Category: bonus day

Bonus Day

Today we took a handful of athletes to compete at the State Meet of Champions. It’s a beautiful day, everyone was in high spirits, and it was a really, really good meet. It’s the end of my season (The Head Coach has one more week… more on that in the next paragraph), and I’m happy with it.

My favorite thing is that we had a rookie senior in the competition today. This is a kid who NEVER had being a track athlete on his radar until he got hurt playing football and wasn’t allowed to do any other spring sports; now he gets to say he’s one of the best in the state. My other favorite thing is that another of our boys qualified for New Englands, and the rest of our athletes either matched or set PRs. What more could I want?

What was cool for me, too, was that my middle school, high school, and college coaches were all at this meet with various teams. AND- this is surreal- one of my former athletes, Torin, was there because he’s now a college coach and he was watching one of his commits run. He and I were headed for the bleachers when we ran into my middle school coach, Coach E.

Now, Coach E and I always say hello and make small talk at meets, but it’s been more than twenty years since he was my coach, so I know he only vaguely remembers me. Like, he knows I was one of his athletes a long time ago, but I doubt he’d remember my name if it wasn’t written on my jacket. So usually, I’m the one who goes and says hi, but he actually spotted me first today. We shook hands, I introduced him to Torin, and we chatted about each other’s teams, how the season had gone, what we hoped for today, etc…

I made the remark that so many folks who’d coached me were there. He told me it was funny that I still called him Coach and all because he’d never really thought of himself as a middle school coach; it was just a volunteer thing he’d done while he was student-teaching because he wanted to stay involved in the sport. Later, he moved on to teaching and coaching at the high school level (at the school where he still coaches, not the one I went to), which was what he really wanted to be doing, and that, according to him, is when he really became a coach.

So then I got to tell him a story he hadn’t known:

I joined the track team when I was in seventh grade because a girl at my bus stop was bullying me for having asthma. This girl was a really good runner, and she was always bragging about doing track, and I just wanted to shut her up. I fell in love with sprinting immediately, but making it through the 800m warm-up at the start of every practice wasn’t easy, at first. One day I had a nasty asthma attack, and I wanted to quit. Coach E jogged alongside me, and told me to pick my head up, take my inhaler, and breathe. He would not let me give up. I said, “I bet you don’t remember that, but I do.” 

He gave me a big hug and thanked me for telling him, then joked that he had to go cry in the bleachers for a while (or maybe he actually did cry in the bleachers…) It’s really special that I get to coach at these big meets along with the coaches who trained me, and that I got to tell this one what an impact he’d had. 

Bonus Day

Today we took our young track team to the State Division Championship, which was pretty exciting because it’s the first time for most of them. It’s big meet experience, and it’s so much fun. Us coaches were pretty happy about having all six relay teams qualify because we like relays; then, even better, five out of the six ran PRs. I was THRILLED for my 4×1 teams because the girls’ PR was massive, and the boys did it with an alternate running second. I told them before the race to trust their training and it’d happen, and it did. It’s the best feeling in the world, as a coach, to watch the anchor cross the line and see the time come up when it’s good. 

And it’s exciting that these are freshmen and sophomores. They haven’t done the best they’re going to do yet, you know? They have all this potential. So, sure, the season’s over, but things are still just beginning for them.

For three of our four seniors, this was the last hurrah, and it couldn’t have been a better day for it, really. The sun was shining and they were all competing so well. As for the fourth, he made MOCs by placing in the top three in multiple events, so he’s got at least one more race- maybe two, if he makes New Englands. So that’s awesome.

Oh, and in the middle of the meet, I totally roasted one of the distance runners because he walked into it, and I kind of had to:

Athlete: Coach, I’m going to the concession stand. I just wanted to tell you so that you know where your favorite student is. 
Me: *gesturing at two of my sprinter* But <name> and <name> are right there. Of course I know where they are.
Everyone else: BUUUUUUURN!

That’s coaching teenage boys in a nutshell, by the way. 

So, yeah, we had fun today. I’m tired, sunburned, and unbelievably proud of this team. What a way to go out at a championship.

Bonus Day

The track team left town at 6:15AM. We came home eight hours later with sunburns and a trophy.

It was really anyone’s day today on the boys’ side of the competition; like, there were six or seven teams that were all in title contention. That my boys- who are nearly all freshmen and sophomores- scored enough points to get some hardware is awesome. I am thrilled for them. But, even if we’d finished in dead last, and they’d competed as hard as they did today, I’d have still been thrilled. They gave it absolutely everything they had. We got unexpected points in hurdles and discus, and massive points from the multi-event athletes who had to maintain high levels of performance despite being tired, and exciting points from the 4×100 and 4×400 relays (fifth and second, respectively) because those races were just so tight. 

