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Tag: track and field

To Be A Coach in 2016

It’s spring in Portland, OR which means rain with peeks of sunshine. This season has been too wet, yet it hasn’t deterred any athletes – they all come back for more. Aside from personal training, coaching is the one thing that I dedicate so much time and brainpower to. It’s the job that pays the least, but is the most gratifying. There’s something about being around young people who are excited to learn and grow from what you are teaching them, that makes the process both fun and challenging. Each athlete is evolving into greater versions of themselves, but at different rates.

I think of coaching Track & Field as a way to improve and inspire each athlete, individually. With big teams, that’s a difficult task. However, after a couple of weeks, you do get to know each athlete. I can tell very quickly, their temperaments, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, event capabilities, and commitment to their journey. When I first joined my high school track team, I was super shy but attacked the track. It was the one place that I felt alive and myself. I took workouts seriously, but I knew from the beginning that I was one of the few. I didn’t mind that truth. My teammates were awesome and every girl brought life to the team, regardless of their skill and seriousness with the sport.

Sports are so competitive these days and that competitiveness can discourage student-athletes from participating. I want all levels to join my team. I want the kid that’s never run a step, leaped in the air, or thrown a ball to be on my team. Because, the fact is, there are components to track and field that can be a part of us throughout our lives. Our jobs are not just to develop speed, strength, and skill. Our jobs are to also develop confidence, unity, and tenacity in our athletes and team. While, as coaches, we work so hard at those things we inevitably (if we are doing our jobs correctly) develop a level of trust at the same time. If the goal is to bring something great out of an athlete, then the trust does need to live in the athlete-coach relationship.

As coaches, it is our job to step-up and be a guide, be a role model. It comes from within. “What lies before us and what lies behind us are all small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within out into the world, miracles happen” – Henry David Thoreau

The other side of coaching often involves parents. I recently read an article by Steve Hanson, titled “What Makes A Nightmare Sports Parent — And What Makes a Great One.” The article was about an informal study over three decades, that was initiated by Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miler of Proactive Coaching. To sum it up, kids don’t want their parents to be their coaches, talk about the game/meet, or offer advice. They want their parents to be their parents. Students were asked: “What is your worst memory from playing youth and high school sports?” The most popular response: “The ride home from the games with my parents.” Athletes were also asked what their parents said that made them feel good? Again, the overwhelming response was: “I love to watch you play.” It is so simple. Athletes don’t want approval, instruction, critiques, or pressure from their parents. They want their parents to just enjoy watching them. They want the coaching to live with the coach and for their parents to just be parents.

Miller says, “Athletics is one of the best ways for young people to take risks and deal with failure because the consequences aren’t fatal, they aren’t permanent. We’re talking about a game. So they usually don’t want or need a parent to rescue them when something goes wrong. Once you as a parent are assured the team environment is a safe environment, release your child to the coach and to the game. That way all successes are theirs, all failures are theirs.”

As I enter another season as coach and my first season as parent with a son in Farm League baseball, I believe these are very wise words that all parents, can understand and appreciate.

Here’s to another season of sports! I hope all of us coaches, parents, and everyone in between can live out our roles to the best of our abilities.

 

-Coach Keely

 

 

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What Coaching Has Taught Me

Coaching taught me these things:

  1. Be Patient
  2. Be Yourself
  3. Read/Study Everything You Can
  4. Trust Yourself
  5. Inspire
  6. “Listen” with your eyes and ears

If you are a new coach, read on my friends. This past spring, I coached highschool track & field for the Portland Waldorf School. It was a learning experience like no other. So much so that I think everyone should coach at some point in their lives. I’ve coached in the past, as a young 23 year-old in RI and the second time as much more experienced version of my former self, in San Francisco.  Both groups of kids were completely open to me and my approach. I loved every second working with them, but life took me down other paths and now I’m in Portland, OR 13 years after my coaching journey began.

Coaching this season was actually a surprise. I had told the AD earlier in the year that I’d love to help the PE department or running teams in any way, as it’s my love and profession. Little did I know that the head coach would get fired and the assistant would quit, leaving me as the first option for coach. I thought I’d be walking in to the same excited, welcoming environment like my two previous experiences but it was quite the opposite. The kids wanted their old coaches and so did most of the parents. My first several weeks as coach was HARD, to say the least.

Having over 20 years as an athlete, plus the addition of multiple certifications, I knew what to coach, but it was how to coach these sensitive, yet extremely talented young student-athletes that had me stumped. I knew I didn’t have all the answers so I sought out some of my favorite coaches and asked them a bunch of questions over FB, text, email, and phone. I also got one of my new, track geek friend, Sam Smith, to help me coach a couple days a week. My husband’s high school track coach, Dave Counts, gave me lots of great info, but one thing he said that stood out was, “find a way to connect with them aside from giving workouts.” Being a writer and a lover of good lyrics, I choose to share a quote or lyric at the beginning of each practice. It was fun for me and I think the athletes liked it too. My  high school coach, Mr. Croughan, was my main support system. I remember in one phone conversation, after a trying week, that I said “I need to prove to them that I’m a good coach.” Mr. Croughan replied, “Well, if you want to prove it to yourself, that’s fine but you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone else.” Once I let that sink in, everything seemed to “click” with every athlete. I wish that I could’ve recorded the transformation somehow.

Through workouts, visualization, my quirky quotes/lyrics, pasta party, t-shirt making, laughs, sweat, and incredible performances, we ended the season with every athlete PR’ing and four female athletes qualifying for states – individual and 4x100m relay. It was exciting to be their coach because they were just so excited, focused, and determined. I helped get them there, but they made the choices to come to practice, to work hard, to become mentally tough, to give it everything they got and more. Watching them this season, I can see that they will honestly tackle every opportunity that comes their way in life.

The day before our track awards, my family and I were spectators at Pre Classic in Eugene. First, AMAZING! Second, after winning the 200m Justin Gatlin said something like, (loose quote) “I just did what my coach told me to do. Coach is always right. But if something goes wrong, it’s his fault.” The crowd laughed, including myself, but it also made me realize that that’s the way I had approached the season – trust my coaching and if it doesn’t work out, blame me! Luckily, the season felt successful with PR’s and happy faces, so no one needed to blame me for anything!

A week after all the meets, practices, and festivities ended I came across this quote by the legendary Amby Burfoot, “Coaches don’t make athletes. Athletes make coaches.” After all the ups and dowins the season brought, in the end, the athletes made me a better, stronger coach. I’ve had a good share of jobs, from owning my fitness business to being a health educator and honestly, I have never worked so hard in my life. Knowing that this small group of athletes wanted to be the every best, made me work 10x harder than I ever have in any position I’ve ever taken. So yes, the athletes do make coaches.

Cross country is next on the agenda!

Be well.

 

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