April 29, 2012

Not Eagles' Wings, but WINGS

Our track season has come to a close. We didn't have any athletes qualify for State, first time for me as a coach, and pretty disappointing. Not much to say about that except the kids did their best, and I am proud of them. We're just in a major beast of a section, including some very large private schools that take State Championships nearly every year. Not to mention some of our top athletes have battled illness or injury nearly all season, too. That's life, I suppose.

As we were coming back from the meet yesterday, I got a text. It was from one of my girls from the old school, an Eagle. It actually came in 3 texts. The first telling me that she was really sorry for not keeping in touch, that she had been angry at me for leaving. She said her mom "explained it all to her" and she understood now. The 2nd was how much she missed me and how the team wasn't doing too well b/c they don't have a coach that pushes them like I did. She then went on to tell me that the relay team wore the headbands I had given them. Her last text told me thank you for believing in them.

A lot of what I write in this blog may seem all happy and fuzzy, like coaching/teaching is the best profession on Earth, but there's also a lot I DONT say. What I don't mention is how I've always felt like an outsider b/c I'm a woman in a "man's position." Dispute all you want, but the majority of meets I attend, I am either the ONLY woman coach, or one of 2 or 3. And men coaches... they have codes, coach speak. They can buddy around with the boys in one moment, and chew their butt in the next. It's different for women (in my opinion). Everything we say has to be well thought out. We have to choose our words wisely. One ignorant comment from a male coach is just a man being a man; one from a woman automatically means she knows nothing about coaching or the sport.

There are also the gracious, kind, wise, and excellent male coaches that have been very helpful to me throughout my coaching "career." One of my favorites is Coach Jim Tate from St. Paul's Episcopal School in Mobile. I met him years ago at my first real coaches' clinic and he spent a lot of time talking to me about starting a program and coaching in general. He even gave me his email as a resource for even more advice, which I used nearly weekly in my first season as a coach. He was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame, and I am so happy for him. I see him frequently at meets now, and he always comes to say hi and ask how my team is doing. There are a few other male coaches like that, usually older guys that are willing to step in and help the rookies.

And now for my summer plans! I saw on FB where the running club in Pensacola was looking for someone to coach their youth summer running program, WINGS. I was immediately interested. While I have lots of experience coaching young ladies (Go, Girl, Go) that are brand new to running, and I have experience coaching teens (Eagles & Bears), I have little to no experience coaching younger kids that already have somewhat of a background in running. I really believe all runners should "give back" to the running community in some way, whether it be volunteering, coaching, or donating. (This is a paid position, but anytime you get into coaching you just assume that you are doing it mostly for the good of the cause. I mean, unless you are coaching pros or something.) Anyhow, I went and interviewed for the position, and I actually didn't think I got the job. I know a LOT of talented runners and coaches in Pensacola, and I just assumed one of them wanted the position. Well, I was wrong. After a few weeks, we were talking specifics about the program.

I will know more in the next 2 weeks, but basically we will practice twice a week. The children will be ages 8 to 18, and we will run most of your basic track events. I plan to incorporate lots of fun running games, as well as have some basic track workouts. If I can gather some helpers, I'd also like to take the group on a few short trail runs. (No worries, I won't lead a pack of children in the woods alone.) Another exciting element is that I get to take them to track meets. I have a tentative schedule of at least 3 meets, with more to be added soon. We're also planning on going to the Junior Olympics in Houston! I'm really looking forward to meeting new children, and hopefully being a piece of a puzzle that leads them to a lifelong love of running. To me, that's my #1 goal as a coach- give the child the resources, encouragement, and inner successes to form a lifelong love for the sport. While wins are great, medals and trophies fade. What remains is the way running and competing makes you feel. I truly believe that the lessons learned in running are lessons that carry into everyday life, making us better people.

Run Happy, friends!


  1. As tough as it gets out there sometimes in the'boy's club'-you are doing some great things for those individuals and paving the way for other women coaches!

    I can't wait to hear more as you go through the summer with your well-deserved position, but am mostly excited about crashing the Junior Olympics when you COME BACK to HOUSTON! Woot!

  2. I know for my husband coaching is often tough, and I know for a woman that it is even more so. You are doing an AWESOME JOB!! ANd you are setting a great example for so many. Keep it up. :) Hugs!

  3. Those kids are so lucky to have you. I know I've said it before, but it's really true. You care so much. Sounds like a great summer gig you have lined up there! Another chance to make a difference!

  4. So exciting about your summer gig! That sounds like a great and fun opportunity!

    Sorry about the old-boys' club. I think it's a Southern thing. I competed in sports all while growing up, in California and New England, and I believe I had an even-split of male/female coaches. The South tends to be a little backwards sometimes. Hang in there...you're an awesome coach and they will catch up!

  5. This was a multi-goosebumpy post. First, the texts. Awwww. And that she was honest about her feeling left, but mostly, that you've made such a huge impact on them. I really hope they are blessed with someone to fill your shoes next year, the sweeties.

    I hate the Old Boys Club thing but am not surprised. Sorry this is your reality but glad some have come to your side as being Truly Good Men.

    Lastly, so excited for your summer gig. I think your life is pointing you in a special direction that will ultimately be It. Coaching just seems like something you were born to do (aside from running really fast). :)

  6. Anonymous5/01/2012

    Your dedication to those kids is amazing. It sounds incredibly challenging but you are making a huge difference in their lives forever. I grew up with an amazing high school coach who I can honestly say shaped my life in a positive way for the rest of my life. Keep it up girlie!!

  7. You have certainly left an impression on those kids at school "a". It's funny how we all appreciate a good push in the right way.
    What a wonderful guy Jim is to come along side you to help like that.
    I couldn't agree more with what you say about giving back to running. Wings sounds like a great opportunity I'd like to know more about.

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