Friday, August 22, 2008

My Natural Habitat

Today I was in my natural habitat - teaching kids!

The clinic organizers turned the group over to us today and said "teach!" The five of us coaches chose the segments we wanted to lead and then had at it. I loved every minute of it and wish I could have done more.

It is funny - many people think I am very outgoing and chatty. I am not! I am actually shy and slow to warm up to people. It just takes me a bit of time. Kind of like the way I swim, bike and run! I need my warm up. But put me in front of large groups and I'm ok. In fact, I really like the stage. I miss this about working from home. Some days I do not even talk to a live person. Does my dog count? When I worked out of the home I managed a staff of up to 50 employees, ran a summer camp for over 1000 kids and organized education programs for thousands of children and families each season. Talking in front of, leading, teaching people truly became my natural habitat.

But the one to one - I'm not always so good at that. Sometimes I just don't know what to say. However when there is a curriculum, I'm good to go for hours. It's kind of how I (used to) feel about long course racing - I get in that zone and I can go. Maybe that is what is missing this year - I need to get into my zone outside of my work now (triathlon) to remember what that zone was like so I can find it again! I just realized that today. Talk about an a-ha moment.

A lot of what we did today was take the curriculum and intepret it our own way. This is actually what I do best - I used to be a cirruculum developer and love the opportunity to use creativity to adapt material to meet the needs of the audience. How lucky for me that my audience today was children! One thing I have learned about teaching children is that you can say all of the coolest things in the world but unless you engage the children they won't listen. In fact the best teachers find a way to get the children to say those cool things themselves. They said many cool things about triathlon today!

In addition to skills and drills, the children had to swim their full race disatnce - 100 meters for the 7 to 10 year olds and 200 meters for the 11 to 15 year olds. For many of them this was very hard - there was a lot of backstroking and side stroking but everyone made it. And I pointed out to them how powerful this practice was - the knowledge of YES YOU CAN is now in their bank. They can pull that out when things get tough on race day and know they can do it.

Next we went to a track to do some running. The younger children had to run .6 miles and the older children went 1.2 miles. I was impressed when they knew what those distances were in kilometers too! Some of them walked, some ran but all went the whole way. And most gave it a sprint finish. When you encourage children and set the challenge in front of them I have yet to meet a child that does not succeed or follow through. They were all champions! We did some running drills and it was on! Things got a little competitive but in a very positive way. I've got to admit - after working in the suburban museum for so many years I started to find myself thinking no competitive games, everyone is a winner. Then I said to myself - bullcrap! It's a race, right? And at some point there will be a winner. The kids know that and it's ok to get them prepared to deal with that. Not everyone can win in life - but everyone can try.

One of the coaches did a small talk on nutrition. Of course there were many entertaining comments. When asked about the 3 components of fuel - one starting with a "c" one kid said "Kool-Aid!" I had to laugh - sure it was junk but he spelled it right! They learned basics of good nutrition and then sampled some of sports nutrition products. The particular coach leading the group was sponsored by Hammer Nutrition. I had to laugh when one of the kids opened a package of Recoverite, dumped it in their hand then used to their finger to dip and taste it. Liking it she then passed her hand around to offer the Recoverite powder to the other children. They also sampled gels. I'm guessing some parents have a child right now bouncing off the wall because they enjoyed too many chocolate gels.

The last part was mine - biking! It was raining so we could not ride bikes outside but we did a lot of pretend around obstacle courses. And then we played a bike parts relay and learned to identify strange things like aerobars, bar end shifters and cranks. We concluded with a rousing game of Swim, Bike, Run. Kind of like Duck, Duck, Goose but you get the point. And the middle became the Penalty Tent where you sat out your penalty.

All and all an incredibly rewarding and uplifting experience. I know there will be some future stars of triathlon from that community. Tomorrow they all participate in the children's race on the lakefront. For sure I want to be down there cheering for them! It might be a short race but to them it's the real deal. Hopefully the things we taught them left them feeling confident and prepared to have a safe, fun time.

1 comment:

Sally said...

Loved the post and your work with kids. Uplifting - yes - thanks for sharing and good luck tomorrow. Sally