Yesterday I took my middle school Cross Country runners from the Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School to their first meet, the very large Westlane Roundup. My runners are out of their league in this field. I take them so they can see what’s possible if they are willing to commit to the effort required to excel at running. Many who have coached longer than me tell me that I am deflating my team’s spirit by subjecting them to this kind of embarrassment. I don’t agree.
When we have practices, these kids, who collectively think a long run is from one end of the basketball court to the other, have only each other with whom to compare. It feels OK to walk when half of the team has already started walking. And it feels OK to walk today because you walked yesterday. It’s only when they see the rewards of not walking that they can begin to make the commitment to tough it out tomorrow. And if I keep them sheltered from the hard working runners by picking meets where they compete only against similar teams, they will never get to see how real effort can pay off.
One of the biggest mistakes my generation made in child rearing was to instill a belief in our children that most things are easy. That’s just not true. Most things worthwhile are hard, at least in the beginning. I want my runners to know that early in their carreers. If they can’t internalize the notion that they will only get better thru hard work, they have no hope of getting better. No amount of technique or strategy will make them champion runnners if they don’t train hard.
We finished at the back of the pack, yet every one of my runners set a PR at the Westlane Roundup. More importantly, they all know that they can be much better if they are willing to do the hard work. I look forward to Monday’s practice. More than that, I look forward to our next meet. These afe not the same children who signed up for Cross Country a few weeks ago.