"There are no stressful situations, only stressful reactions." - Coach O'Malley of Sandburg High School in Illinois.
What Are We Actually Training For?
The boys know I'm a proud nerd of the sport, constantly looking to learn and grow as a coach. Looking for the best training to get each kid to achieve at a high level and push past any perceived limits (because, of course, we know there are no limits). It's a blast, I love that part of it. But if anyone asks me why I coach, the answer never goes toward the training and running aspect. The reasons I coach are very clear. I coach people, not runners. I coach to teach and guide, but also to give space and let kids make decisions, and sometimes, mistakes. I coach that stress is a good thing, and that grit and hard work are more important than talent in any activity. I know our other coaches value these same things. So our training is more than just training to be great runners, it's training to be great people.
Below are just some of the qualities we train.
We train to enhance our grit. Talent is overrated in every capacity, whether it be inherited talent in sport, music, writing, math or anything. Every person is given a different starting point or skill set, but it's how you work to develop and the consistency you put into your life to be better that will dictate where you end up. Grit is the ability to fail and not be deterred from continuing on. If you rely on talent only, the first time you fail may cause you to give up and forget that it's not only talent, but also grit and consistent work that will help you become better.
As a personal story, I earned a D in calculus my senior year of high school and was really struggling with math. Many other kids had better grades and were initially more gifted at learning the material. But, I knew I had a passion for the subject and took the failure as a learning lesson. Instead of giving up, I improved my studying skills and the amount of time I put into studying. I graduated college with a B.S. in math and now work in a math related field as an actuary.
With grit, it's important not to compare. Don't worry about how good others are now, and don't compare to where you think you'll end up. You don't have that answer. Just bring a purpose and commitment to being the best you can be.
Consistent, purposeful training is part of developing a strong work ethic and the grit that can help you overcome and succeed no matter what any critics say. How much are you willing to work to be successful in math, music, running, and whatever else you choose to conquer?
We train to embrace and handle stress. It's unfortunate that many children are growing up today without being allowed to have stress in their lives. Our culture is always quick to paint stress as a bad thing that should be avoided. But as we all know, hiding from stress can have poor consequences.
On our cross country team, we don't hide from stress. We love stress. In running, our harder workouts stress the body to adapt and grow. We understand that the workout will be harder but it won't last forever. We come excited and happy to do workouts, knowing we will get better. We even enjoy the challenges presented, and react in a positive way to elicit the best adaptations.
It gives perspective on stress in real life. How you react to any situation is extremely important. We learn to balance busy days and understand that some moments may be harder than others. And when bad things happen, you can choose whether you react in a stressful way or in a thoughtful manner.
Adaptability (I think that's a word)
Change in life is inevitable. You could change jobs, move to a different city, meet new people or gain new responsibilities. With any change, you'll need to adapt to it. Humans, and most animals, are formed through habits. When a change occurs, it can be an obstacle for us to overcome. Some things you can't prepare for and happen rather quickly. When we train as runners, we are preparing our bodies and minds for these sudden changes.
Training in running creates adaptations to our bodies that make us stronger and faster. We also train to adjust to hot summers, cold winters and different racing scenarios. Lastly, we learn to adapt and adjust if we need to at any moment. When we are sick, we can adjust the workout. If we have a busy weekend, we adjust what time we get our long run in. When our tent was about to blow away at sectionals, we calmly responded and adjusted our team location, not letting it affect our objective for the day. We were trained for that moment. Without thinking, we are training to adapt and respond in a positive way to different situations or barriers.
"Winter is cold! It was a long day, I think I'll go home and relax. Missing one run won't hurt me." Until it does.
We train willpower. Success as a team or individual is not going to be easy. Some days and moments will challenge you more than others. You will always have a choice to do what is right, or do what is easy. Easy can be sleeping in and missing part of first hour, skipping a run because you are too busy, or not properly studying for an exam. You may think it will be a one time occurrence, but these actions can also become habits.
