I’m an assistant coach for the Homedale High School and Homedale Middle School Track and Field teams. We run a combined program with all of the coaches coaching specific areas in both programs. This was our third year running the program this way, and even with turnover in our coaching staff this year, everything seems to be working really well.
This is my fifth year coaching track and field, and this year I added coaching the sprinters to my job description, while I also focused on the jumpers. This last weekend we competed at the Idaho 3A State Track and Field Championships and had our best showing as a program in the past 5 years. The boys team took 5th out of the 21 schools competing, missing 4th place and a trophy by 3 points. This was accomplished with 5 boys. The girls team took 6th place out of 21 schools, competing with 8 girls. You can find results from the meet here.
I would like to share some of my reflections from the season, the state track meet, and my coaching experience in both basketball and track and field. I share these reflections humbly as my opinion knowing full well that I think differently than others do about coaching and working with young people. These reflections come after observation, thought, prayer, interactions, reading, and conversations.
- Young People Are Still Driven: Often I hear how this generation of young people doesn’t want to work hard for anything, and while this may be true for some of our young people I can assure you this is not true for all of them. For those of you who might think this generation of young people doesn’t know how to work hard nor do they want to, I would challenge you to attend a track and field meet. All weekend I witnessed young people pushing themselves to the limit both emotionally, mentally, and physically to give of the very best of themselves. Their effort was commendable.
- Sportsmanship Was on Display: Time and time again I witnessed good sportsmanship on display as athletes competed against themselves and each other, and then shared their excitement and disappointment with one anther. I saw the opposite of this as well, and fortunately it was few and far between. I can tell you that the good sportsmanship shined brightly, and the bad sportsmanship stood out like a soar thumb … or ego.
- Having Fun: Time and time again I hear young people say the number one reason they want to be involved in sports is to have fun. As a coach I (we) are challenged to make sure this happens within the community and environment of our track program. I (we) have found fun can be had while also demanding hard work, commitment, respect, and discipline. While demanding these things we also foster support, care, love, kindness, grace, relationships, and the opportunity for team members to be themselves.
- Mental Fortitude: This year one of our athletes was state champion in the 100m and 200m sprints. He also anchored the state champion 4x200m relay team, and the 2nd place 4×100 relay team. I can tell you that the 100m and 200m races were won before this young man got on the bus in the morning to head to the meet. He had ran them over and over so many times in his head that there was no doubt in his mind that he was going to win. The only people that didn’t know were the people watching the track meet, and the other young men he was racing against. The positive mental approach to sports can not be overlooked. Being mentally strong is a huge asset to all coaches and athletes. I recommend for all coaches and athletes to read the book “With Winning In Mind” by Lanny Bassham.
- Mental Fortitude #2: When submitting names of relay team members coaches can include an alternate or two per relay. We hope we never have to use the alternates, because that usually means someone had an injury that prevented them from running. Saturday we had to use our alternate. The lead off runner for both of our relays was injured Saturday morning while he was competing in the long jump. We knew right away that he was done for the day, and while tending to him and making sure he got the help he needed at the training table we quickly got our alternate ready to go. Our alternate was a freshman who had never ran either relay, who had never practiced starts with a baton, and who had never done a blind hand off. But I knew mentally he was strong, and physically he could perform the task. We taught him hand offs, and how to start with a baton, and then we and his teammates coached him up. From the time he was ready to go to the time the relays were finished his “I’ve got this” attitude and confidence allowed him to do the job he needed to do for us. I was sad to see our lead off man go down. Sad for him, because he put so much into this season, and because he is such a great kid. I was happy for the young man who stepped in, and for the rest of the team members for doing their collective best for all of 5 of the team members.
- Love and Relationships: As coaches the two most important things we can offer our athletes is our unconditional love, and a relationship with us.
- More Than Sports: I’m convinced yet again that what we do as coaches involves so much more than the sport itself. When we only focus on the sport we miss out on so much more. We miss out on the opportunity to get to know some great young people, to engage in their lives on a personal level, to teach about all aspects of life, and to have a positive impact and influence on their lives. The real win as coaches is when young people leave our programs a better version of themselves than when they started, and they go out and have great impact on our world.
- Respect: Aretha sang about it best, and the young people I work with remind me that they will give me their respect if I give them mine. We have to respect the athletes we work with as the valuable people they are. We are to treat them with respect, talk to them with respect, and coach them with respect.
- We Will Make Mistakes: Coaches and parents will make mistakes, and the mistakes we make can have a detrimental impact on the athletes we coach. We need to be careful folks. When we make mistakes we need to apologize and move on. If we linger in our mistakes we can do great damage to our athletes … our sons and daughters.
- Coaching With My Bride: The last five years I have been able to coach alongside my beautiful wife, Heidi. She is the Head Track and Field Coach and the Head Cross Country Coach at Homedale High School. She makes it easy for me and the other assistants to do our jobs, and her love and care for the athletes on her teams is amazing. Coaching together these last five years has brought me great joy. One of the things we are able to do, hopefully, is model for the young people a healthy marriage and family.