November 2, 2013

Being a Leader When Times Get Tough

If we are FB friends, you know by now that my team did NOT make State. Major bummer.

Monday night, I filled our usual trail with 12 Brooks Run Happy signs with many team slogans and mantras. I made and posted the signs as a surprise for the kids, sometime to show them how much I care about them and something to pump them up for our Sectional meet (Thurs). Unfortunately, we had a particularly dewy/humid overnight, and the signs got nearly ruined (sad, saggy, and smeared). While the kids still loved them, it wasn't quite the look I was going for.

Wednesday night, we had the team over for a spaghetti dinner. I busted out the special foot and runner shaped pasta, also by Brooks. (Brooks Guru, Sarah, gave me the pasta in San Diego this past summer, and I've been saving it.) After dinner, a few of the boys watched the Pre documentary while the girls played with my cat and studied. While I was cleaning up the kitchen, just watching the scene of a house full of teenagers, I was reminded of how much I want kids. It was noisy, messy, and LOVELY. It felt so natural to have them all over, like we were a family. I hope they will treasure the experience in the future as much as I do.

Thursday morning brought steamy, nasty weather. Only in lower Alabama can you race on the last day of October in 80+ degrees and high humidity. Ridiculous. The kids seemed nervous, but ready. Unfortunately, we couldn't pull off a top 3 finish to make it to State. A few things happened. The top team blows all the teams out of the water every year. Being that I'm not sure who all reads this blog, I will keep it simple and say that this team ran a VERY tactical race, leading my kids into a racing situation they weren't prepared for. (I knew this was a possibility, and tried to talk to the kids about it before race day, but it was something they'd never experienced.) The entire RACE was very slow for various reasons. I knew at the halfway point that State was not likely for us. I could see how the cards were unfolding. I tried to stay super positive after the girls' race because the boys were about to start, and I didn't want to kill their mojo. The boys' race was faster, but because of a few injuries we weren't able to bring our best to the table. That happens sometimes. It's just one of those things.

After both races, I went to the bathroom to regroup. I knew without looking at the results that we hadn't made State. And oh BOY, I had to do some soul searching. Keith was at the race, but because I was running around like a crazy person, I couldn't even find him. I texted him to come to his truck. I just needed a time out and to think about how to deal with the kids. I couldn't get him; so I just went in the bathroom stall to think it out. At this point, I wanted to throw myself on the dirty ground and have a 2 year old tantrum, complete with screaming and crying. I didn't, though. I knew my job as a coach wasn't finished, even though I our season was. I thought of a few things to say to my team, and ways to try to make it better for them. And even though NOTHING anyone says can truly make it better, I believe what people of "importance", like coaches or loved ones really does stick in our memories. I rejoined the team at our tent, and was bombarded with the question of if I thought we made it or not. I told them I wasn't sure, that it was definitely close. Most of them already knew how poorly the races went, to which I reminded them of their very FIRST race. I told them that all you can do is your best, and that I was proud of them for their season, not because of their times and improvements, but because of their hard work and dedication to the sport. At this point, my voice was shaking, and the moms were crying; so I just left it alone, and we went to the awards ceremony. Surely enough, 5th place finishes on both sides. I did have TWO girls that qualified as individuals, which is super exciting. At the awards ceremony, I wanted to just cry. But I remembered something that I forgotten while in my "I love my team" vacuum. Other teams work hard, too. Other coaches love their athletes just like me. I wanted to throw a pity party for myself, claim it wasn't fair, but it was. They worked hard. We just didn't have a top performance, and just weren't as fast as the other teams. Nothing unfair, just LIFE. I made a distinct effort to clap for the teams making it to State, and I faked a happy presentation to my seniors, presenting them with a  gold Brooks shoe. The kids loved them, btw, even brought them to Senior Night the next evening.

