Dunn Neugebauer Column: The Art of Coaching Track

Coach Neugebauer points left at William Welden (go that way amigo) while Joe Sapone looks on, lol.

(photo by Dan McCauley)

Here is another great piece by Coach Dunn Neugebauer from Holy Innocents School, enjoy... 

There was a time in my life when the last thing I wanted to do was coach track.

The meets were and are WAY too long, was my first thought. Seriously, the sun comes up, it peaks high, it goes down again and you're still out there, charting races and paces and looking for kids and wondering who's going to run the last leg of the 4-by-4.

On some days, you get frostbite in the morning, followed by sunburn in the afternoon, back to frostbite. And again, you're still out there.

I'm reminded of an incident three years ago -- though this is cross country related - when one of our football coaches drew the short straw and had to drive the spirit bus to the state championships in Carrollton in November. I think for him, like a lot of people, cross country meets meant running in towns that aren't on maps, and across courses that take you past cows and hay bales and remote fields that one can only hope has been plowed in the last week or so. In a way, a lot of these people would, in a lot of ways, be right.

Then -- in both of the above cases - a starting gun was fired. And the noise level went from a 1 to a 9 on the decibel scale. As granddads and grandmoms lifted out of those chairs they had before been glued to. Suddenly friendly spectators got rude in boxing out for space at finish lines. Cameras were aimed, locked, loaded, and fired.

In short, adrenaline happened with a double ought exclamation point. This, after all, is a Law of Attraction type Universe, where energy begets energy -- it circles through the course and back again. To quote from our football coach after the fact, "That was AWESOME!"

I write this on a day where we do indeed have a track meet. It's 30 degrees out, but it's going up to 65. How exactly do you dress for these things -- this sport that takes hours on end? After all, most games are easy -- they last two hours or so and the weather is what the weather is.

Track people face all four seasons in one day -- the winds of March meet the frost of January, the bloomy trees make you think it's spring or fall, and after a lap or two, you catch a hint of summer. Again, what to wear?

And the answer is a beautiful thing because you have to prepare for it all. Not just in the climate, but in loading up the poles, and piecing together your relay teams. Texting your throwers who will often be in remote and hidden places while they -- often unseen -- do their things. Spike and lace up the shoes for the sprinters, relay the splits of the distance runners, go over the tactics for the jumpers and the hurdlers.

It's such a random thing, this track sport I help coach, but that in itself forces you to open up your brain a bit. It's not a zoned-in history class, though I can assure you, the education is just as valuable, the lessons learned, the tears and triumphs of staring at that watch at race's end will teach a kid so much about handling success. And failure. And life.

Anyway -- as I said -- there was a time when I didn't want to coach track. It takes too long. I freeze and burn and freeze again. And there I still am.

But then one day, like so many others before me, a gun went off. And a whole world of education followed closely thereafter…

Dunn Neugebauer