January 28, 2010

Learning Like a Noob

"Noob" is a term used on RWOL that I didn't know the meaning of for like a year. Now I know that that term is referring to someone new or inexperienced at something. That's how I feel right now. It's a great feeling, really.

"Coach!" is what I hear, but I don't turn around or even respond. I am still not used to being called that. I think I'm loving and getting used to the coaching more and more each day. I can really tell that I'm bonding with the athletes, and that makes me really happy. We talk about things now, especially during our "slow distance" days. The thing I like and appreciate the most about the group of distance runners and SOME of the sprinters is that they are like little sponges, just waiting to soak up information. I've really been focusing on their running form. I know that my running form is awful, but I had already been running for 5 years when someone tried to fix me. It has improved some, but nowhere near model. I'm hoping to get these kids off on the right foot, so they have a lifetime of good running in front of them. The good news is that the kids are doing a lot less whining, too. I think they are becoming used to pushing themselves and actually like the way it makes them feel. I run with the kids on our easy distance days, and monitor/time workouts on the hard days. I've been planning all their workouts, but the plans aren't original. I've kind of made my own plan from Jack Daniels, mixed with ideas from a book called Coaching Track and Field Successfully. Just to be honest right now, the distance kids are really slow. Just to let you know how slow, here's an example. This week I did 6 x 800s as a workout and did them b/w 3:00-3:03. Only ONE boy on my team could beat that for ONE 800. Yeah, not good. I'm alright with it for now, baby steps, baby steps. They have the desire, which is always the most important thing. We'll just work our way up the ladder slowly.

So, now the downside. The older I get, the more I see the glass ceiling that society has put on female athletes, not just athletes, but any female involved in athletics. It's a difficult thing to explain, but it's interesting how when Coach D and I are together, many outsiders automatically assume he is the head coach. Also, I'm in the process of making the meet schedule and some of the other coaches' comments are sort of interesting. Here was one mini conversation I had with a coach from another school.
Me: (after introducing myself) I was wondering if you had any openings at your upcoming track meets.
Him: Are you the head coach?
Me: Yes, this is my first year.
Him: Are you over guys and girls?
Me: Yes
Him: Wow, I didn't know there were any female head track coaches in the state.
Me: Yep. So do you have any openings?

See what I mean? How bold! Schools hire football coaches with NO running experience whatsoever to coach their track teams. Why would hiring an experienced female runner be so shocking? I was also informed by our school's coaching staff that the coaching windsuits (Remember, the wool skirt has to go) only come in men's sizes. Seriously? Like, even the "small" is ginormous. That's just not going to cut it. Also, i think I had to go through a phase where I really 'proved' myself to the guys on the team, nothing that a few hard laps around the school's campus couldn't fix, though. It seems that male athletes immediately respect the male coaches, but a female has to earn the respect. I will say, though, that when dealing with teen girls, I think female coaches have the upper hand. I've noticed differences in the way some of the female athletes respond to me, as opposed to a male coach. They seem to take advice/coaching more seriously from a female, especially if they know you have experience in that field (like running).

I am also stressed about a few things revolving the track meets.
1) We live Nowhere, so we have to drive pretty far to each meet. That will require me leaving school an hour early and someone will have to watch my class. I HATE putting my work off on people. Ugh, but there's no choice.
2) The school board is pressuring all head coaches to get their CDL so they can drive their own teams to games/matches. Seriously? I can't even drive my own car w/o a run-in with the law. Shouldn't that get me out of driving the Cheese Wagon? There's no way... Coach D has a FL license, so he can't get an AL CDL.
3) I can't get coaches from other teams to return my calls or emails. I feel like we are BEGGING for meets, but no one will pay me the time of day. It feels like some sort of secret club that I'm trying to get into.
4) I'm worried about our financial situation. Our kids need uniforms, shoes, and we need money to pay bus drivers. We are holding a fundraiser, but I'm not confident.

On a personal note, I PROMISE to blog about my own running soon. It's actually going very well. I'm working with a new plan now, made by someone super fast & smart, that includes a booty-load of speedwork. I am trying this for a few weeks, then moving into more marathon-specific training as Charlottesville approaches. Sorry this is all about track right now, but it's pretty much life consuming!


  1. Anonymous1/28/2010

    sounds like a very tough situation. sending good vibes that every works out!

    but it's awesome that your bonding with the kids and that they are growing as athletes and, it seems, like people too. i want you as my coach!!

  2. Don't apologize for the subject matter, I absolutely love it! It's such an interesting alternative to us busting our guts for a PR. And all the nuances involved...the driving thing is ridiculous, can't imagine having to worry about that on top of everything else you're doing. And the glass ceiling? Totally creepy. Keep on regaling with the good stories, it's fascinating.

  3. Anonymous1/29/2010

    I think you have found a potential interesting topic for Running Times or your newspaper. Perhaps you could broach the topic of female coaching and get an article out there, thus getting exposure for your team and maybe attracting more meets? It may be a long shot, but I could see your story in the mag. I know you got tons on your plate as it is so maybe this isn't the right timing, but just something to think about.

    My hometown gets money for their track/field team by hosting a local 5K/10K and having part of the proceeds going to the school. Plus the kids help get it organized. Maybe there is a race director out there willing to team up with you to get a boost to their participants.

    I'm sorry that you are getting the 'good ole boy' network thing. It happens in my feild a lot so I'm used to those types of comments. I actually find it humorous when people are shocked to find out my background and that I'm not just some newbie girl. You are doing great. Plus remember you can play that card right back, 'oh you are a head coach' lol :) Always keep them on their toes, always keep them wanting more!


  4. I love reading your coaching stories and the developments you are making. These kids may not remember every day in class, but they will remember that "Female Coach" that busted their butts that one year.

    The funding like the others said truly sucks. I would do the same thing CJ suggested, and maybe look into your local running store. Ours actually has 501(c)(3) status because they put on charity races and almost always they are for local school xc or track teams. Maybe you can bring the idea up to a store. It brings them plenty of customers and publicity...plus it's promoting running period. There was also a fund raiser called "Beat the Minister", I could see something like "Beat the Coach" being a big hit. People could register for a 5k races at a flat fee and then maybe a bet system for those that think they could beat you (I'm going to go look up how they did the minister one and I will get back to you).

    Good luck and you really are changing lives with what you are doing.

  5. Anonymous1/29/2010

    I love reading your coaching stories! I'm in college now, but when I graduate I would love to find a coaching job! I think about the female athlete "glass ceiling" a lot (although I've never called it that.. but I like that term). Like Mrs.CJ said, I definitely think you could write something on it. Good luck with everything!

  6. Anonymous1/31/2010

    There definitely is a weird presumption that men are better athletes! I was talking to my boss the other day about working out. He asked if Patrick and I run together. I said, not usually because we run at different paces. He actually responded with, "oh he's too fast for you, huh?" ummmm, that is SO not the case! It just cracked me up.

    I love your coaching stories, btw. You must be such a great inspiration to these kids. As for the fundraising, I wish I had some ideas. I always had to buy my own shoes and uniforms for sports. As suggested above, I would check out a running store and see what they can do. The community of runners is pretty small and runners like to help out each other. :) Wishing you lots and lots of luck!

  7. Well, may all your athletes realize that they are lucky to have you, and may you chip the glass ceiling away one accomplishment at a time, until it shatters into a million pieces. Things take longer to change in the South; glad you're helping push them along.

    Keep up the good work, and the headaches should work themselves out.

    Cheers, ESG/Ron