from Greg Stone, Playrific guest blogger and friend of Beth Marcus, our CEO
I am the proud father of Gevvie Stone, who represented the US at the London Games in the women’s single scull. I have also been privileged to have been Gevvie’s coach over that past four years. Together we have trained on the Charles, on rowing machines, cross country skiing, on bicycles and running Harvard Stadium. She can beat me in everything now, but that was not the case when we began four years ago.
Stepping back, Gevvie was the least athletic of our three children before she was 12 or 13, although she always loved the social and exercise aspects of sports. Like many suburban kids, she began on intra city soccer teams and added swimming and lacrosse as she got older. Once in a great while she would go out in a double scull with me, but she did not begin rowing in earnest until her junior year of high school when she failed to make the varsity lacrosse team (or feared that she might fail). With her height (six feet) and boating background, we suspected that she would be a natural. Her two high school boats, coached by her mother, were national champions.
After failing to make the 2008 Olympic Team, Gevvie entered Tufts Medical School and began to scull on the Charles. Success that first fall in “Head races” (over longer courses with boats starting one at a time) convinced her to give it another go, in the single. As coach, I was convenient and free. After two years of med school she took a two year leave of absence to concentrate on the rowing.
There are some inherent advantages one has in coaching their children. You know them so well, emotionally and physiologically, that you have a huge advantage over a new coach. You are also willing to go the extra mile without thought. If I were a professional coach, I don’t know if I would be as patient with the inevitable disappointments and tears, or if I would spend quite so much time just hanging out. There have also been lessons to learn. In her first year, when I pushed her off for a big race in Europe, I would look at the competition and the difficult factor and have a parent’s empathy, and often say, “However you do, I love you.” She hated that, and it apparently is not too inspiring. A lot of that empathy and love had to be shed, or buried. I learned to define her goals in absolute terms, and to demand performance (sort of.) Also, as her coach, it was also hard for me to get any respect, or help, from the US Rowing establishment. The managers and professional coaches did not give me any credibility as a coach and perhaps such a relationship threatened them in some way. However, we have always been more accepted as a team in Europe, where parent –child teams are more common.
The Olympics themselves were a spectacular show and a wonderful opportunity to meet and race with the best. The British were excellent hosts. All of us would relive it in a second.
R. Gregg Stone