On the range

Written by Mary Eggers. Posted in General

I have absolutely no idea what I am doing as a mother. There was no instruction book, there was no protocol. There is not even a true diagnosis when we got to the age we realized that we had a round peg that people were trying to put into a square hole.

I have navigated sensory issues, autism spectrum disorder kind of a thing, special education, open heart surgery, broken legs, meltdowns that make your two year old’s tantrums look cute, and I have taken on school districts. I know absolutely nothing about any of this. But I have heart. I have strong convictions and I have a very deep sense of what is right and what is wrong. I have fallen a hundred times, but I have gotten up a hundred and one times. I have made mistakes, avoided, faced…….. and I have been envious of those who don’t have to navigate this path.

And still I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Luc has been in horseback riding camp this week at the Meadows of Mendon. A few weeks ago I asked facebook if there were any barns or places that allowed teenagers to do summer work. In my opinion farm work is the best thing for a teenager, or anyone for that matter. Good old get your hands dirty work. It teaches you about hard work. Working together. There are things learned on farms about life that you don’t learn in a textbook or at a fancy summer camp.

The links and advice led me to discover that a woman named Amy…. the owner of Meadows of Mendon ran a spring break horseback riding camp. The kids would learn grooming, basic barn work, the responsibility of taking care of a horse. At his school last year Luc did a semester at the Equicenter, so he’s ridden before. I felt this would be the perfect opportunity to spend a week outside, working and learning how to ride a horse.

“Can I just stay home and listen to my music?” He asked. In fairness to him….. we ask a lot of him.

We put him in situations where he has to figure things out. We do not coddle him. We are one of the few parents in the world of special education where we decided to NOT opt out of state testing. We so easily could have, but what would that have taught him?

In this world we have to do things that we don’t like, don’t want to do, and we have to sometimes do things that mean nothing. Sometimes we can stand up and make a change and sometimes we just have to learn to deal with it. To us state testing was the opportunity to practice test taking. Something I am not good at either. We don’t care about results, we know it’s a total waste of a school day….. but we taught him to get in there, face the anxiety and do your best.

We are not always popular parents in our parenting circles for those feelings. But we are here to parent our child, and that’s what we do. We teach him to work, and to roll with punches. We teach him the best way to fight for change and trust me on this one: it never involves raising a voice and fighting. But that’s another blog post.

The first day of camp I worried all day long. But when I arrived to pick him up his smile said it all.

The camp consisted of a handful of kids. He was the oldest, there were a couple of special needs kids, and several little girls (my gosh they were so cute on their horses!!!!).

 Amy Jenkins was amazing. She handled all ages and all abilities and disabilities like she invented the method on how to. She is a nurse, has  B.S. in Human Development with a concentration in Psychology,  and a M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling (for physical and mental disabilities). To say she was incredible is an understatement.

The day was much more than riding. They met each morning to discuss the day. They groomed the horses, did some farm work, fed the horses. She had the boys working and moving all day long.

Each evening when Luc got in the car he was exhausted. A good hard work kind of exhausted. From day one he told me he loved it. As we drove home he explained to me the differences between western and eastern riding. He taught me how the horses respond to commands. He emphasized the work more than the play. He talked of how he helped the adults and helped the littler kids. He talked about the kids with special needs and how he liked working with them.

He won’t even understand how much all of that has meant to me.

I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t have a protocol. I don’t even have a diagnosis to work with. I have a vision for the future that I will do everything I have to do to make happen.

An educated, well rounded man. Who didn’t fall through the cracks because we would not allow him to. I see an independent man who understands the value of work. Who doesn’t look for the easy way out. Who faces his challenges head on and head strong. Who knows how to fight without raising his voice. Who knows how to lead without dictating. Who sees his abilities and doesn’t use the word disability as a crutch.  Who can stand up without raising a fist. Who can love but not coddle. Who was given zero chance on day one ….and who took life by the reigns.

As we drove to camp for the last day this morning, I offered to pick him up early. I have the entire day off. He said no. He wanted to stay late in fact to spend one more day with his horse and on the farm. I promised him we will continue lessons and perhaps summer camp there, so today was not the end.

I loved driving to the stable. Country roads. The winter giving way to spring. The lack of technology and connectedness, which allows for true connectedness. I took myself back to trails while he rode and I ran. I ran through mud and sticks and rocks and loved every second of being out there. Lost in the woods but so entirely found.

I have no idea what I am doing as a mother. But there is no instruction book. It’s not about me being comfortable. It’s looking ahead and attempting to navigate the path with my husband in the best way we can figure how.

