“Road ends in water” was a road sign on the way to my parents’ house on a lake in rural Kentucky. Turn left, get to a warm bed and cable. Go straight, end up submerged in cold water and mired in clay mud off the end of a boat ramp. The sign is important.

My coach is moving on to an internship across the country. We knew this phase of our relationship was coming to a end months ago when he started filling out applications. He’s ready to move on to other places and bigger opportunities. We both suck at termination. “We’ll be in constant contact,” he promised.

We’ll be in constant contact.

Therapeutic relationships in my office “begin with the end in mind.” At the beginning of care, we agree what conditions will be met for discharge. Clients are free to leave early, but are not allowed to stay late, and the client’s progress is continually monitored for suitability for discharge. The clinician is responsible for preparing the client for discharge during the course of treatment and we are trained in activities to help clients terminate this important relationship. Coaching relationships, while potentially therapeutic, are vague and open-ended. The working relationship continues as long as both parties find it productive. Excellent relationships can last for an athlete’s entire career. Modern communications enable “on-line” coaching anywhere an internet connection can be found. Ending a coaching relationship is more like “breaking up,” even when the relationship is professional.

Termination involves acknowledgment. “Road ends in water.” Goals are met or the situation is changing. “Road ends in water 1500 feet.” Friday will be the last day we train together. “Road ends in water 1500 feet. How was your navigation?” How has the relationship changed the people in it? What did we learn? What will we carry forward?

We aren’t breaking up but distance relationships are tricky. People get busy, priorities shift. Maintaining connection requires deliberate effort and commitment. The infinite non-verbals we exchange in the barn will be gone. I won’t know when he has something on his mind unless he explicitly tells me. He won’t be able to watch me walk up to a bar and assess … everything.

Cherish what you have with who you have it with while it lasts, it won’t be there forever.

former DDO guildy, Married with Children/Argonnessen

No matter what happens next, we will never be the same.

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