An Open Thank You Note to My High School Coach

Photo Courtesy: Kelly Lennon

Hey Coach,

Yes, it’s me– still alive even after a year of college swimming. COLLEGE swimming. Can you believe that? Because I certainly can’t. I remember my first practice of my freshman year of high school like it was yesterday. You know, the one where you made me lead the lane and I was terrified because I didn’t know anyone. Now, five years later, going through my first college season and learning what I know now, I just wanted to write you a letter to thank you for some things…

Thank you for telling me I was a distance swimmer.

To be honest, as you could probably tell by my vehement denial and the fact that I wrote an article comparing being a distance swimmer to the grieving process, this was the last thing I wanted. But thanks to you, I accepted my fate and if you hadn’t kept pushing the 500 on me against my will, I would still probably be trying to prove that I can swim the 100 fly at a respectable pace (I can’t).

Thank you for helping me with college recruiting.

If it weren’t for your help, I probably would have never even sent an email to a coach. Thank you for getting me started and reaching out to schools you knew I would never be able to swim at, just because I asked you to. Thank you for knowing and continually reminding me that I would find the school best for me and coming over for countless meetings and picking up a million phone calls until I made a choice. I had no idea where to begin, and you helped me all the way to the end.

Thank you for being a text away this year when I just needed to complain. And thank you for telling me after to stop complaining.

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Photo Courtesy: Kelly Lennon

It’s a distinct possibility more texts were sent to you during my first week of college than to my parents. Thank you for responding to the endless string of texts and listening to me cry about how apparently you can’t breathe every stroke in a 200 butterfly and how my walls are horrendous (both to which you responded – “I told you so” – and very well deserved on my end). Even more importantly, thank you for (in the nicest way) telling me to suck it up and persevere, because I wouldn’t be a college athlete if I couldn’t handle it.

Thank you for showing me what a coach should be.

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Photo Courtesy: Kelly Lennon

Going on recruiting trips and college visits, I had the perfect idea in my head of what a coach should be thanks to you. The coach for me is someone who can joke with me and understand that sometimes I need to goof off, but knows when to tell me to get it together and push me just far enough to make me THAT much better. A coach should be someone who’s fair, understanding, kind, involved, and is someone you can go to for things that are completely unrelated to swimming. I was lucky enough to find a college coach that reminded me of you and all you did for me.

Thank you for reminding me not every swim needs to be a best time.

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Photo Courtesy: Kelly Lennon

There have been too many meets where I’ve been upset afterwards because I thought I was letting you down with a poor performance. Many of the times this has happened you’ve reassured me that as long as I’m trying my hardest and doing the best that I can, I’m doing a good job. This has been one of the most important lessons for me moving forward in my swimming career because I know that it’s OK to not always be the fastest, to not always swim a best time, to not win every heat, to fail sometimes. For this, I’m a mentally tougher swimmer and able to race my hardest, knowing that that’s enough for me.

Thank you for knowing that I’m more than just a swimmer.

Thank you for knowing that I’m a student, a daughter, a sister, a friend, sometimes a softball player, sometimes a track runner, and everything in between that makes me the person I am behind the swimmer. Too many coaches forget that we’re not just athletes, were human beings, and you never once forgot the person I am behind the person in the pool.

Thank you for pushing me to be the best I can be.

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Photo Courtesy: Kelly Lennon

I’ll never forget freshman year (and then sophomore, and junior, and senior…) when we first did 50 x 50s and you didn’t think the interval was hard enough for me so you gave me my own time. For the next four years, you never once let me become complacent. Every practice you made me do everything that I could to become a better swimmer. Harder sets, faster times – you name it, I was doing it. Thank you for making me a better swimmer.

Thank you for coming to my college meets and being my loudest fan.

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Photo Courtesy: Kelly Lennon

It’s always comforting to have that one fan in the stands that you know is cheering for you. It’s more comforting to know that person knows exactly how you’re going to swim after the first 25. It’s borderline embarrassing to know that person is cheering for you because they’re so loud that you can hear them off of every wall of your 1,000 free – Every. Single. One. I appreciate that even after I graduated, your support continues and I can count on you to give me unwarranted, but appreciated, feedback on how I still breathe off all my walls.

Thank you for always believing and never giving up on me.

thank-you-coach

Photo Courtesy: Kelly Lennon

Coaching a team full of 14-18 year old girls is not an easy task. Emotions run high on an all-girls team, especially mine, and yet you continually were there to remind me that I could do anything I set my mind to. You supported all my goals, big and small, and you pushed me to believe that I could be a college athlete, even when I was convinced that I was nowhere near capable.

You never doubted me for one second, and there aren’t enough words in the English language to express how grateful I am to have grown as a swimmer and a human being under your coaching. I am forever indebted to you, and thank you profusely for never giving up on me or letting me give up on myself.

Sincerely,

Me

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1 comment

Author: Kelly Lennon

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Kelly Lennon is a distance swimming, burrito eating, English major and Psychology/Nutrition minor attending the University of Vermont. Before Vermont, she competed for the Andover North Andover YMCA Hurricanes and Methuen High School.

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