From our hearts.

luc on a horse

My art of coaching

Written by Mary Eggers. Posted in Coaching

In 2004 I began my career as a triathlon coach and through the past ten years…. I have learned more than a PhD program could have ever taught me.

Coaching is both an art and a science. In truth I find the science part the easier part. Protocols, heart rate, power zones are relatively concrete. Once you determine the type of athlete you are working with (aerobic, anaerobic by nature, experience, injuries, time available, experience…. too many factors to even list) the science is applied. As a coach you keep up on the latest and greatest by attending seminars, webinars, surrounding yourself with the coaches who not only teach well, but are successful in life and with their athletes. (Notice I said nothing about their own athletic performances).

The art piece, for many… is the harder part. It’s my favorite part and for me it’s the bread and butter of what I do.

I learn my athletes and I do it creatively. Initially when possible I meet them face to face, or we talk on the phone. I need to hear their voice. In their voice I can sense enthusiasm, burnout, dedication, vulnerability. The human voice is a powerful door opening tool to a human’s soul. So are their eyes. When I meet with an athlete I can tell a lot by just making eye contact with them. Often in that initial interview I can predict their entire season.

I get a good sense of an athlete through communication. My communication is largely through text and email and through training logs. I look to their comments before I look at their workout data. I read between lines and pick up on whether they are fatigued, excited, I can tell a lot about how they are really feeling that way.

Some of my athletes have challenging lives, and are going through some personal hell. I am there if they need a friend, a listening ear. More often than not they don’t need or want me to know every detail…. they can just say “I am going through some shit Mar.” and they know that no matter what, I have their back.

Data is important to back up what’s going on. Using that combination I can forge ahead in a way that builds upon our previous work. At the same time I have a few athletes whose data seems to never pick up…. and I love to sense their reaction to it. Initially frustration usually occurs. Then they settle back and realize that they know their body better than a heart rate strap does. They go out and feel their paces and realize if on race day satellites don’t connect that they know what to do.

I love watching my athletes progress throughout the season. Both physically and emotionally. I don’t need to get deep into their shit to be on that journey with them. We all have a cross to bear of some sort. Sometimes we don’t need to know what the cross is we just need a “Hey, I get it. Let’s just freaking run.”

I love watching my athletes manage their expectations. Sometimes they are unsure, not confident. Then comes that time they confide in me…. heck maybe I can do X, Y or Z. I want them to dream. I want them t aspire. I never want an athlete to feel like they are incapable of something because an authority figure in the triathlon world told them that they weigh too much, or don’t have enough volume.

Every day athletes smash those myths. Never give any so called authority the ability to diminish your beliefs in your abilities and what you can achieve.

eggaphone

No matter where your place is in the hierarchy of what you define a good, so so, or elite athlete to be … measure where you fall. Dream big. Aim big. Go for it. Let the authority on what you dream of accomplishing…. be you.

I love when I can come along for the ride. I am merely the guide. I am there to help you through the maze. Sometimes I put a brick wall up to see what you do. Do you let it hold you back, do you admit when you just can’t climb it? Do you see it and stop? Or do you take a deep breath and conquer it.

A friend recently posted something to the effect of …. as a coach I am never at work yet I never stop working. How true.

I hold my phone close specifically because of my athletes. They text, call, email me. I am available for them almost all of the time. I scroll through their training logs while I lay in bed at night before I fall asleep and I scroll through them at 3:55am when I wake up (I love that hour of the day. LOVE IT.). I often wonder if they know how much time I spend reading, watching, planning, looking at HR and power. I spend a lot of time (just ask my husband!).

Coaching never feels like work, it feels like a passion. It is. It is a passion I can’t get enough of. I get more excited for their finish lines than my own. I draw such insiration from them, they have no idea how much. If I am experiencing a low in my day or season all I have to do is open my email and read their training logs. Their words mean more to me than they will ever know.

For me it’s a constant blend of art and science. Sometimes the art is listening about a boyfriend, or a family member’s death. Or just a really crappy day. When I attended my USAT Level I coaching certification at the NTC so many years ago Alan Lei was the speaker. He said “These are people’s lives you are dealing with.” and it’s such an honor they share their lives with me.

The lessons they learn in a particular workout are applicable to life. Sport bleeds into life and life bleeds into sport. Triathlon isn’t the end all be all but for so many of us it’s the lifestyle we choose to exist in.

And I freaking love it.

swim camp

Every year when I coach Ironman Lake Placid…. I find a spot on the grassy hill. I sit there and I wait. I wait until all of them finish. I need to see them round that oval. It’s not the journey from start to finish that matters, it’s the 365 days that went before it. It’s emotional. It’s beautiful. And it’s why I am a coach.

Thank you Valor Triathlon Project. You teach me more than I could ever teach you.

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