About This Coaching Thing...
by Dunn Neugebauer
I'm not a Division I coach and never
want to be. After all, the underlying philosophy there from the
"supporters" is - "We're with you win or tie! Oh, and about
that tie thing..."
It's easy for coaches to get on the
ego trip of winning sometimes, and our kids often suffer because of
it. I almost screwed that up last cross country season, my desire to
have state coaching titles to go with my two I won as a kid.
Kids are pulled into so many
directions, straight out of the womb these days. Better. Faster.
More. Still, the bottom line is, more isn't better, rest is often
your best training. If you don't take time for renewal, you won't
be a better self for anyone, mainly yourself.
My advice to 14-through-18-year-olds:
Be a boy. Be a girl. Do your best, but don't forget to hang out
with your friends. Watch the new YouTube video. Flirt, make memories
while you're supposed to be studying for tests; talk about the hot
guy in chemistry class, have random conversations in the hallways.
Balance, baby, balance - a VERY underrated word.
I'm a high school coach and my worse mistake comes when I forget that. Two rules work their way inside my head when I do: 1) It's not about me, and 2) It's not about me.
I spent this weekend at a two-day track meet, 28 teams, most if not all bigger schools. One major point: They sacrificed some of their Spring Break to be here. All got better. One broke the tape; one took home two medals. All learned. All are now off to other parts of their lives.
Anyway, last year at times, our cross
country team was picked to win it all. We didn't, we learned, and
standing at the finish line at Carrollton, one major thought worked
past my ego: There are 20 runners here. Most of the entire Upper
School came to support. These youth now know the A-to-Z: from running
in random cornfields in front of only God, to being the main draw in
front of the entire running state.
You see, it's about scared freshmen girls who mature so much they talk your ear off just two short years later. Boys making a game out of yelling in the stretching circle. Girls braiding each other's hair before races. Getting up at dark thirty on a Saturday - it sounds tough, but as Tom Hanks said, it's the tough that makes it great. Seeing Jackie, Nick, Aidan, and Welden nailing it at Milton this weekend. Sweating. Healing. Back to class. Off to see a movie. Balance dang it!
As for my finish line, they get better.
They enjoy each other. They still have lives or they (bleeping) well
should have. And as for the graduates, Jayaraj and I got a text last
Wednesday from a former runner now at Sewanee. It seems her roommate
is getting mad at her because "she won't shut up about her cross
country and track days!"
Let's see now: Win? Lose? Tie?
Call me crazy, but this is sounding like a win to me. And God Bless high school sports, the way they're meant to be.
Dunn Neugebauer coaches cross country and track at Holy Innocents' Episcopal School in Atlanta. He's written a couple of books, but besides writing, his favorite things are still coaching and random 22-second conversations with kids between classes.