Supporting playfulness

Yesterday was a delight day for me. It was bounded by two great examples of playfulness.

The first was at 7.00 am on a cold and windy morning at the Braidwood swimming pool. It was my grandaughter Ivy’s first morning with the swim squad. Ten young swimmers and the coach got the pool ready for the start of the session.

It was the kind of morning no one wants to be first in the water and so all ten jumped in together. They set up the lane ropes as a group with older swimmers helping younger swimmers.

The session got underway with some organisational directions from the coach and then she was able to make observations 1:1 throughout the session. What struck me about the session was the wonderful technical, personal observations the coach was able to make to bring about behavioural modifications but also the joy the eleven participants had on what was a cold, windy morning.

The hour’s session flew by and ended with a mixed-ability relay that the coach managed to equalise perfectly through her choice of swim teams. It was Ivy’s first day, she swam further than she had ever swam in our 18 metre pool. Her only regret was she has to wait five days for the next squad meet up.

The second playful jolt came from a report of a community football team in Sydney in an SBS news report. Dunbar Rovers are a “grassroots club which pioneers fee free football for youngsters” and has a “no-pay-for-play credo despite escalating registration fees”.

One of the club members observed “we have no full time paid staff with people magically doing things. It’s about all working for the common good”. The club has 600 members who have the opportunity to play in one of the 18 senior teams or in one of the 18 junior teams.

Braidwood swimming squad and Dunbar Rovers are 300 kms apart but are very closely connected in playfulness. I think they exemplify the hopes Mark Upton expressed in a recent post. Both clubs do “co-create ways to help people be more human through sport – living and working in fellowship”.

Photo Credit

Dunbar Rovers Juniors full of smiles (Eastern Suburbs Football Association)

That Coaching Feeling 2: Boorowa, Apples and Ashes

My granddaughter, Ivy, much to her surprise and delight, qualified for a regional swim carnival at Boorowa. She and I had a second opportunity to travel to an event together. This time it was a four-hour round trip to Boorowa, NSW.

The Boorowa Pool is an excellent facility. It was cold but Ivy had an advantage … she swims in the ocean in Tasmania in January. As she points out, nothing could be as cold as that (I did not mention the North Sea in July).

Ivy and I really enjoyed the welcome to the event. Brendan Maynard, the Principal of St Joseph’s College Boorowa, provided a very gentle start to the day and expressed his community’s delight at hosting the event.

Ivy did not have to wait long for her event on the program (Event 8, Heat 1), the 50 metre freestyle. We had done some practice a few days before to get used to a 50 metre pool. Ivy helped some other competitors in marshalling this time and also helped at the starting blocks.

Ivy swam four seconds faster at Boorowa than she had at the Yass pool. She stopped to catch her breath twice but finished the length very strongly. She really enjoyed the experience.

Shortly after we set off for home, a journey of 180 kms. Ivy dozed for part of the journey but we did speak about her swim and the joy it gave her and me.

On the journey home, I thought again about that coaching feeling. This time my thinking included the Bramley Apple Tree and a Chinese artist Zhang Huan.

The Bramley Apple Tree

Mary Anne Brailsford planted some apple pips in 1809. One of the pips took root and became the first Bramley apple tree. In 1856, a nurseryman was given permission to take cuttings from the tree. Since that time, all Bramley apples grown have come from a pip planted in 1809.

I wondered about the parallel with coaching and the seeds each of us sow as coaches. I thought too about the principles that guide coaches and how these become to root stock for subsequent experience and perhaps even a career in coaching.

Zhang Huan

Zhang Huan uses incense ash for some of his art work. This ash is produced from the burning incense in Buddhist temples in Shanghai. It is brought to his studio to be sorted by color gradation for his paintings and sculptures. Nina Miall (2007) has written in detail about Zhang Huan’s work.

She notes “these ash remains speak to the fulfillment of millions of hopes, dreams and blessings’.

Zhang Huan speaks about ash paintings and memory doors in this 2012 video. In the video he observes “Everything we are, everything we believe and want are within these ashes”.

This encouraged me to think about the hopes (ours and those whom we coach) we invest in the act of coaching and the memory doors we provide.

Towards the end of our trip home, Ivy asked me what sport I would do now if I had a choice. I said swimming. Ivy thought that might be her choice too.

Photo Credits

Lane 2 (Keith Lyons, CC BY 2.0)

The Bramley Apple Tree (Experience Nottinghamshire Now )

Zhang Huan (Frame grab)

That coaching feeling

My granddaughter, Ivy, and I went to our first out-of-town swimming carnival together. The event, for junior schools in and around Goulburn, was held at the Yass Memorial Swimming Pool (also know as the Yass Olympic Swimming Pool).

Ivy’s home pool is 18 metres, Yass is 50.

We had the best part of two hours in the car across country to chat, talk about excitement and nerves.

Ivy has had the good fortune of having swimming lessons with Sharon Blinco at Braidwood. This has given her a great technical introduction to swimming.

We arrived early enough for Ivy to have a ‘warm up’ swim. It was a cold start but Ivy had an opportunity to come to terms with a finishing wall that was 32 metres further than her home pool.

Ivy was swimming in the 50 metres freestyle early in the event. I mentioned to her what ‘marshalling’ was and asked her to look at the start of a couple of races to make sure she was aware of being called to the start and the signal to start.

Whilst Ivy was off with her school friends, I watched some of the early relay races. I saw three swimmers who got me thinking how I might work with them. They stood out amongst their peers.

The coaching feeling I had was about how I might structure their learning environments and how Ivy would flourish in their company through observational learning and conversation.

For a while I was off exploring that coaching feeling. Then it was Ivy’s race.

She swam beautifully, a very long way. She was exhausted after the 50 metres but was radiant with the glow of achievement.

That set me off again about how as a coach I might induct young people into the joy of play and their journey into competition if they wished.

We stopped for pancakes on the way home. Great recovery food … but that was a conversation for another time.