LIFE WITH KIDDOS
Coaching varsity track was how I taught students in my English classes the concept of irony. And then came rec league soccer.
Fourteen years ago or so, over a holiday break, my principal called to talk to me about coaching varsity track and field at the high school where I was teaching English. The problems with that idea should have been obvious to me. I didn’t know the first thing about track, after all–I only ran in cases of emergency. I’d never even been to a track meet. My idea of a track coach was the gym teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off who chased kids around in a golf cart.
Life has its way of putting me into odd places, though, and soon that cold February I found myself on a rough asphalt ring behind the gym trying desperately to look like I knew what I was doing. I filled the time with running and sprinting drills–things I felt relatively sure about–but when it came time to fill out my first meet sheet (the roster of which athletes on your team will participate in which events), I remember having a conversation with one of the assistant coaches, Meaghann, in which she discovered I had no clue how it worked. If we’d been coaching football, it would have been as if she realized I didn’t know that you called plays for each down.
In time, we began to earn respectable finishes in our conference meets. We advanced teams to regional track events and even state track meets. I nagged the county athletic director until our school got a new track facility placed on the system’s capital improvements plan.
Occasionally I’d step in something that proved I still had a fragile grasp of how to coach serious sprinters, distance runners, jumpers, and throwers. And now and then a grumpy parent would loudly complain from the stands about what I wasn’t getting right. My gut reaction in those instances was to march into the bleachers, hand said parent my clipboard and stopwatch, and walk away.