationals: The Value of a Coach
Dedicated to Courtney Huguley of Stepping Stone Farm.
I’ve never had a coach. I’ve avoided team sports with the enthusiasm of a dedicated coach potato. Although I was on the riding “team” in college, the lessons were as any other riding lessons and the ostensible coach was a burned-out, upper-level rider. Displays of enthusiasm were passe.
While I’ve had good instructors, in most cases, my problems ceased to exist the moment the lesson was over. In some cases, I ceased to exist while the lesson was in progress, but I don’t dwell.
Before now, I’ve never worked with a riding professional who knew me well enough to say, or not to say, just the right thing at just the right moment.
Example 1: Driving
Coach had pondered ways to improve my soft-to-the-point-of-ineffective hands. She decided on long-lining. This morphed into driving lessons. On the first day, we talked endless driving theory: how to do it, what to expect, how it should feel, how a class is conducted. She stood in the ring and answered every question I had for as long as it took.
Before my next driving lesson, I was still nervous about the whole idea. I started asking more questions. She interrupted me with, “Just get in the damn cart.” Okay, she’s Southern, so she probably didn’t actually say damn, but it was strongly implied.
At Nationals, I had mini-meltdowns before each drive. She stood at Alvin’s head, silent and impassive, until I just got in the damned cart.
Example 2: Riding
On the second day of the show, I experimented with my position, achieving personal if not commercial success. On day three, I was going over my game plan. Coach agreed. Same idea. Same ride. I was in the zone. She added, “Don’t overdo it.” Yup. That was exactly what I was about to do. [Show Report]
Example 3: Facebook
The relationship between coach and student is a sensitive, compassionate, and deeply nuanced one. This is best exemplified by the sign she posted on my Facebook page after the show:
I love my coach.