The New Old Guy

First published on May 5, 2016 during the Atlanta Open.

Today I’m competing for the first time with my new pro. It’s funny…calling him “new” given he’s twenty years older than the last guy I hired to drag me around the ballroom. [Related post: Kicking and Screaming]

You may remember my first pro partner was 30 years younger than me, which is the same age as MY OLDEST SON. Yeah. I know… a little weird, but once you spend some time on the competitive dance circuit, you realize an age discrepancy of several decades is not uncommon among pro-am partnerships. Still, I was never able to fully reconcile myself with the creepy cougar factor so dancing with the new “old” guy (who is only ten years younger than me) feels far less like a crime against nature. Plus he’s married to my husband’s pro partner, which makes for some interesting trash talk around the studio as we prepare for pro-am contests.

You’d think switching to the new “old” guy – someone closer to my age – would’ve been a no-brainer. Not only was I was apprehensive about training with the new “old” guy,  I’d been flirting with quitting pro-am altogether. I was having loads more fun dancing am-am with The Dancing Doc than I was dancing pro-am plus the new “old” guy has a reputation for being – sorry, there’s no nice way to put it – a hard ass. He will yell and scream and push me to do better and he’s relentless about achieving goals.

Good coaches are often perceived as hard asses. When I was a gymnast, my coach sat in a lifeguard chair raised above the entire gym and cracked a whip against the floor – yes a real whip a la Gunther Gebel – to illustrate her frustration. She screamed and used profanity and to an outsider looking in, appeared brutally abusive. But her passion made me want to become the best I could be. That’s what good coaches do. Watch.

The Texas Longhorns went on to win their next ten baseball games and the Big 12 Conference Championship after that speech from Augie Garrido. For those moments, they were the best they could be and for as long as they live, no one can take that away from them.

There is nothing sweeter than to know you are the best you can be at something. At 54, the ship of my pro-dancing career has sailed, but maybe the new “old” guy can help me get to that place where I know I’m the best I can be. As long as he’s still yelling and screaming, I’ll know I have a chance.

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