Switching Gears

Photo by Dan McCauley

Switching Gears

It seemed only seconds after our last boy crossed the finish line in May, closing the book on not only the 4 X 400-meter relay, but on track season itself, that my phone became filled with cross country emails and questions.

"Are we going to wear those ugly pink shorts again?" "I want to run cross country next season but I'm bad. Do we have any bad people?" "How many river passes will we need?" "Then again, do we have enough coaches - I heard two of them changed schools."

Our athletic lives, like it or not, have become a circle. Period. The trick to the whole thing is to LOVE that circle, and if you don't, the only choice is to change professions. Maybe I should make our supply closet a revolving door - roll the track stuff back, bring forward the singlets and the longer spikes of cross country.

It seemed that once upon a time each sport had its season. You played football until it got cold, switched to basketball. You shot hoops until the gardens started to grow and then you picked up your tennis rackets or your running shoes. Often, your fall sport coach was also your winter one, and then perhaps ditto for the spring. 

In today's times, the T-shirt that reads "There is no finish line" is about more than just races and paces and results, it's about our lives. It seemed the only thing that's slowed us lately was the pandemic, but now it seems we're making up that time with a vengeance.

Good for us on that one, I say, because stuffing runners into their houses with a closed down world did not a happy teenager make.

Regardless, the gears must be shifted. The batons are now dropped, this time on purpose, to make room for miles of summer running. Tarps are put over the sands and the vaulting pits, poles are stored while we're searching Georgia Milesplit for a good time and place for a 5K.

Is Coach Wood already full? Should we go to Wesleyan or Carrollton? Don't we need to upgrade our letter requirements? Did our team mom quit - her kid graduated, right? And about this new classification thing - who are the new teams to beat?

Great questions every year, though they seem to come so quickly these days, as if taking a few days off only makes you more behind even before the starting guns go off.

Still, we are who we are. We do what we do. We love who and what we love. And even if the track ending wasn't great - even broken hearts keep on beating just the same, because there's always another kid or a race or an adventure that will set it back right again.

Perhaps a fitting closing for this was subbing the last day of school - though it came from a kid in another sport. Final exams were fighting for air space with the spring football game, which was fighting for space with social time. The kid looked at me, mattress marks still plastered across his face.

Still, he smiled when he asked: "When do we get to sleep?"

Ah, sometimes kids do say the most accurate of things...

Dunn Neugebauer

Holder of lots of jobs

Author, coach, nice guy-

2019 GHSA Girls' XC State Champions

2022 GHSA Boys' track State Champions

Latest book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1665304367?ref=myi_title_dp