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Coaching for More Than the Trophy

Jim Abt is the best coach I’ve ever had, even though he’s never technically been my coach in anything. Not only is Jim one of the most skilled athletic coaches that I have ever encountered, but he is a very wise and experienced life coach. No matter the circumstances–no matter how upset I am, no matter what race I have just won or lost– this coach knows just what to say.
The extent of my relationship with Jim is slightly complicated- I have been a varsity runner on both the cross country team and the track team at Cleburne High School for all four years at CHS and Jim is the swim team coach for our high school. Although I do not swim, one of my best friends, Hillary, was a swimmer. Through my friendship with her, I became acquainted with Jim. She, along with other swimmers, informed me that no one knows who “Coach Abt” is, but everyone knows Jim. Although it struck me as strange at first to not address an authority figure with an appropriate title including a salutation and last name, I complied.

During the summer between my junior and senior year, I attended swim practices twice a week as a cross-training tool. I became familiar with Jim’s coaching style: kind and considerate, at first asking you to “give me a 50 freestyle” or “try your hardest to straighten your arms throughout that backstroke,” etc. When a swimmer did not try his or her hardest or the work-ethic began to wane, even in the slightest, Jim’s voice became rough and strict, fierce with commands and suggestion. The coaching was not cruel or scary in any way, but it almost felt like I would be letting Jim down if I didn’t try my hardest. I knew from the tidbits of advice that he shared during pauses in a workout or between repetitions of sprints that hesitating to “try your best,” “give it your all,” or even “slacking off” did NOT provide the results that an athlete desired and that workouts lacking full effort were futile. This attitude and focus on the future gave every workout a purpose and goal, a method of training that I am very glad to have learned during my youth instead of acquiring at an older age. Lessons similar to these are only the beginnings of everything that I have learned from Jim.

Jim’s constant encouragement, improvements to my running form, and stories that built my confidence were endless and immeasurably beneficial to my success as an athlete and student. Without his worthy participation in my training, I know I could not have accomplished half of my results based on his preparation and help, especially in my areas of confidence, self-esteem, and attitude. My athletic training, while important, paled in comparison to the importance I place on my school work. Because I weigh my scholarly efforts so heavily, it was extremely convenient that the perseverance, positive attitude, and work ethic I developed on the track carried over into my studies. After training with Jim, I had the confidence to sign up for a more difficult course, work ethic to ensure an “A” on a paper, and mindset to believe that I could accomplish anything I desired.
Jim has taught me not to settle, even if I win my race. Jim sees the potential in athletes like myself to compete at elite levels. He pushes me past my limit during workouts and races because he believes in my success and trusts that I can fulfill my highest goals. For this, I also believe that I can accomplish anything. I yearn to one day be the kind of example that Jim Abt has been in my life.
If I never would have met Jim Abt, I can honestly say that my life would be missing something worthwhile. The lessons that he taught me through sports has definitely carried over to the classroom. Through my relationship with this outstanding coach, I have gained knowledge, advice, and lessons that I can pass on to others. Without his expertise, I would not be the person that I am today.





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