Last weekend my track and field team brought home their 6th district plaque in 7 years. Obviously, this is a difficult task to accomplish and I couldn’t be more proud of this group. The weather has been horrible all spring with wind, rain, and lots of snow. In addition we lost a couple of our best distance runners this year/last year due to relocation out of town. Outside of track my family has been dealing with a medical crises that has tested my faith and resolve on a daily basis. A younger version of myself would have probably folded up the tents. However, we stayed the course as a program and the team has ended the season on a high note finishing second at conference and districts. I am proud of this group because they have worked hard all year by battled along side of me day in and out. The captains have been strong and my assistant coaches have been even stronger.
In difficult years strong assistant coaches are a must. They can help you play good cop bad cop with the kids. In addition they can help you sell new events to your athletes making your team more diverse and giving the kids an increased chance at personal glory. As a coach it is wise not hoard all the talent in one area. You may want to make every kid a sprinter. As a sprint coach I often want to make everyone a 400 runner. However, some years you have to allow your kids to succeed in the events they are best suited for. The athletes determine their events through their performance and the coach should not force a square peg into a round hole. On the other hand as a coach you must have a realistic vision. You prepare the athlete in practice for this vision by provided them training to succeed in the event that will eventually become their specialty.
This year I thought we did a great job of diversifying our line up. I believe our mission this spring was a success as we qualified all of our relays and a large number of individual events to the sectional meet. The weather at the district championship was less then ideal as the track was getting blasted by 30plus mile per hour headwinds. The kids were aware the weather could be a problem and didn’t let it affect their goal for day. The only thing that mattered to the athletes was getting top four and moving on to the sectional meet.
As a coach it is your job to understand the chess match. You need to make sure the moves you make are not just for the track meet six inches in front of your face. When you set the lineup you must do your best to set up things that are the best for your kids in terms of performance, potential for state qualifying, medaling at state, and finally the team score. This year I knew 1st place was going to be out of reach at districts. Understanding the reality of second place I was not willing to stretch my kids in to multiple events if I felt it was going to hurt their chances the following week. In most cases this worked out great allowing the kids to move on to the next round and performing personally at a high level.
This season has been difficult for me personally and I missed more practice time this season then I have in my eleven previous seasons combined. My amazing assistant coaches have helped and continue to battle through this with me today. They have kept the program moving forward and having a detailed plan allowed me to easily communicate (most days) what we need the kids to accomplish each practice. The overwhelming majority of the kids didn’t miss a beat by working harder than ever to honor the program, the tradition, and my family.