Watching From the Sidelines…

Well, it’s been a while again… Whether I have been too busy rushing around or simply have nothing to talk about I am not quite sure. But nothing like a 9 hour transit in Tokyo to get me writing again!

Fair to say that when I started full time work at Ernst & Young late last year I did not see my 2018 turning out the way it has. The original plan was two short coaching trips to Palma and Denmark to coach Courtney & Brianna the young kiwi 470 twins. Trying to find that balance of pursuing a different life and doing enough with my old skillset to keep me feeling good.

Fast forward to here and now, I have just been in Denmark for the last 2.5 weeks, before which I was at home for 12 days after a late notice 3.5 week trip to Europe. Where I flew to Germany to coach the kiwi Nacra teams at Kiel Week, followed by a week in the Netherlands to see PJ and see the Volvo Ocean Race finish, then a week in Sweden to sail with a bunch of kiwi girls in the M32 catamaran for the Swedish Match Cup Women’s Trophy. But I was at least home for four weeks before that trip 🙂

The more I get through this year, the more I notice that my picture of ‘normal’ might be a little skewed from the 99%… But I guess that is really to be expected, it takes something a little strange in us athletes to pursue the life we do, and I am still not entirely sure that we can all transition fully into ‘normal’ things. When I turn up at work again, after being away and all over the world, I am always mildly surprised at how everything is rather the same, how most people just go about their daily lives, content with being in the one place, excluding holidays or adventures. I have noticed more and more that the constant changing scenery, the being on the move, the packing and unpacking – Feels far more normal than not.

The question of what direction to take with this knowledge I am not quite sure! I guess I can fight it and force myself to just stay in one place, doing one thing – But no, I know that wouldn’t work, I am not very good at settling and I do tend to want it all 🙂 So I am not quite sure where this leaves me, do I just let myself drift back into the vagrant lifestyle simply because it was my normal for the last twelve years? Or is it really what I enjoy? And can those two questions even be separated? I am hoping time will tell, nothing seems to make things clearer than time.

This last week in Denmark I was coaching at the Combined World Sailing Championships, where all the Olympic classes have their World Champs at the same place and time, the second biggest event of the four years after the Olympics. I sailed in the last three of these, and this was my first time as a coach. It was eye opening, I said the same after coaching in Palma, but the added pressure of it being the World Champs, and the difference in perspective you gain as a coach compared to an athlete just widens. I escaped the tunnel vision that I lived in as an athlete. I saw for the first time what goes on behind the scenes, with the coaches and support staff, I experienced the difficulty of watching your athletes struggle with the week and not really being able to turn things around.

As painful as it is when you stuff things up as an athlete, I actually think it can be harder to watch from the sidelines, powerless to change anything, seeing it all happening but not being able to step in and do anything about it. I think this week was also extra hard because I was there watching the 470’s, and sailing that boat is something I still very much know how to do. I have no doubt that I could jump in and be near the front of the fleet, but I also know that I don’t want to… I still feel I have nothing to gain by doing that, there is nothing there I really want to learn, and no reason to go through that experience in that boat again. A certain Dutchman however has decided he has more to learn and is back in his boat! PJ finished third in the Finn after just 2.5 months prep which was just awesome to watch!

For me, for now in the sailing world, I will be sticking with the coaching and not the sailing, who knows what the future will hold, but the next two years are clear… I really enjoyed being a part of the NZL Sailing team again, and bringing something different to the team as not only a very recent athlete, but also a woman. Female coaches are still a rarity – with the 2020 and 2024 Olympics looking to go 50/50 gender split for sailing athletes, wouldn’t it be great if we channeled some of that over to the support structures too. 🙂 Thats me though, always on some mission!

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5 Replies to “Watching From the Sidelines…”

  1. Hi Jo, love your journeys. As a retired (not by choice) very mediocre sailor! My advice is just keep going for as long as you can. I’ve never lost the love of the sea but I’m lucky if I can swim in it now.! They always say ‘variety is the spice of life’ and you’ve certainly got it. Just keep going!! Love Ruthxx

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  2. Great honest reflections of the past couple of months, or actually the year after Rio. The coaching, however frustrating, seems to fit you like a glove. And if you can also contribute to gender equality – go girl! Maybe this, taking on project based challenges, is the new normal.

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    1. I have to say it is nice to help others after years of selfishly looking after my own interests as an athlete 🙂 But that is just how it is when you compete.. Haha for all except PJ ❤️ But yes, projects I like… same goal based approach as competing!

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