November 20, 2005

World's Greatest

I once had a Hungarian coach who had a, shall we say, colourful way of speaking. He was particularly adept — a real virtuoso, actually — at making you feel like garbage when you failed. I remember one afternoon, after eating wash from a bunch of Swiss guys all over Newport Harbour, we retired to watch video of the workout. We saw a few minutes of our lousy technique, and then we were treated to extended footage of some of the local waterfowl. Coach K—'s assessment: "Guys, this was like Shakespeare. Romeo and Juilet, Othello … one of the great tragedies. I was almost crying."

The flip side of that coaching style is that if you ever do hear praise, it probably means that you've just done something really great. In my case, the closest I ever came to Coach K—'s admiration would have been an assurance that "What you did, it was more than nothing."

Last week, world champion pole vaulter (and many-time world record holder) Yelena Isinbayeva ditched her coach, Yevgeny Trofimov. The reason for the change is not apparent; an anonymous source "close to the Russian athletics federation" says that it was because Trofimov was demanding more of Isinbayeva's winnings, but I'd take that with a grain of salt given the source. The Russian federations are not known for their openness or their athlete-centered approach.

I laughed out loud when I read the last paragraph of the article, where Trofimov admits that he feels bitter about the breakup and then offers his blunt assessment of her prodigious talent, or maybe his own:

… I'm sure she'll continue to break records at least for the next few years. I've made all the work and put in so much into her that even if she is coached by a locksmith or a plumber she would still vault higher than anyone else in the world.

No comments: