July 20, 2015

Why Coach and Teach?

When they say having children changes everything, they are NOT kidding. Like I said in a previous post, going back to work was very difficult for me. (I still have a hard time leaving her.) With that came a lot of feelings about my profession and career that I wasn't sure how to handle.

I've always loved coaching. The past four years have been the most meaningful coaching XC. And I have loved track, too (10 years). However, most high school coaches can verify that the time commitment is huge and tough. To teach all day with little break and then to extend that work day coaching is a lot. Top that with lots of work to do on nights and weekends, since you aren't staying after school to work.  Not going to lie, I really, really, really wanted to quit. I hated being away from my baby. The 2nd truth is that my husband and I needed the money. Though small, my coaching supplement from the 2 sports is what pays our babysitter. So, I didn't really have a choice.

I also hit a lull in my teaching this year. I can't really explain it. We got a new principal that is really great. She has new ideas, is really positive, and easy to work with. My feelings have nothing to do with her. The special education situation still sucked, but that is supposed to be remedied this year. Whoo hook! My feelings remained. I did a LOT of soul searching toward the end of the year on WHY I wasn't satisfied. I came to two conclusions- the first is plain burn out. There's only so long you can go, work, push yourself before something has to give. That "something" was my teaching mojo. The 2nd conclusion I came to is that I didn't (still don't) feel like I'm making a difference. Year after year, the students' behavior gets worse and worse. What we accept in the classroom in regards to attitude and behavior is really sad. Students and their parents seem to care less and less. It really hit me in the face last year when I tried to improve our typically-chaotic Field Day and realized no one cared. Teachers, students, their parents have gotten so used to mediocre that a haphazard, chaotic Field Day didn't phase them! I also had a huge battle with a student and his parents. Aside from his terrible behavior, his grades went from B's to D's in a matter of weeks. I tried relentlessly to contact them. You see, they weren't worried. In fact, they reported that I was "harassing" them! (And yes, I did call a few times and left messages, along with a few emails, getting zero response.) All of it really beat me down. I began to wonder WHY I am doing this.  I want to Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire.  (That's a link to the best professional book I've ever read. I encourage all teachers to read it!)

I prayed about this situation. I wasn't sure if I needed a grade change, a school change, a career change. I just asked God to help me through this, and help me regain that fire and passion for teaching (or whatever profession I should be in.) In early June, the principal from another high school called me out of the blue. He straightforward offered me a job- Head XC and Track, teaching math at the high school level. I would have to take an additional test to get certified for math, but he knew I could pass. I told him to let me think on it, as I was about to leave for Seattle and needed time to process the offer.

As it would be, my team would receive the Brooks Booster Grant while I was in Seattle. I felt like that was a sign that I should stay. It possibly meant there is more for me and my team. There is more I can give, more I can do. The idea of a bigger and better team leaves me drooling sometimes. Realistically, my team will never be there, but we CAN improve. We have improved already, and hopefully the best is yet to come. I have to remind myself that coaching is about making a difference. Runners and coaches often chase the clock, the points, the numbers. It's okay for those things to drive us. That's healthy competition, but when we look deep in our heart, a bigger reason should be there. I'm searching for that reason in my teaching right now, but I've found it in my coaching.

In my short 4 years as head XC coach, I've watched teenagers run in a new pair of running shoes for the first time. I've seen kids complete their first 5K race. I've high-fived when they reached their longest training run yet. I cried with a girl over her mother missing yet another XC race b/c of her own partying lifestyle. That particular girl would later be completely abandoned by her mom and her dad would be left to raise two teenage daughters. I helped her sign up for college, I encouraged her to talk to a teacher when she was struggling in class. I watched another athlete sign a scholarship, becoming the first in her entire family to attend college. I walked a senior on the field for Senior Nigh when her family couldn't attend. These kids work on farms and at local markets all summer. Some work at the outlet mall. They are not lazy. They run, they work, they give their best at everything they do. So the running? Yeah, I do my best to coach them. I plan workouts, encourage, help pace, but the reason behind it runs so much deeper. A coach is a mentor. If you are a coach and don't truly KNOW your athletes, you are failing.

In 3 weeks I go back to work. I hope I can approach it with an energetic and positive attitude, giving my very best.


  1. I hope you get a break this year. Burnout can happen so easily, but maybe the rest and time off will allow you to reset and recharge.

  2. I wish I could have 3 weeks holiday... The kids at Vasity were I coach have just come back, and the club/track was alive after a quiet holiday time... But training still goes on.

    I hope the the weather plays ball this term so the kids keep training.

    It sounds like our challanges are very different, good luck for the term ahead!

  3. I have a friend up here in Michigan who is a runner, a teacher, a head cross country and track coach, and has a 10 month old. A while back she told me she was feeling her teaching mojo slip and struggling with the coaching hours.

    I'm trying to figure out if you are somehow both the same person.

  4. You go back in 3 weeks? That sucks.

  5. I think you know this already, but ever since I started with Brooks I have been nominating you for Inspiring Coach. Even post-Brooks, I continued to do so because of what you just posted about. It was SO cool to see that they got the grant from Brooks and that people finally noticed! Rome wasn't built in a day, and I'm sure when Squishy gets older she will be really proud of the example her mom set for some deserving kids.

    Here's to getting the mojo back. And seriously, I don't get you math people!! lol