Monday, March 19, 2012
Hills, Character and Dedication
When I got home today, Beth asked me how practice was. I replied, after thinking for a moment, with "Interesting..." Because what happened today was little different than the norm.
We had a great Monday meeting. Re-instated relays, honored a proud Wolverine of the Week winner, outlined out next few weeks of training and goals. We then head outside, but it went from sunny & calm to cold & windy in the blink of an eye. Ugh. However, 1100 m orange pace intervals were still on tap, and we were going to do them no matter what the weather.
Well, we ran those intervals horribly. I think only two or three kids were constantly hitting their times, everyone else was slow, and I mean real slow. Slow enough for me to be screaming at them from across the track, interrupting soccer practice with my bellowing voice. Eventually, I just stopped all of them mid-interval and told them to hit the hill, which the sprinters were already on with Coach Able and Coach Wright. I honestly don't know what went wrong. Too hard of intervals, lack of conditioning on Sunday, the crummy weather; but we were not hitting it at all. The effort was there, but it wasn't enough.
The hill was about 20 m of flat, into 15 meters of steep up, into about 35 meters of more flat. It ran from the lower field onto the upper field. The pace was simple, as hard as you can go. The sprinters were already about half way done their hills, before the distance kids joined in. And I was so mad, it quickly turned into that scene from Miracle, where the coach keeps blowing his whistle, making them do suicides across the ice over and over and over again. The kids would get back to the line, I would scream "GO!" and they would hammer up that hill again. Boys first, then girls. No distinction between sprinters or distance, just all boys then all girls. "GO! GO! GO! GO!"
Finally, after quite a few all-out hill sprints, I announced, "Practice is officially over, you can all go home now." I waited a few seconds. No one moved. Then I yelled "GO!" again. And the kids went hard, up that hill like they were running from the cops, as Coach Laster used to say. They came back down. I made the same announcement. No response. I yelled "GO!". Commence hill hammering. This cycles repeated for a good 15 minutes or so. By that time, I was at the finish hurdle, and Coach Able was yelling "GO!". It carried on for at least 3-4 more long sprints before the lacrosse coach came over.
After conferring with her, I grabbed the finish hurdle, announced that the lacrosse team needs the upper field, and that track practice was over. Coach Able, Coach Wright and I headed towards the cube. But, the team kept going, first the guys, then the girls. Over and over and over again. I was far away, putting in the cube before the lacrosse coach had to ask them to stop, as they really needed the field. But then, the hurdlers went to do more hurdler drills, the sprinters went into the weight room, and the distance kids moved over to the parking lot hill, where they did who-knows-how-many more hills. I was in a state of shock and disbelief, to be honest. But, I was psyched! This practice rapidly turned from being about a coach hammering his athletes for lack of interval prowess to a practice about athletes coming together and showing that they can be true champions. I was not the leader, not in charge; I was totally out of the picture. The athletes took it upon themselves to dedicate and to work and to not give up, and it was a fantastic thing to witness.
I finally had to stop the distance kids , and when I stopped them, I was very proud of them. I was proud of all the kids, the sprinters, the hurdlers, the whole lot of them. I saw a lot of character today, I saw a lot of intrinsic motivation to uphold the Chaparral tradition and reach your individual potential. I saw leaders grow up in the span of an hour. I saw runners killing themselves to get up that hill. The old cliche of "character is who you are and what you do when no one is watching" rang very true today. No one had to do those extra hills (and the extra was far greater than the mandatory) but no one quit. No one showed weakness, all showed mental toughness. All gained immensely from today.
It was pretty cool, to be honest. Would I rather have been able to hit 1100 m intervals perfectly, sure. But am I happy with the character, dedication and determination? A lot, I am happy with it a lot. That is the kind of work we need every day, and that is the kind of work that makes us champions. Good job Wolverines, the coaching staff is very proud of all of you.