I DO HAVE FAVORITES
One day this year, someone accused me of "having favorites" on our team. The implication was that this was a terrible sin. When I was a younger coach, I thought it was terrible also.
He/she was right. I do have favorites. My favorites are those athletes who most frequently do what I ask of them. To those that do, I give more attention. I talk to them more. I spend more time teaching them. I also expect more of them.
The implication was made that my favorites improved more than others because they were my favorites, and that was somehow unfair. He/she mistook cause for effect.
The fact is, that the athletes who come to me ready to learn, and try it my way even if it is more challenging and more difficult than they imagined, are ready to get more out of our program. And they are my favorites.
As a coach, I have only one thing to offer an athlete. What I can offer is my attention. This means that I attend to their needs. The reward for good behavior should be attention, attending to their needs. The consequence of inattentions, lack of effort, unwillingness or unreadiness to learn, or just plain offensive or disruptive behavior, is my inattention to that athlete.
How can it be any other way? If you have three children, and you spend all of your time and energy working with one that displays negative behavior, what does that tell your other two children? It tells them that to capture your attention, they should behave poorly. What we reward is what we get.
As a coach, I want athletes who are eager to learn, eager to experiment, to improve, and eager to work hard. I want athletes who come to me for help in developing their mental and physical skills and are willing to accept what I have to offer. Otherwise, why have they come to me? I am going to reward that athlete with my attention. In doing so, I encourage others to become like the athlete above. If I spend my time with the unwilling, and/or disruptive swimmer, I would only encourage undesirable behavior.
I want to forge a link between attention and excellence. Excellence is the sense of achieving all that is possible and desired. My way of making this happen is to provide my knowledge and attention to those who "attend" to me. This does result in increased performance for those that do so. I am a professional coach, and when I pay attention to a person, that person is going to improve. Over time, this makes it appear that my "favorites" are the better swimmers. Not so at all. The better swimmers are those that pay attention, and thus become my favorites.
What the accusing person doesn't realize is that you must have favorites if anyone is to develop in a positive fashion. The coach's job is to reward those who exhibit positive developmental behaviors. Those are my "favorites", and they should be.
David Gibson-Fort Wayne Aquatics (Fort Wayne, IN)