Monday, May 25, 2015

Keeping Track of the Stuff That Matters

Last week on a dreary, chilly May day our middle school track team (of which I am the assistant coach) was scheduled to compete in our last meet of the season. To make matters slightly worse the meet was to take place at a school approximately 25 minutes away and it was the decision of the host school as to whether or not the meet would take place. As the afternoon wore on it became apparent that the meet would take place as scheduled. I must admit that upon boarding the bus, I was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of spending the next 90 minutes in the chilly, rainy weather.  Then something unusual happened, I checked the radar and noticed that the town where the meet would take place was not currently receiving rain. (In fact little did I know but it would not rain there, other than some late mist,over the course of the entire meet.) Subsequently my disposition turned sunny and I began to look forward to the competition.

After arriving, I had more good fortune when I found out that my high school Cross Country Coach was officiating the meet. I had not seen him in the past couple of seasons and it was good to see him in good health. We shared a quick embrace and some brief conversation but the moment was nevertheless special. Whenever I am lucky enough to spend some time with him I am often reminded of the influence that his teachings and spirit have had on my career as a coach and educator.  Over the course of my career I have had the opportunity to coach against him and later after he retired I was lucky to have him officiate our meets. I am grateful for the opportunities that we have shared over the years to renew our relationship and I cherish the brief conversations that have taken place between us.

 I think I can understand the pride that he feels when he considers the success of his former students as confident professionals. Currently in my 20th year as an educator, I can account for at least fifteen former students that are teaching and coaching today. In fact I coached against one of my former student/athletes this year and was able to observe the confident and classy nature in which he conducted himself.  I was excited to share that story that day with my coach and he said with a smile " look at that, it comes around."  Being able to continue a relationship with my coach as a professional over the years has always been special and I am indeed fortunate that it has continued to evolve. I  am looking forward to continuing the same type of professional relationships with my former student athletes.

As we began our last meet I couldn't help but think back to the start of our season and the discussion that I had with my throwers about our goals. We set two fundamental ones; have fun and continue to improve. We talked about how in our sport every competitive effort was recorded and  it would be easy to measure their growth. They would all seek to consistently improve upon their personal bests and that is how ultimately we would measure their success.

As I looked back I was reminded of the smiles that accompanied everyone's personal best as the season progressed.  A fist pump and a smile, often followed, when they learned that they had recorded a personal best performance.  My athletes had shown up every day, they had listented, they applied what they had they learned and yes they improved. Moreover I believe from the smiles, the enthusiasm and the laughter that they had fun along the way. 

As the Shot Put and Discus competitions unflolded throughout that final afternoon I was inspired by the performances of my athletes as they continued to reach new heights. One reached a distance in the Discus that no one ever has while I have been coaching, while several others were still fist pumping and smiling while exclaiming " yes", "personal best."  

We were at the end of  our season and we were still going beyond where we went before. The looks on their faces,  and the smile in their hearts that day is something I will not soon forget.  

While the last meet of the season initially had been one I was dreading, it turned out to be a day that I will not soon forget. It became a day to renew a long time relationship and it was a day to celebrate new personal records. Moving forward it is important for me to remember that even on the dreariest of days, keeping a positive attitude is a must; if not I just might not be able to keep "track" of the stuff that matters.

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