Coaching Confessions

As my second year of coaching comes to an end I’m struggling to be as appreciative as I was when I wrote My First Season Coaching the Wildcats.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the season, but I’ve certainly reached the point of burnout.  I attribute it to several things:

1 – The season was 23 weeks long.  Last year I wasn’t hired until the end of February, so I missed nearly all the of the off-season practices.  The official preseason for track is only 2 weeks long, so we began off-season training 3 days a week the first week of December.  I enjoyed the off-season as the team was small, the weather was bearable and I was able to join in on many of the workouts.  Once the regular season started, however, transitioning to 2.5 hour practices 5 days a week was tough.  There is actually another week remaining in the season, but unless my one hurdler runs an insane race tomorrow at the district meet and qualifies for the state meet, I will be officially finished for the spring.

2 – Mother Nature was cruel.  A perk of having a small off-season team was that if the temperatures dropped drastically low or the wind chill was brutal, we just worked out inside the high school.  That wasn’t feasible during the regular season with 100+ athletes.  Those of us familiar with the sport of track know that March can be cold and April can be rainy.  None of us were prepared though for just how long winter would stick around this year or how rearranged the meet schedule would become due to cancellations.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that I wore two layers of pants, a long sleeved t, hoodie and a 2 layer winter coat for over half of the regular season.  Due to rescheduling we had 8 competitions scheduled within a 3 week time frame.

3 – Meal planning was stressful.  I know to not meal plan during the season would’ve made me feel 10x more stressed.  However, there were only so many crock pot recipes and quick meal ideas I could muster after a few weeks.  The last 2 weeks of April and first week of May I had a sporting event nearly every night.  While this was partially my fault because in addition to coaching track I chose to line judge volleyball games, it brought me to near mental burnout just thinking of what to cook.  If it wouldn’t have been for Jason needing leftovers to take to work for dinner I likely would’ve sustained myself with PBJ and breakfast foods.  I did still eat a fair amount of PBJ during the track meets though; I kept the commitment I made to myself when I was hired last year to not rely on concession stands for dinners.

4 – I set unrealistic workout expectations for myself.  Last year I was content to stick to my “no more than 2 days off in a row” goal during the season.  Even if I just worked out 10 or 15 mins it was good enough for me to count.  This year I came into the spring season much more in shape.  All the consistent running I did over the winter for the York Winter Series had me motivated to keep up as many workouts a week as possible.  I wasn’t satisfied with just quick workouts; if I couldn’t maintain my running base I at least expected myself to do the 30 min DailyBurn daily workout.  I came close to a breaking point before I finally realized I needed to reset myself, physically and mentally.

5 – You can’t coach an athlete to care.  I think this is the one that is making me struggle the most.  While I had quite a few dedicated athletes, I also had some who preferred to exert as little effort as possible.  I also had two upperclassmen set horrible examples by short-cutting workouts and making dumb decisions.  I had athletes who couldn’t seem to understand why their times weren’t improving as the season progressed, but who never chose to push themselves any harder in the workouts.  The boys’ team had the opportunity to be division champions for a third year in a row.  The most crucial meet of the season one of our athletes was out with an injury, courtesy of not warming up properly for an earlier meet.  Another decided to “scissor kick” his high jumps instead of properly jumping.  This forced the meet to come down to the final event, the 4x400m relay, to determine the meet winner and division champion.  My boys (I coached that relay team) put everything they had into that race, but were defeated by tenths of a second.  The other team cared more than our team did, not in the relay, but during the entire meet.  You could see that they wanted the win and fought for it.  They deserved it; our boys did not.  All of us coaches agreed that our team didn’t care enough, and our head coach reminded us that “we shouldn’t care more than the athletes do”.

I wrote this in hopes of purging some of the negativity that I’ve been carrying around for the past week regarding the season.  I’m trying to remind myself of all the positives such as the boys’ 4x400m relay team tying for 7th in the county meet, one of my hurdlers dropping a full 6 seconds off his 300m hurdle time from the start of the season to the end, and all the laughs and good convos I had with many of my athletes.

I’m going to muster up the energy to focus on a good district meet tomorrow.  I know I’ll be reminded of the better parts of the season during the team banquet next week.  I think once I’m back to my “no track” routine that includes more regular running, writing and reading I’ll be able to reflect more positively on the season.  I’ll also have months to recharge my batteries before diving back into coaching next season.  Here’s to getting myself back “on track”!


About Tracy

Runner. Writer. Reader. Environmental and Indigenous Peoples advocate. Work from home Workforce Specialist. NASM Certified Personal Trainer. Assistant Varsity Track Coach. Fascinated by the ocean, waterfalls and Christmas lights.
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9 Responses to Coaching Confessions

  1. AJ says:

    I’ve been coaching track since February too and have definitely battled the horrible weather and the bad attitudes as well. At least there is an end in sight- next Friday!!!!

  2. Congratulations on finishing the season and getting through the challenges.

  3. I love reading about your coaching–coaching has always sounded like kind of a great life to me (although I am sure it’s very challenging!). I think what you mentioned would be the hardest to me–if I cared more than the athletes did. This is hard for me to imagine because as an athlete, I always cared SO much. I always wanted to get better and always wanted to win. But I do remember there were kids who didn’t care as much. I couldn’t relate to them–I didn’t get why they participated at all. I guess I get it a little more now as an adult–they just want to be a part of something, maybe a part of a team. (But really, i still don’t get not pushing yourself or doing your best!)
    It’s funny, I can talk all this shit about people not doing their best in physical endeavors but others would probably say the same about me intellectually. I definitely did not always give my all in school–i picked and chose when and where I did.
    Anyway- enough about me, lol. Sounds like you are ready for a bit of a break and a chance to focus on yourself for a bit. Hope it’s a nice recuperation1 x

    • TracyNicole says:

      Coaching is definitely more of my calling as a job than any actual job I’ve held! I think all jobs though, no matter how much you love them, can wear on you in some ways over time. I agree with you in that I can’t understand how they just don’t care. I was never a top athlete (just qualifying for districts my senior year was a highlight), so I had to work to achieve results. The kids on the team who are just natural talents with little to no work seriously grate on me. I feel like they set a horrible example for other athletes because they ruin the concept of “work hard and you’ll improve”. Fortunately a lot of them graduate this year, so I’m already looking more forward to next year’s team. I think you’re right though in some kids just want to be “part of” something. I had a good friend through elementary and middle school who did track as well. When we reached high school I grew apart from her because she just wanted to goof off at practice and not take anything seriously, and I fell in with new people who were more dedicated to the sport. I’m sure she thought I was too serious and no fun much as I thought she was lazy. I’m definitely glad to be done for the season – I went for my own run today! Granted it was only 3 miles but I did it midday when it was super hot out so I was going just to get a run in and didn’t worry about the pace. It’s my hope to get back to running 3x a week here in the next few weeks.

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