I spent that evening in a totally piss poor mood. Poor Keith even got me some flowers from the grocery store, some sushi, and a Diet Coke. (I rarely drink sodas anymore, but I still love them.) Of course, in true depression style, I ate very little *real* food, just gorged myself on Halloween candy while staring into the t.v. like a zombie. I still didn't cry, though. It wasn't until my rainy run on Friday morning that I let loose. I cried so hard that I had to stop and walk. Not winning sucks. When I got to school, one of my precious students had written me poem, telling me she had missed me on Thursday, and said she hoped my team won. I realized that I needed to pull myself up by the boot straps and get OUT of my funk. I had kids that needed me as a teacher and a leader. And last night (Friday), we had a wonderful Senior Night. my 4 girls and single boy were recognized at the football game. We all dressed up; I gave them flowers and a necklace. Then we took pictures and socialized afterwards. Sweet girls surrounded me in a huge group hug, telling me they loved me when I said bye to them. Tearful for sure. When speaking to the parents last night, not a single one said anything about the meet the day before. One told me thank you for caring so much for her daughter, and said her daughter looked up to me. Another one told me how much he appreciated me "going above and beyond" for the kids. I was truly humbled, and realized that our position as a coach is 1000 more than wins or times. It's about the good old Brooks' way- Inspire Daily. More in depth with that is to motivate, encourage, support. As an educator and a coach, we can't let our own sadness and negativity interfere with our responsibility. We have to swallow it and be there for our kids.

This morning, being that I was now free of XC duties, I wanted to do the big local 10K. Coach nixed that plan, but happily gave me back to back long runs to prepare for my upcoming ultra. And I'll just say, that I faked a little disappointment about not racing to the hubby and our other training buddies, but I'm nearly GIDDY about back-to-back long runs. LOVE THEM! Daniel (Sam's hubby) and I got dropped off along the First Light Marathon course, and finished the long run right as the 10K was finishing. I got to see all my friends kill it, and I had a super fun time cheering them on. I didn't miss racing one single bit! I'm loving boosting the mileage up, and I'm super excited to race 50K in a few weeks, and 50 miles in a few months. Woot woot!

Life rolls on, friends. Run Happy!


  1. I could only imagine how hard that was for you to deal with in that moment. But am super proud of how you rose up and modeled one of my favorite qualities across the board and a MUST for a good leader: Resilience. That you have, and so does your team. Keep on the path you're headed, because regardless of outcome(which is only a matter of time), these kids are getting much more than a medal-they are getting life lessons. WTG girl!!

    Oh, and 5 weeks!

  2. Stop it,you made me tear up! Because I wish you were MY coach. You're definitely a good leader, and your kids are so lucky to have someone who knows how to encourage, inspire, and empathize! Keep it up, coach.

  3. You are an amazing person!! Your kids are very lucky to have you as their coach. Heck, if I had kids, I would want YOU to be their coach.

    Keep smiling!

    50 miles huh? You're the one that encouraged me to run a 50K. Hmm, now I am thinking of 50 miles. :-)

  4. I am sorry your team didn't make State, but it sounds like you had a great season and I am sure they will always remember your pasta party and the effort you made for them :)
    Excited for your Ultra endeavors!

  5. As wonderful as it would have been for the kids to make it to State, it sounds like they got a whole lot of other wonderful things out of the season from having you as a coach. You and your team have much to be proud of!!! Hugs!

  6. State would always be nice, but by the sounds of things your team was there to learn this year... At races I feel I can do well in I alway make sure the race is run the way I want it to be run, I turn into a control freek!!! Not everyone can race that way, run there own race and get other people to change there plans... I hope in the years to come it will be your team laying down the law...

  7. State would always be nice, but by the sounds of things your team was there to learn this year... At races I feel I can do well in I alway make sure the race is run the way I want it to be run, I turn into a control freek!!! Not everyone can race that way, run there own race and get other people to change there plans... I hope in the years to come it will be your team laying down the law...

  8. Oh my gosh, you almost had tears rolling down my cheeks! You were close to States but guess what? The important thing is how you made those kids feel. The parents let you know how much they adore you and the kids will remember that FOREVER. You are amazing and I hope you pat yourself on the back for a successful season!