In The Olympics Of Life, We All Could Use A Coach

by Mary Schmich, February 18, 1998

I want a coach.

Not a coach as in Cinderella’s renovated pumpkin. Not a Coach as in a pricey shoulder bag. I want a coach like an Olympic coach. I want a coach to tune me up and calm me down, a coach to sigh for me and cry for me, a coach who’ll rev me up to be all that I can be and take half the blame when I wind up bumbling through the triple lutz of life. I want a coach like Picabo Street’s coach, a coach who when Street had an injured knee and wanted to scope out the Olympic course skied her down the mountain on his back.

I want a coach who picks me up when I hurt, the way Bela Karolyi carried gymnast Kerri Strug and her injured ankle to collect her summer gold. I want a coach like all those rapt, devoted coaches I see perched on the Olympic sidelines in Nagano this winter, their faces turned toward their little darlings like sunbathers basking in the sun. I want a coach who when I win envelopes me in hugs. I want a coach who when I lose envelopes me in hugs. I want a coach who when I’ve given all I’ve got wipes my brow and brings me cans of Coke. I want a coach to help me give it all I’ve got.

I want a coach, a life coach. I want someone whose life work is to better me, me, me, whose grand dreams are for me, me, me, who lives vicariously through moi!

A mere personal trainer will not do. Neither will a teacher. And a therapist? Gold cannot be won through talk.

My life coach will be a personal trainer, a teacher and a therapist all rolled into one, someone whose prime goal on this planet is to teach me tricks of mind and muscle, someone who’ll show me how to leap and stretch and play through pain, someone who’ll water the fields of my possibilities with expectation, consolation, congratulation, faith. My life coach will see promise where others see a drearily blank slate. My life coach will invest in me as if I’m a hot new stock. My life coach will drill into my unrealized potential and extract a pot of gold. My life coach will be a parent, only better. My coach will understand I own the power. My coach will not be distracted by household chores. My coach will be a parent who never makes me waste my talent scrubbing toilets. I’d be a contender if I had a coach. Wouldn’t you? Who wouldn’t be a thousand times better, in everything from toothbrushing to planning out a life, if they had a coach to show them how it should be done, how much better it could be done, how much there is to win when it’s done right? Who would all those Olympic athletes be without a coach? They’d be the rest of us. OK, maybe not that bad, but then again not as good. Watch the Olympic coaches in Nagano, watch the way they watch their proteges. Don’t you want a dose of that attention? Don’t you want a life coach?

Most of us are slipping and sliding on the bumpy ice of life. Our execution’s sloppy; we are poorly trained. We need some undistracted steering and grooming, prodding and propping up. We need someone to persuade us when we fall to get back on the ice, the slope, the course. All of us could benefit from someone who always is there to beam good wishes from the sidelines.

Instead, most of us slog through on our own, schlepping our untapped potential like unpacked suitcases waiting for a key. We get help from friends, lovers, spouses, mentors, parents, teachers, therapists, personal trainers, priests, rabbis and TV talk-show hosts. But most of them have a limited attention span. None is devoted just to us. Most of them are just like us, feeling underused and unsung. They, too, are wishing for a coach. Think how spectacular it could be–the putty that is you placed in the hands of the right coach. Your coach, like a potter, would find the work of art straining to escape the clay.

There are loathsome coaches, sure. There are coaches who are dictators and Svengalis and ordinary louts. Not my coach. My coach would carry me piggyback down a mountain and thank me afterward.