Ask...Tell...or Hope?

Over breakfast in Costa Rica I had an epiphany.

"You know why couple's therapy sucks?"

I didn't wait for any encouragement to go on. I was on to something and knew it.

It's because the therapist is going to say:

And what do you need from him...look at him and tell him exactly what you need.


Now it's your turn.

Look at her and tell her exactly what you need.

Good...that's all the time we have for today.

You both go home, glad the air has been cleared.

You go to bed hopeful...the two of you have turned over a new leaf...

And then morning comes...

And your significant other has already knocked out TWO of the things you mentioned on your "I want" list.

And the thing is...

Your first reaction isn't "wow, I finally feel like I've been heard."

It's more like "wow, you are so full of shit."

And you don't want to be upset, but you kind of are.


Should you have really had to ask?

Shouldn't they have known?

Isn't this a relationship?

Don't you have a connection?

The audience to my breakfast epiphany responded simply:

"Yes, I see your point but...

Closed mouths don't get fed."

Which got me wondering about my own relationships,

And wondering what two people who have a relationship of any kind can reasonably expect the other person to "just know."

Which got me thinking about my coaches, all of them. And how I've approached those relationships over the years.

Caryl Smith Gilbert...

Bobby Kersee...

Brooks Johnson...

Loren Seagrave...

Rana Reider...

After all this time I learned that I need a coach that knows me, we don't have to be best friends, but I need to be able to call them from jail if things go sideways. And when I say, "coach come get me." They don't ask what happened first, they just say "where are you...ok be there in 20."

I need a coach that knows when I'm scared to death, because I'm probably not going to come right out and admit that I am. At least not until after they bring it up.

I need a coach who knows that I am mentally strong and can be a head case at the same time. Line me up against anybody and I'll take my shot...but I need my hand held and my back patted while we go over numbers, biomechanics, and test results the week before. Then I'll believe I'm ready.

And then I need a coach who will curse me out for being the head case who needed all of that discussion in the first place, to get me back on track for my typical savagery.

I need a coach who knows I can do a lot of work, that I don't know how to pull back, and that when my body and central nervous system crashes it will be an epic display of system failure...and will laugh with me about it. Because it is actually pretty funny when it happens.

I need a coach who will go to dinner and/or coffee with me and let me show off my vision board, and be an audience for all my hopes and dreams and when I ask them if it's possible they say, "yes, here's how..." Or "Look Tee. No." 

I need a coach that can sit and talk with me about everything and anything but track and field. 

Because this sport isn't all there is.

In reality we're just two people.

Trying to live out our respective purposes in life...

While navigating emotions, politics, relationships, finances, successes, sacrifices, and disappointments on a daily basis.

I need my coach to know I'm all in. That I've trusted them with one of the most important things I have going in my life at the moment. 

And I want to know that they feel the same.

Because before I enter the call room...

Before the biggest finals of the year...

I have to look into my coaches eyes...

And I have to see our entire history,

And I have to know that they want what I want.

Because I shouldn't really have to ask.

Or do I?


Caryl Smith Gilbert: was/is unapologetically honest. I've known her since I was a baby. I followed her to Tennessee. Her straight talk rubbed off on me and gets me in trouble even today. Thank you.

Bobby Kersee: spent so much time with me. And I love him for it. But spending time with BK taught me about the importance of knowing who your coach is away from the track, it allows for better understanding and mutual respect. I will always leave a seat open at the bar for him. Always. Thank you.

Brooks Johnson: Called me fat, teased me about it regularly but he also would write physics equations in sidewalk chalk on the long jump runway. He got me thinking a little differently about my approach to track and field. My love affair with Physics and track began here. And also, he would give me lists of book and movie recommendations. My favorite: The King's Speech starring Colin Firth. Thank you.

Loren Seagrave: We have dined and drank together on several occasions. He was the first coach to ask me directly what my biggest fear was and was also the first coach who told me what his biggest fear was. He told me to go home and make a vision board, and entertained me over Starbucks while I showed it off. Thank you.

Rana Reider: Most of you would probably be surprised to know that we're kind of the same person just on opposite sides of that "same personality" spectrum. He specializes in "the broken." I came to him in 2012 and he built me from scratch. I (physically) returned in 2016 a more "broken and damaged" individual. Instead of being frustrated (like I was) he found a way to help me channel it, manage it, survive it. And honestly tried his best to be available when I couldn't. Thank you.

nick steadman