So yeah, I’m super proud of them. 

And I’m proud of the girls, who are also a young team, for hanging onto a top six finish. We got lots of surprise points from them, as well; like, the 4x100m team running a massive PR and taking fifth place, one of the ninth grade girls throwing a discus five feet further than she’d ever thrown it, making finals, qualifying for the division championship (the next meet in the post-season)… While our upperclassmen were maybe disappointed to give up their championship crown, I don’t think anyone went home disappointed in how they performed in their individual events.

Cool thing: being out on the track with my 4x100m teams to practice hand-offs before the meet started, catching sight of my college coach (whose “retirement job” is coaching another team in the conference)- the man who taught me how to do this- watching me from the finish line. I really hope he could see how much he taught me, you know? Shaking hands with him at the end was cool, too.

Another cool thing: I have a really talented sophomore sprinter who is going to be a phenom (and an amazing captain) by the time he’s a senior. Last year, this was the last meet of his season, and it was really just for experience- he wasn’t seeded to score points in any event- but I told him his time was going to come. This year, he got points in two events, medaled in one, and has at least one more week to race. He’s trusted me, and trusted the process, and it’s awesome that it’s paying off. So at the end of the meet, I said, “How’s it feel now that your time is here?” and got a big grin.

At one point, I also called him an evolving Pokemon because he’s going from dasher to 200m-400m specialist, and everyone laughed at that. I’m equal parts wise, serious, and raging goofball when I coach.

And that’s the best way to be.

Bonus Day

Today was the last track meet of the regular season: an invitational on a brand new track, good competition, the sun shining… 

So it was a good day. 

The throwers benefited from finally having sunshine and warmth; one of our boys placed in all three throwing events, and others placed in one or two, and there were a lot of PRs. My sprinters had a lot of PRs, as well, and a lot of the boys placed in the points, which was awesome. There were some who juuuust missed qualifying for the post-season, but I reminded them that they’re young and will be back next season to try again. I mean, nearly all of them are freshmen.

The 4×1 boys had a new anchor- also a freshman- so before the meet started I had to show him how to take a blind hand-off. He was nervous about it, but when it came time to race, he did just fine. The pass was *chef kiss* perfect, the team placed, and they almost got a PR- about .04 off- so I’m pretty pleased with them.

I also have to say that, while my team is generally full of nice kids with good sportsmanship, today they were particularly impressive. I just saw lots of instances of positive behavior, and that’s really the mos important thing.  

Aaaaand I had a nice chat towards the end of the meet with the coach who always smiles at me. Do we know each other’s names? Nah. But we talked about having young teams with lots of potential,. His 4×1 boys broke the meet record today, so I gave him some props for that, and he asked how my team was looking for States. 

We shall see…

Bonus Day

Another Saturday, another track meet! Here are some awesome things:

  1. It was actually sunny! And warm enough for me to take my jacket off!
  2. My 4×1 relays sprinted their way to huuuuuge PRs! 
  3. We won the meet!

Less awesome: we were missing a bunch of people for not great reasons, and The Head Coach had to speak to a few of the boys about their behavior, which is a rarity on this team. Hopefully, lesson’s learned and that won’t happen again. It’s way too fine a day for nonsense like that.

There were some seriously amazing performances in all the events. Coach T’s distance runners crushed the 4×800 and the open 800m. And, like, my best dasher ran four events today- 100m, 200m, and both relays- to see how his body would hold up to that because he could pick up points in all four at our conference championship. If we’re going to contend, we may need him to do that. I already told you that the 4×1 PRed; he also ran a 200m PR and came back and ran his leg of the 4×4 at his usual pace. I am so proud of him for that. 

And, oh man, my 4×1 girls smashed their previous PR! Their time today was over a second faster than it was last time they raced! It’s because their passes were perfect, and I love that they’re getting to experience that practice paying off. They just might make the cut-off for States if they continue to improve, and that was not in the cards for them initially, so this is exciting. 

Bonus Day

I got up at 5:30 this morning. During my spring break. 

I don’t even get up that early for school.

