5 Important Lessons for New Coaches

Last Tuesday I was asked to coach the Track & Field team at my high school, the catch: There was no Track & Field Team until last Tuesday.

I have plenty of experience when it comes to track, after 3 seasons of indoor and 3 seasons of outdoor I have participated in my fair share of practices, and  meets. However, this experience is quite limited. When running the 3000 meter run it is not necessary to use technical items liek starting starting blocks. Though I always thought it could help, no one else seemed to agree that after 7.5 laps around the track it really matters. The same goes for relays, fractions of a second saved during a good hand off are a bit less important in a 4×800 meter run than say a 4×100 meter dash. In the distance relays we were happy if we didn’t drop the baton, we set the bar high.

When it comes to distance, I’ve got that down. To quote a fellow team mate: “You put one foot in front of the other, keep doing that and then do it faster.” I remember my workouts, I can coach that.

As for the rest of it, those events that require “technique,”  “measuring steps,” or advanced “coordination” I’m clueless.

Luckily, I’ve got a several local coaches excited about our new track program and willing to share their knowledge and experience as well as their track with us (did I mention my school doesn’t actually have a track). I am also excited to meet with my former coach to absorb as much of his knowledge that I can. I feeling confident and ready to take on the season.

After 4 practices, almost a week through the track season, I have compiled a list my top 5 lessons for a new running coach:

5. Get used to no sleep.

I find myself rolling around in bed, fighting the pillows and my brain as it works ferociously designing workouts and thinking about the next day’s practice. Funny, it seems to have taken up some of the space in my melon that used to be devoted to thinking about classes and academics at night. On top of this, late afternoon practices push back your evening routine atleast 1.5 hours.

4. If you run with your team, prepare to lose.

I’m pretty proud that since this fall I’ve gotten back into similar shape as when I was a high school, even back in the same pant size. But, even being in decent shape its hard to keep up with runners like a 17 year old girl that was a district champion and placed second in the state in cross country, and as I approach the big 25 I’m not getting any younger. Luckily, I’m the coach so if I need to rest I can go check on the sprinters.

3. People still try to find short cuts.

While I was running there were always those people on the team trying cut corners and do as little of the planned workout as they could. Luckily, I have a bit more patience these days, and hope to find ways to motivate these runners to strive to to their best everyday. A bit different than my opinions of those runners while I was busting my a**.

2. Don’t wear clothes that match your water bottle.

I happen to have yellow shorts and a yellow water bottle with a blue cap. So, earlier in the week when I happened to be wearing my yellow shorts with my yellow water bottle I definitely got called out for planning my “outfit”. Don’t even get me started when I wore a blue t-shirt with the yellow shorts today.

1. The smell check is no longer going to slide for selecting running gear.

In high school I would use a t-shirt a couple days during the season before it got too ripe to wear. So, Tuesday morning I gave Monday’s t-shirt a sniff, it was good! So, I threw it in my gym bag and was good to go. False. I joined my team in the afternoon to a choir of “Eww, Coach didn’t you wear that shirt yesterday.” I was shocked for two reasons. First that they remembered what I was wearing the day before, and second my trusty method of selecting running clothes is now obsolete.

So, to all those teams starting their seasons good luck and run hard. I’ll see you on the track. (I’ll be the guy with the clipboard and stopwatch)