At the end of every season, there comes a time to say goodbye. Every year, as both a teacher and a coach, I watch young men and women I’ve grown close to graduate and move on to the next phase of their lives. Whether it’s at banquets or graduations, watching a senior leave the team is usually heavy with complex emotions.
Those complex emotions are just as strong for the dancers as they are for me as a coach.
I saw it first-hand just last week…I was judging a tryout where the graduating seniors were there to help run things and they were a huge help. But at the end of the day, the new team was announced, and I was smiling ear-to-ear as I watched the new team celebrate, hug, and cry tears of joy for making the team.
But I also noticed the group of graduating seniors next to me. They were quietly huddled together, tearing up, clearly trying to keep it professional, but struggling to hide their emotions. With the announcement of that new team, they were officially no longer members.
End-of-season emotions can be really challenging, but watching that tryout made me think about all of the dancers and students I’ve said “goodbye” to over the years.
3 things I wish I knew about saying goodbye.
1. The end of one season rolls right into the next, and the feelings can be complicated.
Now my story above makes it sound like I’m always crying happy tears and sad to see them go. But let’s be honest, it depends on the season. The majority of the time, there is a real sense of grief when a season ends. Other years, I’m ready to pop the Champaign!
Regardless of the emotion, however, I think it’s important to realize that the end of the season often overlaps with the beginning of the next and it’s ok to take some time to actually experience a mix of emotions.
If you’re feeling a sense of grief at the end of the season, take a minute to reflect on that and give yourself a chance to process. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of journaling, and this is a great opportunity. Take 10 minutes and write down your favorite memories of the season.
There are some years when I’ll pull out an old scrapbook or my box of notes from former dancers and read through the letters. Just an hour spent looking back on those happy memories helps me close that chapter and move on to the next with the commitment and excitement the new team deserves.
2. You don’t have to say goodbye. Say, “See you soon.”
Any psychologist will tell you that just saying the word “goodbye” can be really difficult for people. It feels final. It feels too serious and complete. If you are struggling to say goodbye to a certain graduating senior, it doesn’t have to be goodbye. Think of it, as “see you soon.” It can reign in the negative emotions and make it feel less definitive.
When I left the day-to-day coaching a few years ago, I definitely treated that last banquet as a “see you later” moment. And you know what? It turned out to be true. It’s not like I left for good! I was able to watch at competitions. I helped the captains with leadership goals, and just generally watched from the sidelines as the team continued to grow and succeed.
So when you reach the end of the season, if you’re struggling to say goodbye to those seniors, just say “see you later!”
3. Coach, you make a bigger impact than you realize.
I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that even if you do say goodbye and don’t see that dancer again, you’re still a part of her life.
Think about the people who have made an impact on you. A Coach, a teacher, a mentor… anyone along your journey who made a difference. Do you still think about that person? Do they still influence who you are and what you do?
I certainly have a few mentors at different phases of my life that I think about regularly. What would she do in this situation? I’m so happy with ______, and I wouldn’t be here without her.
What I hope you realize Coach, is that YOU are now that person to your dancers. Even when you say goodbye, you will have a lasting influence on their lives.
So maybe it is goodbye, and you won’t see them again. But your impact will continue. For me, that makes watching those seniors graduate a moment of pure happiness. I’m able to let go of any sadness because I can watch them and know I’ve made a small lasting impact. I’m always with them, and that’s what matters more than my emotions
So go ahead and say goodbye. You’ll always be with them.