This is going to be the first post in a 4-part series on several of the various types of coaches that come into our lives and the lessons they are charged with teaching us.
He walked into the packed classroom on the third floor of the Willard building on a crisp Autumn night. He donned a well-worn Detroit Tigers hat, a gristly beard, and a weathered crew jacket. It was easy to tell that this man had done this dance before and had seen it all. There was an aura about the man that captured the attention of all the athletes in the room in an instant. He was rugged, blunt, and to the point. He was everything an early twenty-something needed in a coach in order to become a man. I call him The Man Maker.
The Man Maker is not there to give you the warm fuzzies and coddle you when things are bleak. The Man Maker is there to do just that, create men. When a boy is sent off to college he must find himself over the next 4 years in order to become a real man. He must learn to be self-sufficient, resilient, and thick-skinned. He must pave his own way and come to realize that if he wants anything in life he is going to have to go out and earn it just like everyone else. Coach Pete was my crew coach in my final semester at Penn State and taught me how to do all of this and more.
Coach Pete didn’t put up with anybody’s crap. It was very black and white with him. The workouts were what they were and you did them without any questions asked. The sport of crew is a precise endeavor which requires complete trust in the coach and in your teammates. There is nothing easy about any part of it once you get into that boat. You will feel tortuous pain throughout every workout and must learn to deal with it on your own. Coach Pete was not going to sit there and ask if you were feeling okay or anything along those lines. He was there to make sure you learned the sport and learned how to handle the pain. His instructions were simple: “sit-up more”, “stop looking at your oar”, “dig deep”, “explode with the legs”.
My favorite part about The Man Maker was that you had to earn his respect and even more so, earn a compliment from him. He doled out compliments very rarely, but when he did they carried an immense magnitude. These compliments would catch you by surprise and leave you on a high for the next couple days. They also served to further motivate you to your best so you could earn yet another compliment should you be so lucky. He also had a sledge hammer that was awarded every 2 weeks or so to the athlete who had worked the hardest. To win the sledge hammer was an immense honor and at that point you knew you had earned the Man’s respect.
I will be forever grateful to Coach Pete, The Man Maker and the rest of the team as well. Those six months did more to shape me into the man I am today than did all of the previous four years of college combined. I came to crew weak, shattered, and a shell of the man I could be. I left self-sufficient, resilient, and most importantly having learned what true hard work was. There is no way I could have ever attempted to make it through Ironman training had it not been for the daily 4am wakeup calls, 2-a-day workouts on the regular, and a phenomenal coach to teach me so much about both life and rowing. Thank you Coach Pete for being The Man Maker.
Always in Stride,
Song – Plunkett- The River
Quote – “Reflect on your experiences and accomplishments. Remember the dedication, the pain, the jubilation, the camaraderie — your family. Remember the feel of the oar in your hand, the swing, the perfect catch, the pull, the drive and the run of the boat beneath you. But most importantly, never forget that the glory is not in you or any individual. Instead, remember that the glory is always in the team.” – Joe Blasko