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.