Though it may be harder to convince yourself at first, you'll never regret doing the right thing. Find a way. Bundle up and get out the door, you'll have a great run and be more productive and happier after. Get up and go to class, you'll gain understanding and build a good relationship with your teachers. Study for the math test instead of playing Fortnite, you'll like the results of the short term sacrifice for the effort you put in. We are lucky to have a team to motivate us and be with, so continue to support and love each other in an effort to doing right.
Training is time to be together with some of your best friends. It's cherished time every day to catch up, laugh and feel safe within a group.. And yes, some days, motivating and pushing each other through faster pace workouts. Through chasing common goals, you build friendships that go beyond running. I'm now 31, and many of my best friends are people I had run with in high school and college.
With cross country and track, you naturally learn how to work together as a team, and also develop leadership. You learn how to listen and be respectful to a diverse group of people. Those social skills, developed through the sport, can translate to any career aspirations of pursuits you may have. Along with this, it's the team atmosphere that let's you know it's okay to be who you are. Be supportive and accepting of those that show up and put in their best efforts.
Through it all, be a kid. Play games, go biking, play sports, hang out and enjoy the friendships the sport can create.
As a coach, I have aspirations of continuing our tradition and winning another state title. But, true winning occurs with our daily actions, our consistency in life, and our work ethic. We build a winning program through character and class. We are consistent with all of our actions, as this is what truly represents who we are. Everything we do is training, and how we choose to respond to different situations is up to us. Training is not just becoming better runners, training is becoming better people, and together, a better and more loving family. Make the most of today, and know that you are striving to be the best you. If we can do that, we are winning.
I enjoy writing (or doing my best at it) especially in the off season when I have more time to read and write. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, and feel free to give feedback. My first for this winter is coming off of my reflections and thoughts from the NCAA Championships held this past weekend in Wisconsin. They are thoughts from what I witnessed or heard, and are related to messages we value on our team.
The NCAA Nationals were held this past weekend, and myself and a few of the boys were in Madison watching the Division 1 races. Both races surely did not disappoint, with both the women and men running very fast and competitive races in a snow covered course. I love watching these races and seeing the very best compete, but what also interests me is post-race and listening to athletes and coaches talk while being in a highly emotional post-race state of mind. It's the reflections post-race where you witness the learning and growth occurring in both athletes and coaches. It's also where you discover why some teams perform well in a more distracting setting such as the championship race, and why others make the moment to be bigger than it actually is and thus suffer in performance. The over arching principle I took away from this championship, and something that relates to our current position in training, is the importance of training monotony and the so called "process".
The first quote I loved came from the Northern Arizona head coach, Mike Smith, a coach I greatly admire. He said post race, "If you can be calm in this heightened atmosphere, then you can access your fitness." He reiterated this message both before the race and after, as his team won the title for the third consecutive year! The questions from media were constant, asking how the team prepared and if they were ready to defend, the expectations for his team were high. He just kept talking about how his team was relaxed and prepared, and wouldn't have extra anxiety that many teams would in this heightened atmosphere. The mind is so powerful, and while I believe it's perfectly normal to have a bit of nerves on race day, I agree 100% with Coach Smith on the importance of not making a race into more than what it has to be. The way Smith and his team accomplish this mindset is through their focus on the process and what gets them to the position to compete at the highest level.
Remembering What Got You There
Coach Smith believes the hardest part of coaching is after winning. You can instantly forget what got you to that point and the work that actually goes into it. It's not something that happens on race day, but rather the "monotonous" times of summer training, winter training and putting in the miles with teammates. It's during these cold winter days where the success is built. Nobody will be there to pat you on the back after getting in a morning run on Christmas Day. You won't get a trophy in February after putting in 10 weeks of consistent and monotonous training. Really, nobody outside of yourself and your teammates will care or notice what you do in the off season. But that's what I love, and that's what Coach Smith has his team reflect on. When they are going into the championship week, he's not talking about them 'stepping up', or doing something beyond what they are capable of. He simply reminds them of what they were doing in July or early August, well before the race is held. Thinking back to the long run on August 5th, or the early morning run on August 15th. The runs that seemed simple and monotonous because of the repetition. The runs that sometimes felt boring or lonely, where you may even question if it matters. Well, on Saturday, November 17th, Coach Smith's team was able to come to Madison and walk away with their third straight NCAA title. All of a sudden the work his team did in the dark was shining on the biggest stage.
