There’s a wonderful exchange between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the classic 1998 romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail in which Tom’s character attempts to tell Meg that his book conglomerate putting her tiny shop out of business isn’t personal. She stares at him, incredulous, and says, “What is that supposed to mean? I’m so sick of that! All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s personal to a lot of people – and what’s so wrong with being personal anyway?”
Hanks fumbles and replies, “Uh, nothing.”
Meg’s character tells him, “Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.”
Over the weekend, in addition to that other significant sporting event that was held (it was something involving football, I believe), many riders who compete in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) entered the post-season, as regional competitions kicked off across the country. It’s an exciting time of year – and a nerve-wracking one – for the riders who have trained so hard for not only the past year, but for all the weeks, months, and years that have preceded. Goals have been set and it’s now crunch time – will those aspirations be achieved or will they still be the ones riders work toward next season? Only time and good draws will tell.
But if you think the riders themselves are the only ones who are nervous right now, readers, you’re sorely mistaken. My favorite people to watch during this time of year aren’t the people inside the arena performing (in many cases) the rides of their life – instead, it’s the people outside the arena who have worked right alongside the competitors to reach this stage:
I watch the coaches.
Let me tell you what I know about the coaches in the IHSA readers: They’re tireless. They’re relentless. They’re focused. And they’re wonderful. They often spend more time with their teams than their families during the school year, which means that they often don’t just have sons and daughters at home, they have 15 to 50 more sons and daughters at the barn. I know coaches who have gone to the hospital with riders who broke ankles during aerobics classes on campus because the students’ parents were in another state and the student was otherwise going to go to the ER alone. I know coaches who sit in their offices and plan out each student’s individual path to the IHSA Nationals down to the last detail the same way that student does on his or her own time from the comfort of a residence hall room.
And I know coaches who celebrate more enthusiastically than their riders when those post-season dreams start to become reality.
It’s personal to these people, readers – and, unlike the approach to business Tom Hanks adopted in You’ve Got Mail – it’s personal in the very best way because these coaches invest themselves so fully in the successes of their students. The student’s victory is the coach’s victory and sometimes when the outcome looks uncertain, it’s hard to tell who wants it more.
So when students ask me to recommend a college riding program to them (after we’ve outlined the right academic options, of course), the best advice I can give is to look for a program that’s personal.
There’s nothing wrong with that.