So why did I do it? Because the track team had a long bus ride down to another big invitational. Only about a third of the team competed at this one because it’s got capped entries- and because a bunch of our athletes who would’ve made the cap were sick and stayed home. Happily, I had sprinters in the dashes and the relays! They’re all freshmen and sophomores, so I made sure to talk to them about what a big deal it was to be there- even if they were going to come in last- because most of the other competitors were juniors and seniors. They’re really starting to see that this is a four year game, not one meet or one season. 

I was happy with their performances today, though. It was cold and rainy all day long, so no one was breaking any PRs, but they all ran hard. The relays passed beautifully, which gave them quite an edge over some of the other teams there. The boys finished a full ten places higher than they were seeded, and the girls finished four places higher. It’s good for them to see how much that work pays off. 

Not going to lie, though, probably the best part of the day was getting on the bus, putting dry clothes on, and warming up! That’s how bad the weather was!

Bonus Day

Today there was a middle school home meet, so we had a short practice and then we all helped out at that. The high school kids were our hurdle crew, our field event officials, and our results runners. The Head Coach and Coach T handled timing, I did the clerking, and we put on a great little meet.

It’s an aspect of track and field that I really like, even though it cuts into our training time, because it builds positive connections when older athletes help officiate meets for the younger ones. I did it in high school and college, too, and I remember how meaningful it was to talk to the younger athletes, who looked up to my teammates and I and wanted to be just like us. It’s the same for the kids I coach now; it gives them a chance to be positive role models, and it’s for them good to give something back to the community. 

Bonus Day

Saturday’s track meet was a giant invitational. Today’s was a little tri-meet. It’s good to have both on the season schedule, and it’s usually a toss-up which is more fun for me as a coach, but today’s gets extra fun points because it was a home meet. 

My sprinters were fantastic. The boys swept the 100m, and took most of the places in the 200m, as well. One of the freshmen won the 200m in an upset, and didn’t realize it, so he was shocked and overjoyed when I showed him the results sheet. The girls didn’t score as many points, but a bunch of them qualified for the post-season, so they were happy. And both my 4×1 teams PRed! 

The rest of the team did well, too. Coach T’s saving his distance runners for next Saturday- another big meet- but they picked up some points in the 400m and 800m. And out in the field events, we had a bunch of PRs and points; the throwers absolutely crushed it in javelin and discus. The boys ended up winning the meet, and the girls split it. That’s a solid result for this young team.

It’s always good to do well in front of the home crowd. 

Bonus Day

I love spring break practice. I really do.

I got up this morning, threw on the faded t-shirt from my college that says “captain” on the back and “sprinter” on the front, and I thought about how glad I was that this sport is still part of my life. I think most of you know that I’m an army brat who grew up moving every three years, and don’t have a strong sense of place, or lifelong connections, or any of that. Track and teaching are the things I’ve done longer than anything else in my life, they’re the things that are mine, and track came first. 

So it’s always going to be special.

Spring break practice is all the best parts of it. It’s basking in the sunshine for (usually) the first time all season, fine-tuning technique with my sprinters, doing relay passes until they’re perfect, playing games versus Coach T’s distance runners… 

I say this every year because it’s something people don’t get. Like, why would I give up my vacation time to coach practice? For the same reason I gave it up as an athlete: for love of the sport.

Bonus Day

I got on the bus at 7:15AM, and I got off the bus at 7:25PM. 

It was a long, rainy day at one of the big invitational track meets down south. Our team wasn’t at full strength because we got hit with the flu, and now it’s spring break, but the athletes we did bring did well. We came home with a few medals and ribbons, and a few PRs in spite of the weather conditions.

And we had fun! The team was out cheering throughout all the events, even when the rain was the heaviest, and athletes were encouraging each other to do their best no matter what the weather did. At one point an official actually came up to The Head Coach to compliment their behavior, which was really great.

I also got to see the athletic trainer who’d been attached to my team in college. He’s a doctor now, and has a fourteen-year-old daughter who was sprinting at the meet today. I remember when she was born, so that made me feel kind of old.Meanwhile, the AT looks like he hasn’t aged a day, and he said the same thing about me. We hadn’t seen each other since I was 22, so it was pretty cool to catch up with him.

My favorite thing was the last race, though: the boys 4×4. We have an amazing team, but our anchor has the flu, and our alternate is a rookie freshman. We knew he was going up against guys who are way faster than he is; Coach T and I told him the other three guys were going hard, and he just had to hang on to a point-scoring position. Which he did. He also improved his PR by four seconds. I think he expected us to be disappointed that he couldn’t hold onto the other boys’ lead, but we all just said how proud we were of him.

Steve Prefontaine said racing was about seeing who has the most guts. This kid ran a gutsy race.