Saturday, April 28, 2012
Sunday, April 15, 2012
After the disaster that was my track and field coaching debut, I was bound and determined to avenge my horrible experience with a much warmer, much drier, much more awesome day at the track.
I showed up to my second track meet as a coach with two umbrellas, a rain poncho, a parka, hand-warmers and a box of Hot Tamales. (Have you ever noticed that sucking on cinnamon-flavored candy makes you feel warmer? If not, you clearly live in California.)
Naturally, it was 75 degrees and sunny.
This unseasonably warm April day gave me an opportunity to not only work on my “base burn,” but also to more comfortably engage fellow meet-goers in friendly conversation. (Because there’s just something about 45-mile-an-hour wind gusts that sort of kills the mood for chit-chat.)
Somewhere in between the jokes, pleasantries and track talk, there were a couple of awkward moments that I feel obliged to share not only for sheer entertainment purposes, but also as a way to therapeutically address some underlying insecurities.
You see, I was feeling pretty darn grown-up there at the finish line, clutching a very official-looking clipboard and yelling things like, “Don’t leave the track! Stay in your lanes!”
I was in charge. I was in control. I had authority. Kids were actually listening to me.
Then, in between heats of the 100-meter-dash — my favorite* race of all time — an older-looking gentleman in a Crocodile Dundee hat struck up a conversation with me. It went something (exactly) like this:
Man: So, what grade are you in?
Me: Oh, me? I graduated.
Man: Oh really! From here [as in, the high school at which we are currently volunteering]?
Me: From college.
Man: [Slightly embarrassed] Oh! Gosh, I must be getting old. I guess you do look like you could be 22.
Me: I’m 24.
Thankfully, we were saved by the gun and did not have to continue talking. Suddenly, I did not feel so official, even with the official clipboard containing the official results sheets that I was officially responsible for. Clearly, I might as well have been at the concession stand selling candy bars to raise money for the senior prom.
I’m not a teenager! I thought. I have a job, and an apartment, and a plant-watering schedule. I care about things like gas mileage and taxes and 12-hour cereal sales!
As I stood there, deflated and wondering whether a Crocodile Dundee hat would make me look more like an adult, a sprinter came up to me, huffing and puffing after racing the 100.
“Excuse me, do you know what my time was? I was in lane eight,” he gasped.
“Fifteen-point-six-two,” I replied. (Obviously, he was a distance runner but didn’t know it yet.)
“Thanks ma’am,” he said.
Ma’am? Did he just call me ‘ma’am?’ I thought. Ma’am is something you call…like…OLD people!
I was sort of outraged but sort of flattered at the same time. If the kids can tell that I am ma’am-worthy, that’s all that counts, right?
But, you know, a little anti-aging night cream never hurt anybody.
*We’ve been over this. The 100-meter-dash is not my favorite race of all time. In fact, it is the opposite of my favorite race of all time. Yes, I realize that doesn’t make sense. Watch me not care.
Friday, April 6, 2012
You know how they say you’ll never fully appreciate everything your parents did for you until you become a parent yourself?
That’s kind of how I feel about coaching (minus the poopy diapers and college tuition).
When I was in high school, I secretly harbored a tiny bit of resentment toward the track and field coaching staff. In my world, a track meet was an eight-to-ten-hour rotation between being so nervous I could vomit, running so hard I could vomit, and actually vomiting. In their world, a track meet was an all-day party where they could eat junk food, get a tan, and occasionally yell stuff.
So when I showed up to my first track meet as a coach, I expected to walk in, grab a clipboard (which, truth be told, I had no intention of actually using) and make a beeline for the concession stand. Then, licorice rope in hand, I would find my athletes and offer them a few words of sagely advice before finding a comfortable spot to watch them take my golden drops to heart and kick ass.
Here’s what really happened: I walked in, was immediately assigned to finish-line duty and, for the duration of the meet, alternated between pulling up my soaking wet jeans and struggling to record names and times on a sheet of paper that was literally disintegrating in the rain/sleet/snow/hail/[insert desired precipitation here]. Because in Montana, we believe the true measure of a state’s worthiness is its refusal to cancel an athletic event due to weather.
But, as every good coach knows, each meet is a learning opportunity. So what did I gain, besides a renewed appreciation for dry underwear? The answer: a renewed appreciation for the volunteers who count laps for the 3200 in a blizzard so that athletes can run the 3200 in a blizzard.
To better explain my drastic change of perspective, I created the following T-chart:
What I thought I knew before
What I know I know now
Finish line workers are people who volunteered for the meet on their own accord.
Finish line workers are rookie coaches who were volunteered against their will.
When the starter says, “Sweats off!” it’s OK to take another stride or two and delay removing your sweats until the last possible moment in order to conserve muscle warmth.
When the starter says, “Sweats off!” it’s time to take your damn sweats off.
Varsity runners should always have their own heat so they don’t have to deal with all of the slow JV kids.
When it’s raining sideways and there are no adult beverages available, nobody gets their own heat.
What do coaches and meet officials have to complain about? It’s not like they have to run in this crap.
I would rather run three-straight 3200s in this crap than be stuck standing here in wet jeans. (Seriously, is there anything worse than wet jeans? If I were a judge, I would make all prisoners wear wet jeans all day, every day, as part of their sentence.)
When the weather gets really bad, they should cancel the rest of the meet.
This is Montana, and we would sooner flush a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon down the toilet than cancel a track meet on account of a little rain.