Dunn Neugebauer Column: Changing Courses

This year has been as easy to fear as a doctor's report, as steady as a Jenga board, and as fun to complain about as that Super Bowl the Falcons played in a few years ago. Yeah, you know the one I'm talking about. 

Still, I'm going to go against the current here and speak of the great things I've seen as far as cross country is concerned. First, I'm having no problem NOT spilling coffee on myself while driving a van to such places a Whitesburg, Sharpsburg, The Rock, or Fairburn -- in all due respect to each and every one of those towns.

Not having to wonder who got the spike kit, the medkit, and where's the tarp, while wiping French Vanilla off my leg is something I'm okay not having to do. Next, so far this season has brought about something very weird, but very good.

This Saturday, for example, we will drive two exits off of 285 for our meet, instead of the usual hour-plus to East or West Bumble. We will compete against two other teams -- both coached by personal friends -- which should make it easy to enjoy.

Also, since the meets are more local and smaller, I no longer have to get boxed out at the finish line to get a good spot to log down the times. Please know, if NBA players shoved and pushed for a position better than some of those spectators, regular season hoops games could almost be enjoyable again. Almost.

Our changing society has divided cross country practices with smaller gatherings. With 95 on the roster at my school (which translates to around 70 once some get injured, others have academic issues, and some realize that running is actually pretty tough), once we split the squad, I'm dealing with around 30 when we train at the river.

Thirty? That's a bonus -- the equivalent of your mom throwing an extra blanket over you on a cold winter's night. Thirty? The former had us keeping track of 80, and picture, if you will, 80 14-through-18 year-olds scattering through the woods, across the Fulton and Cobb County planet, running or hiding or some combination of both in all that territory.

Do you want to keep track of that? Don't get me wrong, I couldn't love them more, but having 30 the other day was a Godsend -- the thrill of putting the kids in just six groups and knowing where all six of them were. It was a joy I had forgotten -- took me back years ago -- maybe sometime before Obama was President. 

Another note: with just 30 I can bond better, even when socially distant of course. The more you know how they operate -- physically and mentally -- the better you can coach. Knowledge equals power can be a scary thing in the wrong hands, but knowing when making a training plan is good -- and effective.

And I've written of smaller races meaning different and new people breaking the sacred tape, new names bantered around at camps and coffee tables.

I close learning to embrace change and, as I've written, at times coaching with a stopwatch in one hand and checking my email in the other. There is uncertainty, that's an understatement. 

But as for cross country season 2020 -- assuming we have a region and a state -- so far, I'm enjoying the new normal, the new races, and the thrill of friendly competition. So, hold the coffee please, and here's to sleeping in an hour later come Saturday…