I’ll call it a success. The mountain bike season ended last weekend with an outdoor pizza party on a chilly night. I can’t recall the last time I felt so cold. Maybe last March? Spring was pretty warm, plus during the lockdown I was always indoors. So yes, not cold since March. I didn’t like it, but a warm inner glow of satisfaction kept it bearable.
The party format in order: A trail ride, pizza, awards, professional mountain biking videos projected on the side of a barn, and the general mayhem expected when you allow forty teenagers to ride bikes unsupervised around a field after dark. Let’s drop back to the awards; I got one. All the coaches did, but that doesn’t detract from the pride I felt.
My gift: A coffee mug full of candy and a gift card to a pub. All nice. I ate all the candy at the party. I’ll go to the pub when the pandemic is over. What did it for me was the mug. One side said “When all else fails, hit the trails.” The other side simply read “Coach Jeff.”
Coach Jeff. This is the first time I’ve ever completed something like this. When Eli was little, I agreed to be a scout leader. Really, the assistant den leader, I had no responsibilities. I served as solidarity for the mom who did all the work. I’m not counting that experience.
Once, I served on a nonprofit board—the Adams County Farmers’ Market, for only four months. When I left my office mid-day to attend the meetings, my boss smiled and said “Have fun.” But through her eyes, deep into her brain, I could see the gear shafts turning, the calculations clicking, the flames burning. What I heard was “You’re not doing your job. Stop effing around on company time.” I spent my whole drive to the meeting feeling bad about myself. In the meetings, I was all but silent. The other board members, young and bright and actually farmers, brought up so many great ideas. I felt bad about myself during the meetings too.
I thought about this experience when I volunteered to coach Eli’s team. Bailing halfway through the season would not only embarrass myself, it would embarrass Eli, too. I thought about the job I took two years ago at an elementary school, the one I quit in three months. I thought about my next job, the struggling nonprofit, I couldn’t right the ship. I quit after a year. They shut their doors a few months later. I thought about anxiety, and social anxiety and imposter syndrome; about my awkwardness in groups; my discomfort around kids, my hearing impairment; my Tourette Syndrome. I thought about the fact that I haven’t mountain biked in twenty years. I thought about all the reasons I might want to quit in the middle of the season. And then I signed up to be a coach anyway.
I wasn’t the best coach on the team, but I was useful. And reliable. And I had fun. I’m happy it’s done for the year. Four months, three days a week is a big commitment. I’m ready for more time to myself. But I can’t wait for it to start up again next summer. Another year as Coach Jeff.