Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Better Athlete or Coach?

The end of the coaching season comes and it is time for reflection. At a team meeting recently I looked around the room and felt the athletes did not improve significantly this year. Quite a few of them did and set life time personal records, but not the performances I imagined in September. On the other hand since the start of the school year I have set personal records at 800, 5000, the 3000 steeplechase (I'm counting it), 10,000, half marathon and marathon.

I think of myself as a better coach than an athlete because I have the ability to view another person with less emotion than I view myself. In other words, athletes often focus on the wrong details. Plus, I am slow and somewhat uncoordinated. Plus, I have read so much about running that the training principles seem so simple to me. Yet based on the results of the team, that is not the case. A few have had a stellar year, but most have not had the year I had hoped for. Again, in the last seven months I have set personal records at just about everything. That is a good seven months. Yet I am still slow enough that multiple freshmen men and collegiate women are running faster times than I.

Even in college I felt I was a better coach than athlete. I understand the physiology of running well, I understand the metabolic processes of running, I have had so many injuries I feel I can help others avoid many of the setbacks I had. Additionally, I have so much motivation to be in this sport from the health benefit and the personal improvement to the everyday endorphin rush and post run satisfaction. I hope that I can convey some of those attitudes to the athletes I work with. Yet this year we have had a number of athletes lose their motivation, get injured, and most have not had many hard workouts since cross country. Cross country was a resounding success, but we have faltered since then and it worries me.

I was telling this to one of the other coaches and he told me, "I think we are brilliant." To be honest that is part of the reason that I do not have a dedicated coach myself. I do not think that one person could aggregate and supervise for me a more effective plan than I can do for myself. I consult many other coaches and advisors, but ultimately assemble the pieces myself.

The last few weeks have been somewhat emotional for me. In this case I mean not positive emotions. There have been incidents at work that have upset me. There have been incidents coaching that have also upset me. In the odd chance that any of the athletes I work with read this, none of my athletes have upset me directly. I feel that my job could have been done better by someone else, although I'm not exactly sure how. Finally, after every season ending there is a let down, as in why did I only run 32:12? Why couldn't I run half a second per lap faster and get under 32? There is often the feeling that I did not do all I could have. I have an amazing life. I feel it is the best one in the world, but my goals are so consuming that I fail dozens and hundreds of times before I reach any of them. In fact the only long term goal (four years or more) I have really accomplished was getting my two college degrees.

There is a dissatisfaction in my life involved in the progress leading to the larger goals. Similarly with coaching we have a handful of athletes that I feel could go to nationals in their college career but we are so far away from that level of performance, and I am not entirely sure of their motivation that I have trouble determining my own progress as a coach. I aim for the top, in everything that I do, but not everyone has that attitude about everything they do.

The question remains. We have one week to go as a team in the regular season. This week is the IIAC championship. I'm really excited to watch the 10ks, as I always am. I am taking a little running break. I have not run in three days because of a muscle/tendon problem on the outside of my lower left leg. What does taking a day off for me mean? Walking and bicycling 1-3 hours per day. Where is my self-confidence to fully rest?

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