I love Kara Gaucher. (I mean who doesn't, right?) My favorite quote of hers is "Fight. Scrap your way all the way to the finish." That's how I feel about my Bears- a slow, but steady rise to the top. Will we win County this year? Highly unlikely. Will we win Sectionals this year? Definitely not. Will we go to State? Possibly. And the progress has been amazing.
Back in June, a group of about 15 teens came out to daily easy runs. The majority of the girls couldn't even run a mile without stopping. Of the boys, only 2 were return runners. (And I had to cut one of those boys due to grades.) A so we began. The thing I love about these kids that makes them different from any group I've ever worked with is their desire to learn and improve. When the official season "opened", I did a 5K time trial just to see where we stood. I used a local road 5K course. The kids asked me what I thought they would run, and I blindly told the fastest kid that I thought he would run a little under 20. (It was August in Alabama.) He seemed to be fairly fast, but since the rules of our state athletic association had prevented me from doing timed workouts, I had no clue. I told my I fastest girl that I thought she would run about 22. Um, let's just say they didn't even come CLOSE to running those times.
Our first meet, the guys' average was 24:XX. I refused to let them get discouraged. I continued to push them, and force them to look for the good in every workout/race. Obviously, we were scoring last or very close to it in those early meets. My girls' average was 30:XX. For the girls, it was different. They weren't too worried about it, and it kind of ticked me off. I had a LOT of trouble motivating them to get competitive. The did not enjoy pushing themselves, not at practice, and not in meets. This bothered me... A LOT. I tried all sorts of tactics- guilting them about scoring so low, challenging them to beat each other, challenging them to beat their old times, bribery (stupid, I know), and just plain talking to them about why they didn't want to push. I came to zero conclusion. The guys on the team tried to help me, too. We tried everything. I think the parents even noticed, as many of them bribed their daughters, too. Nothing worked. Then came MC.
MC (abbreviation name) is an exchange student from Belgium. I may have mentioned in a previous post, but she actually lived with me for about 2 weeks after a falling-out with her host family. (She now has a new precious, sweet host family and is doing well.) MC came out to run, and while she isn't that fast, she's a worker. Within two weeks, she moved rapidly from the back of the pack to the middle. And the others didn't like it. So they turned on their game. I'm not sure what flipped the switch for them, actually. I think it was something sort of territorial. She comes in mid-season, moves in with the coach, and instantly starts bumping places. It was great to watch. The girls' PRs started melting down. Girls' average for our last race? 24:XX- an average of 6 minutes. SIX MINUTES- BOOM!
Moving on to my guys. These guys are fighters. They work so incredibly hard, and their attitude is awesome. I see my guys as little sponges. They soak up anything and everything I have to say about running. Our last meet they averaged in the low 19s, and we were missing one of our top 5. Amazing.
Besides PRs and hard work, I am simply in love with this group. I have always enjoyed coaching track, and while the Eagles held a special group in my heart, this group is going some place. And I don't necessarily mean in running. I mean, in life. They are genuinely GOOD kids- polite to adults, care about their school work, respect and encourage each other, the whole package. Any high school coach and teacher will tell you that the work is absolutely EXHAUSTING. To teach all day and then head to practice and meets on the weekend... it's.... hard. But it's awesome.
I'm so excited to see how they do in two weeks at Sectionals, but I'm also a little sad. I'm going to miss them.