Archive for the ‘coaching’ category

From Here To There

June 15, 2018

In my quest to run 200 miles by mid-August I’m in the midst of it! One third of the way in and making “significant strides”, so to speak! It is the point of commitment…either stay the course or convince oneself of the lunacy of continuing to go forward. It’s the in-between…the “Kansas”, if you will, of decision roads. Getting from here to there is the challenge that often derails the pursuits of life.

In regards to my running, I’ve noticed that I encounter several quitting points each day in the journey. I question why I’m doing what I’m doing and plant seeds of doubts into the pace every time a stiff head wind offers more resistance to the effort. The quitting points never happen at the beginning or towards the end. They always invade my thoughts in the midst of the run, that tipping point where I’m the most vulnerable.

“Staying the course” is not something our culture is passionate about these days. We are addicted to the better deal and prone to give up because that’s the easier road to take. These days people are not convinced that perseverance has value and that resolve is a great quality to have.

When we’re between the here and the there retreat gains a following…or whining! I see it with a lot of children and youth these days. In the midst of the school assignments the student’s whining begins with a great sense of injustice…and the parent takes up the cause in support of their child’s lack of staying the course.

Getting to “there” was never meant to be a comfortable experience that demanded nothing. I’m getting “there”! Slowly, but I’m getting there!

Running and Thinking

June 11, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                              June 11, 2018

                            

This morning I’ll get my four miles of trudging done around ten o’clock. Some days, I swear, the miles have been lengthened like a taffy pull, and other days (infrequently!) they seem to go by faster. However, on the days when the miles seems to speed by and then I check my watch I’m brought back to the reality that I’m running just as slow as ever.

The key seems to be my thinking! I run, therefore, I think! I go deep inside to thoughts and ideas. With music playing from my ear buds I ponder events from the past, like races I ran back in my high school days. There was the Fourth of July race around a recreational lake area outside of Ironton, Ohio. Fellow classmate Pat Boggs and I ran neck to neck around the lake and then I out sprinted him in the last hundred yards. As I run I relive those moments, the congratulations he extended to me after the race, the sound of our breathing and footsteps, it all seems to become real again.

I think about the story narrative of my book, reconfiguring scenes, and envisioning how my characters look and how they sound. I think of ideas for blog posts and how I might present an experience or interpret a scripture. 

As the laps get clicked off I’m not just running, I’m contemplating.

I’ve started praying more as I run. The granddaughter of a good friend of mine keeps coming to my mind as I make a turn into the wind. A couple of women that we know who are in complicated battles with cancer cause me to reach down deep and keep going a bit further as I pray that God would impart strength to them. I pray for friends and family, that God would walk closely with them in the coming day. I pray for a nephew who pastors a church, and one of his sons who faces a surgical procedure. 

Prayer seems to minimize the aching in my knees and hips…for a while, that is! 

As I begin my last mile and consider the possibility of quitting, I think of a young lady named Kayla Montgomery who won several state cross country and track titles even though she battles MS. Her ESPN profile brings me to tears and it carries me through the last mile, as well. 

As my 64 year old body runs I try to focus on the struggles of the distance. In two months I’ll be coaching a bunch of middle schoolers doing similar workouts. I want to be able to identify with the groans and the doubts. If I can push through the quitting points I’ll be able to come alongside them during those tough training runs. 

And I think of some of the guys I used to run with back in high school and college…Stan Brown, Duane Young, Jim Fay, Larry Crane, and Kevin Kelly from my cross-country team at Judson College; and Cecil Morrison, G.P. Markins, Greg Byington, Jim Thomas, Greg Harding, and Randy Justice from the Ironton High School team. I think of Eugene Smith climbing trees and waiting for the rest of us to pass him on our return to the high school. 

In essence, these days my four mile runs deal with the past, the present, and prayer. It isn’t until later on in the day that my knees scream at me, “What were you thinking?”

Encouraging the Untalented

June 10, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          June 10, 2018

                                

In all my years of coaching multiple sports I’ve had numerous athletes who were extremely talented…and I’ve also had numerous athletes who were incredibly untalented!

-Kids who get positioned in right field

            -Kids who play a forward in soccer because you would rather play great defense than score goals.

-Kids who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

-Kids who you could use a sun dial in timing their 100 yard dash.

-Kids who have great attitudes and no athletic skill.

In our sports-crazed world there seem to be more non-athletic, untalented participants lacing up the sneakers and putting on the pads.

I remember one young man on the middle school football team I coached. In practice one day he was playing defensive cornerback. He was about as far away from the action as he could possibly be and still be standing on the field. I suggested that he move in closer since there wasn’t even a wide receiver on his side of the field. All five feet one inch of him looked at me and said, “No, I’m okay!”

Or there was the foreign exchange student one year on the Girl’s JV team I coached. She had never played basketball, plus she had gotten out of line the day God passed out athleticism. If she shot the ball it had a better chance of getting stuck in the rafters than going in the basket. Her accuracy never improved during the season, although she did come to understand that the team with the ball was on offense and the team that didn’t have the ball was on defense. Running down the court without dribbling the ball meant that you suddenly would no longer be on offense and once again be…on defense! She came to realize this from personal experience.