Keep it Simple
The atmosphere at championship races is hard to mimic in practices or meets prior, and it's that atmosphere that typically raises stress levels of many runners and even coaches, causing a dip in performance. When asked about winning, Coach Mike Smith responded with, "We'll be the best team we can be." It's perfect. You put in the right work, and do the best you can and that's all that matters. Another Coach Smith, Coach Dave Smith from Oklahama State, had a similar sentiment. He had a freshman who finished 4th overall in the race and obviously competed extremely well. He gave his guys instructions to simply go out and compete, not to add extra anxiety or worry about results. Again, perfect. Messages I love conveying and going along with our principle of 'no limits'. Just go out, have fun and race. If you do the best you can in training, you can come in relaxed and ready to do your best on race day. We practice to perform, and race day is just another day at the office.
Patience and your ability to hold off instant gratifications will always make you a stronger person, create a stronger team, and build trust and confidence that will help you beyond running. Just be the best you can be.
Please watch Coach Smith's interview here.
For The Team
One of my favorite moments came from the Northern Arizona men's team. As mentioned above, the team won their third consecutive NCAA title (that is insane) and the reason for their dominance is extremely clear. They have no desire for individual goals or status, and rather are focused on the team and each other. It's evident to see, as their top runner, who was 2nd in the country last year, fell off of the lead pack and was slipping further back as the race went along. For many, the negative thoughts may invade and conquer the mind, causing them to fall further and further back. It's the mind feeling sorry for oneself and creating an excuse for a poor performance. While there is no doubt he had these thoughts creeping in the background, he was able to conquer these thoughts and think about what he had to do for his team. He didn't continue to fall, but rather he held on to finish 15th overall helping his team earn the victory. This is a guy who had a chance to win an individual title, but wasn't having his best day. He could've fallen off back to 40th and felt sorry for himself, but he knew what he was doing was not for himself, but rather for the team. Not only could his mind have been affected, but his teammates' minds as well, as they expected him up front and had to overcome negative thoughts as they saw him slipping back. His teammates were there to pick him up and remained focus on their goal of doing whatever they could for the team. He was crying and hugging teammates in extreme excitement when they found out the results, and it really emphasized how powerful the concept of "team first" is really what brings out the best in every individual.
Thanks for reading,
As the 2018 season comes to a close, it is time to reflect and celebrate all of our accomplishments as well as look forward to how we can grow off a successful finish. Our team banquet will be this Tuesday, October 30th in the cafeteria! Thanks to everyone who has signed up to bring food/drinks!!
State Meet Recap
It is always an honor to qualify for the state meet and finish the season at the Ridges Course! For the seven boys that toed the line Saturday, they truly earned their trip by putting in the months of running necessary to compete at the highest level. It started with a post track meeting at Coach Mach's house, where one of our goals was to get the team back to state and work on progressing the program back to the top over the next few years. The boys didn't focus their goal on the outcome, but rather focused on the journey and daily commitment they would need to have as a group in order to achieve the goals they set out for. This season was proof of what a committed and positive team can accomplish. This team has put Hale Cross Country back in a position to compete over the coming years at the state level and beyond. The expectations have changed, and there are no limits to what we can achieve!
Our goal coming into the state meet was to compete and run our race. Experience is big at the state meet, and having 8 first time athletes we knew no matter what the outcome we would walk away better from the experience. The realistic goal was to run our race and beat a few teams this season. The boys ended up 19th overall in the state of Wisconsin this year which can't be taken for granted! They have come so far in just one season, and as many know, we return 26 boys and add some new freshmen faces next season in hopes of building off this meet. The experience of the 6 boys who return next year and raced at state this year will be extremely valuable next season and beyond.
