I coached Cross Country at the Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School for three years when it first opened. I had a small group of runners who could barely cover the 400 meters to the first stop light from the school without walking. In fact, I agreed to coach after seeing them in their first race of the season. Every single member of the team was walking before the pack reached the first turn from the starting line.
I worked with these students over three years. Every one of them got better. None got really good, but they all improved. Alas, after three years of effort, I started feeling sorry for myself. Why did I put so much effort into this when no one seemed to care. I didn’t get support from the parents. One father dropped his son off only minutes before the start of a race and asked me when he should come back to get him. I told him the whole thing will be over in less than 30 minutes and asked him to just stay and see his son run. He promised to return in 30 minutes instead.
I didn’t get support from the school. Since we are a Charter School, I got some resistance from the Athletic Directors who coordinate meet schedules. The kids didn’t seem very interested in the whole thing. I decided that I was wasting my time, so I quit.
Last Fall was the first season that I didn’t coach. Suddenly, I realized that coaching had been incredibly important to me. Even though I had come up with all of these reasons why it was stupid for me to contine, I found that not coaching was not nearly as much fun as dealing with the headaches. Even though our success was minimal, by stopwatch standards, each of my runners impacted me, and I guess I impacted some of them as well. We’ll all be different people because of the time we spent running together.
I signed up to coach again this Fall. I can’t wait!