I had a young man who would be the first one to show up for open gyms but couldn’t make a layup if his life depended on it. When he asked me if he was improving I replied, “Well, I can’t fault your effort!”

Every coach has the untalented kid who wants to be on the team. It becomes an exercise in patience as they struggle through the simplest drills that focus on fundamentals. Often they are the also the nicest, most well-behaved kids. They are the ones that you grieve over cutting, but know “there ain’t no way” you can keep them on the basketball team!

I try to find ways to encourage students who fall into this category, engaging them in conversation that shows I see them as persons of value. At the end of a tryout practice I may ask one of them to “get us a team break”.” I applaud their effort. When I post the basketball roster I try to be ready to give an evaluation to anyone who asks for it, what they can work on as well as a couple of positive points. I also try to communicate the importance of being a team manager or someone who keep stats. This past year I had one boy who didn’t make my basketball team, but I convinced to keep game stats. He’s a great kid who was disappointed in not making the roster, but saw how he was valued in a different role.

Often I encounter kids who are not as invested in athletic success as their parents are. There’s the parental pressure to change Lenny into LeBron…and Lenny would prefer to just be Lenny! 

There’s a lot of pressure on kids these days to be someone that they aren’t. It seems that only certain roles and specific achievements are valued, while others are ignored. 

As a coach, however, I hold to a certain principle: It is not necessary for an awesome kids to have a ball in his/her hands to still be great!

Between A Stride And A Shuffle

June 2, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         June 2, 2018

                                 

My quest to run 200 miles this summer began a week and a half ago. I’m 30 miles into it, which sounds impressive until you realize there’s still 170 miles in front of me. Translated that means I’ll be running all the way to New Mexico!

I’m getting my wind back after it had taken a hiatus for about 14 years. In the summer of 2004 I trained and ran the Pike’s Peak Ascent, a 13.2 mile race for lunatics, during which the runners make an 8,000 foot elevation climb after starting at 6,000 feet. After I ran the Ascent for a second time I put the running shoes in the closet…the deepest parts of the closet!

Now I’m back at it…slowly! I was talking to a close friend of mine last night and he asked me whether I shuffle or stride when I run? 

Good question! In my mind I’m striding out, but it’s the same mind that envisions me slam dunking a basketball and waking up in the morning with no aches or pains!

In reality I’m probably between a stride and a shuffle…between what I was and what I will be! My swiftness is becoming a more distant hazy spot in my past, replaced by the slow motion of the present.

It is a picture of life. I’m like the Israelites between Egypt and the Promised Land. I’m between the here and the there. When I have my annual physical exam each fall my doctor often uses the phrase “You are no longer…” to remind me I’m heading towards the point where I’ll be an old man shuffling. He says it kindly and with a grin, but each of us know the truth of life’s withering moments. 

There are good things about life’s aging. 

Carol and I have the Senior Pass to the National Parks now. We can get in any one of them free.

I can drop off to sleep after reading one page in any book…or sooner!

People think I’m wise since I’m almost a shuffler!

Many, many good things about the golden years!

For now, however, I’m more of a “striffler”, a hybrid between striding and shuffling. Perhaps I’ll get my second wind. The question is whether I’ll be able to catch it? 

The 200 Mile Club

May 29, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       May 29, 2018

                                      

It was an idea that sounded good, like toilet-papering the principal’s car on the last day of school or eating Captain Crunch cereal every meal for an entire summer, as did a college classmate of mine!

An idea that sounded like a challenge!

Coach Schneiderman, 6th Grade Math teacher, offered it up before he did the math. 

“What if we challenged the cross-country kids to run 200 miles during the summer? We could give some kind of prize or shirt to those who do it?”

“That’s a great idea, Coach! Maybe get shirts that say Timberview Cross-Country 200 Mile Club!”

A few minutes later Coach Schneiderman offered a scaled down figure. “Maybe 150 miles!”

I, however, had already penciled in the number 200! There are about eleven weeks in vacation summer. Two hundred split amongst seventy-seven days is about two and a half miles a day…if a person runs every day!

Sold! I presented the idea to the students who came to a brief cross-country meeting the last week of school. Some looked at me like I was a crazed coach and others were inspired by the challenge.

And then I decided to take up the challenge myself! What??????

Perhaps it came from memories of long distance runs that I used to take: running along the top of the flood walls of Ironton, Ohio; running the roads of Oxford, Ohio; running, along with 3 other Judson College teammates, 25 miles for charity once time; and running up Barr Trail in Colorado Springs as I trained for the Pike’s Peak Ascent.

But that’s been a few years, and I haven’t been getting any younger! In fact, Carol says I should have my cell phone with me when I run in case something happens. I inferred from that remark that the “something” was a heart attack, not that I stumbled and twisted my ankle. Sixty-four year olds may be one three mile run away from eternity!

So I’ve started. Six days in and I’m at 18 miles. My knees seem more like 180 miles. My body screams at me in unkind ways. 