Our lone senior Brad Glisczinski did a heck of a job leading this young crew. As I have mentioned, he has grown as a person and continues to develop his leadership and team building skills. He is going to be greatly missed next fall, but knows he has this winter and spring to continue building himself and the boys around him into leaders. He will continue to lead and pass his experiences onto the younger guys who will be becoming leaders themselves. Brad was our 3rd runner at the state meet, and has consistently held that position for us all season. His best races came at the end of the season, finishing 26th at conference, 14th at sectionals, and having an awesome first ever race at the state meet. Awesome senior fall for Brad, and no better way to cap a cross country career than crossing the finish line at the state meet!
Sophomore Joshua Truchon capped an extremely consistent and progressing season with a 21st place finish in his state meet debut (16:11)! He moved up from 46th place at the mile to finish 21st overall by the end of the race. His debut performance sets him up the next two years to set sights on some very cool opportunities! He's going to just keep enjoying each day, put in off season work and have fun with the sport. His other highlights include being 1st team all conference, winning two invitationals, finishing 2nd at the sectional and he was 8th overall among non seniors at the state meet. We are excited to continue watching him progress!
Junior Liam Kelley was geared up...a little too geared up! He got out very aggressively in the lead through the first half mile which definitely made the rest of his race more challenging. He still finished with a respectable placing as our 2nd guy, but will definitely learn from his first state experience! We are looking for continued improvement and growth from Liam and do believe he belongs as one of the top runners in the state as he continues to improve. He had a very nice junior season, finishing as our 2nd runner in every meet, earning 2nd team all conference and finishing 6th overall at the sectional. Let's have a great winter and spring!
Sophomore Matthew Kees came on at the right time! His progression from the first meet to sectionals was incredible, and was due to his summer work! He has built a lot of strength and has now experienced the state meet. We hope this helps motivate him to take his running even further and be a consistent low stick for us the entire season next fall. Matthew came up huge for us when it mattered, and will continue to improve by putting in the proper work. Great Season Matthew.
Freshman Cole Konczal rounded out our scoring. He got the very rare opportunity to run in the state meet as a freshman! Cole stepped up huge for us at conference and sectionals when a couple other guys had off races. He scored as our 5th guy and was a big part of why we were competing at the state meet! Being a varsity runner as a freshman and helping a team make state, we hope Cole takes this sport seriously and is committed to off season training and doing track in the spring! He has unlimited potential and is just a great guy to have around the team. Great first season Cole!
Junior Ethan Fisher was our 6th guy and had a better performance than sectionals. He broke 18 for the first time this season and was as high as our 4th guy on the team for much of the season. He didn't quite have the finish we expected, but gained some awesome experience that can help him break through this spring now. Ethan is a great runner and guy to have on the team, and we hope he can build confidence in some consistent cold winter training to get himself to the next level. Ethan wants to continue to develop as a leader for our team, and we look forward to watching him learn and grow. A great season for Ethan being able to finish at the state meet!
Sophomore Brennan Kompas put in some awesome work this summer and put together a nice 2018 season. He improved a minute this season with a personal best of 18:44. He will be the first to tell you he expected more, but with running, progressions of individuals happen at different times! Some guys progress very quickly, while others take longer. I know with his work ethic and some new ideas for training going forward that Brennan will continue to be a very important member of our team's success! He has gained valuable experience, and was a varsity runner on the 19th place team in Wisconsin. I know he wants to achieve a lot and with continued enjoyment and daily focus he will continue to progress! Great job Brennan!
Freshman Collin Raschka also got to make the trip as our alternate and is a guy we see who could be scoring for us on varsity next fall! It was great to see so many others come up to watch and support and take in the experience. Now's the time to get a mental break for a couple weeks, but start considering what you boys want to achieve. We made an awesome step this season getting back to winning ways and now we know we can achieve at the highest level. Motivate each other and make the decision of where you want to be these coming years. I am extremely proud of the season all of the boys had, and can't wait to see how we continue to progress starting this spring in track!!
Monday - Uniforms and lock turn in. Quick recap of season and information for awards and winter meeting.
Tuesday - AWARDS BANQUET 6:00 p.m. in cafeteria!!!! Dress nice.
Thursday, November 8th - Meet in Dewitt's room after school to talk about winter training. Even if you are doing another sport, it will important to be here we will discuss some other information for going forward as a team.