Perseverance and determination, that’s what keeps me going. So far I’ve only been running laps around the Timberview track. It brings back memories of running around the Ironton Junior High School track I lived about a half mile from. In those days I’d run 24 laps, six miles, around the cinder oval. This summer I’ll begin to widen my circle and run some trails and streets close by. 

18 miles in, only 182 to go! After today I’ll be more than 10% towards the goal…barely!

In August I look forward to celebrating with the other runners who took up and met the challenge.

I’m also hoping to be about twenty pounds lighter by then, a pound for every ten miles! When I graduated from Ironton High School in 1972 I weighed 110 pounds. Now my right leg weighs about that much!

And when an eighth grader whines to me that 200 miles was too hard I’ll show him/her my running chart and say, “Your 64 year old coach did it!” 

“Oh!”

Expected Grace

May 27, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     May, 27, 2018

                                       

It’s only a logo!

A local high school swim team lost the state championship because of a logo that was too big!

The logo was about twice the size of what a legally-sized logo is to be. The coach of the team filed a protest, not about the logo size, but because a swim referee had inadvertently placed the relay team that the swimmer was on in the finals of the event. The disqualification had come in a preliminary heat. The relay team’s time in the preliminary heat was the best qualifying time of all the teams competing. If they had competed in the relay final (legally) they would have won the state championship by placing eighth or higher.

A Colorado High School Activities Association official said that the swimsuit guidelines were stated at the coach’s meeting before any of the competition began. The guidelines were not new. They had been in effect all season. Swimmers who had suits that might be illegal were invited to bring them to the meet officials for determining their status. Four swimmers did, but not the swimmer from the relay team that was disqualified.

When I officiated high school basketball we were charged with not allowing players to “roll their shorts.” The players knew the rule and the coaches knew the rule, but there always seemed to be a few who tried to roll their shorts anyway. As a basketball coach I’m charged with making sure my players are in compliance of the same uniform rule, although a couple of 7th Grade players on one of my teams this past year were rolling their shorts because their height made the shorts look like pants. 

Rules are important in sports. Although not always understood, their purpose is to help provide a level playing field and keep the focus on the game, not the things that detract from it.

Rules are meant to make clear what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Grace is not a part of a sport’s laws. It does not come into play when a violation in an athletic contest takes place.

And there lies the problem! Not with the rules or the sport, but with people’s expectation of there being grace. There’s a certain attitude that gets conveyed many times by parents, athletes, and coaches that errors are to be overlooked. That grace is expected, not hoped for! Such an understanding of what grace is pollutes its specialness, its uniqueness. For grace to be grace it must come unexpectedly. It must be surprising. 

In sports the absence of rules promotes chaos, and the expectation of grace results in a widening ring of indifference towards what those rules are meant to enforce. 

It’s only a logo!

Yes, it is! It is only a logo that could have easily been changed out for another swim suit that was legal. 

A 3 Year Old and 8th Grade Girls

May 25, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        May 25, 2018

                              

She met me in the driveway. Her mom (our daughter) was heading to her next to last day of school, teaching fourth graders, and her brother and sister were heading to the same school for their education. 

But she was staying!

“Hi, Granddad!” 

Corin, our three year old granddaughter, was ready. We blew and chased bubbles for thirty minutes and then pursued an imaginary creature she referred to as the beast. I made the mistake of calling the beast “her”, and was quickly corrected on the gender! A few minutes later I had to share an imaginary Happy Meal with Chicken McNuggets with the beast. 

We took a walk…a long walk!

Not once did she have to look at her cell phone. Her imagination and grandfather were enough to occupy her time and keep her attention.

The day before I had substitute taught 8th Grade Science for a third straight day. Thus, 8th Grade girls! The differences between the three year old and the girls in my Wednesday classroom are more than just eleven years of life and size. They are also worlds apart.

A three year old’s life is uncomplicated. 8th Grade girls are complicated! Corin’s decisions included what kind of juice she wanted to drink and whether we should play inside or outside. 8th Grade girls make decisions on which path to go down. Many of them choose the path of wisdom and common sense. Some choose the narrow path of uncertainty, where a wind or a sudden stumble can send them falling in one direction or the other. But there are others who have chosen the path that leads to destruction. It is a way that often features defiance and drama, a deafness to reason and a blindness to consequences. 

Before cell phones and social media it seems that deciding which path an adolescent would take came a couple of years later, but life has sped up to a scary pace of change. 

The girls in my science classes this week, that I had also taught last year in an awesome long-term substitute teaching experience of 7th Grade Social Studies, listened to me, talked to me, and remembered the January journey we had walked together. Many of the ones that didn’t know me blew me off as irrelevant and, since I’m “old”, uncool!

The paths are as different as east is from west. The distance between them results in a lack of hearing or, more accurately, an unwillingness to hear someone who is going in the other direction. 

And I had a growing yearning for my three year old “play buddy” to stay that age! I longed for her to stay at that point of deciding on what kind of juice she was going to drink and what imaginary creature Granddad was going to share a Happy meal with.