Making the Impossible Possible

This is my third season to coach Cross Country, and there is still absolutely nothing like the first meet of the season. This is the first time that even the returning runners get what I have been telling them from the very beginning:

You have to make the impossible, possible.

I tell them these words early and often to combat those two words that I hear more often than I like:

I can’t.

I remind them that not only can they run, they will run well. And yet, they don’t seem to believe me.

So I stand with them at the start line, convincing them that they will neither throw up nor die, and remind them that they can make the impossible, possible.

The start gun goes off, and off they go. And I wait at the finish line…

And here come the ones who said prior injuries would be an issue, who are way out in the front of the pack. The one who started running late, and hits the finish line passing two people at the last second. The never before runners who said they were scared they would not finish the race came flying across the line. The ones who are growing so quickly and are really starting to develop as runners, the ones who are looking for their niche, the ones who just wanted to be on a team, the returning runners who had a rough last season, all of them running to the finish. Running – not walking. And the one or two runners who you had been working with for weeks and had never completed a mile…not only did they run the entire mile, but they did it well.

All of these runners made their own impossible, possible.

This is the joy of this sport for me – showing these runners, from 6th grade to seniors, that they can run, and they can run well.

You cannot help but truly love that moment.

And you can’t help but truly love the high fives, selfies, and sweaty group hugs that come afterwards.

I’m looking forward to returning to school on Monday to watch them confidently walk into the building, the result of a lesson well-learned.

I am so blessed that they call me Coach.


Lose the Negativity

We live in a world that thrives on the negative.  Media that glorifies all sorts of negativity – gossip, cattiness, cruelty, lies, and the downfall of different people.  People who gain their own power from being unkind to others.  Leaders without empathy or any thought for others.

And under all of this is selfishness – what is good for me is what is good for me and who the heck cares who I offend or make feel bad about themselves.


How could we change the world if we built people up instead of tearing them down?

How hard would it be to offer encouragement instead of pointing and laughing?

How hard would it be to specifically tell someone what they are doing well at that moment in time?

What kind of difference could we make?

The possibilities are limitless.

We need to start today…right now…one person at a time.

And let’s see what a difference this makes.

Other than negativity, what have we got to lose?

New Year and No New Me

Turn on the TV, and unless you are watching a movie channel, you are probably getting barraged with the same commercials over and over again.  Commercials about how you should invest in the whole “New Year – New You” idea and purchase whatever product it is they are selling.  Reading the newspaper yields the same results – grocery stores are pushing healthier foods and organics, gyms are running super cheap resolution specials, big box stores are pushing plastic tubs to organize your stuff, and there are entire sections of the paper dedicated to a healthy new you.

Let me clearly state that there is nothing wrong with making positive changes, but I don’t like the idea that I have to be a new me.

There are some things that I like about me just fine and am not inclined to change that.

Are there some things that I want to do better?  Sure!

But I don’t have to reinvent myself just because New Year’s Day rolls around.  And no one product, gym membership, or anything else will make that happen…especially in the short time periods promoted in marketing.

Making a better me will come from making one better decision at a time.  It will not all come immediately, and there will not always be a good decision, but it will come over time.

But with better decisions and work, change will come.

And I will not be a new me…simply a me who has made some positive changes.

Want Answers? Dig Deep!

And here we go…it is semester finals time at my school. While the students dread this time of year, fearing that their entire academic career hangs in the balance, I like it.  Not because it means the end of the semester and the upcoming Christmas break.  Don’t get me wrong, I do look forward to that.  I like this time of year for the one question that it brings; the one question that I hope I can give my students the skills to answer:

“So what is the right answer?”

For some of the questions, I am able to give them an approximate location to look to find it – although they will ask for a page and chapter number that I don’t give them.  I construct the questions so that if they can find the basic information, they can reason out a correct answer for themselves.  I want them to learn how to learn, rather than rely on me.  I do remind them that I am a super genius, but I had to work hard to get that way.  They, too, are going to have to put in the work to get there.

For the remainder of the questions, I will turn to them and ask the question back.  The usual response is, “That is what I am asking you.”  It is here that I don’t immediately supply them with an answer.  Again, I repeat the question and ask them to tell my why they think that.

“The book says so.”

Now it is my turn again…where does the book say this, how do you know the book is saying that, what in the book that has already happened help lead you to the conclusion, and why?  In other words, think your way through it.  Dig deep and think.

And not everyone’s answer will be exactly the same, which is the beauty of some of the essays I have them write – what do YOU believe about this and why.  This is their time to shine, to have opinions they form and support, to be different from their family and friends, as long as they dig deep and think their way through it.

Dig deep.

Not every question in life can be answered by asking a friend, parent, or pastor; taking a poll on Instagram or Facebook; or googling it.  There are some questions that have to be answered by assembling all of the information you have at that moment, and coming to a reasonable conclusion from there.  It requires thought – your own thoughts – to reason your way through the situation.  And it has to be YOUR answer – the one from inside you.

So dig deep.

This is the biggest lesson I hope to teach my students.  I know that twenty years from now, no one will hold a gun to their heads and ask them to diagram a sentence.  No one’s career will hinge on knowing the name symbolism in Jane Eyre.  But they will be asked to look at information, analyze it, draw conclusions, and be able to defend those conclusions to others, and quite frankly, themselves.  They need to be able to anticipate the devil’s advocate types and have information in place in counter argue that.  They will need the skills to make that happen.  They need to think.

So dig deep, people.  Dig deep.

CrossFit for Teacher Trainers

I’ve sat through several trainings over the years.  Some have been really great, and some have been absolutely awful.  And as much as these trainers get up in front of a room us how we can be better, so can they.  And perhaps, they could learn something from CrossFit.  It’s not necessarily that I want them to lift weights, or that I want them to do penalty burpees, but I want them to understand that there is another way. 

  1.  We need to be welcomed to change.  The last thing that we should ever tell our students is that they should just quit if they do not have certain characteristics or abilities.  NEVER in a million years could I imagine telling students to get out of my classroom and quit taking English classes because they aren’t natural readers or writers.  Students can learn and can be successful.  Yet, teachers are told this often in the name of teacher training.  If we are or are not (fill in the blank) we should resign and get out of teaching immediately.  In CrossFit, I’m not a natural athlete, and a number of people in my box are not either.  And I have NEVER heard a coach in my box tell anyone that if he or she is not like Rich Froning, to give up now and get out of the box.  Each coach makes everyone feel welcome, and feel welcome to make positive changes.  And the change does not have to be dramatic.  It just has to be.  And the only qualification is hard work. 
  2. We need to be told how.  Most teachers that I work with know that we can change and be better/more efficient/more effective.  We get told that in trainings pretty often.  However, there is very little direction in HOW to do that.  CrossFit coaches do not just tell us that we are doing things wrong and then walk away and leave us.  They will break things down in to small pieces, stand there and work with the athlete, and make sure progress is made in the right direction before walking away.  And then they come back and check – over and over and over again.  I know that my coaches have worked with me to show me how to be better, and I’ve watched them do the same thing with other athletes in the box.  And then, they keep checking and refining the how to do the move correctly. 
  3. We need to know what this looks like at the end.  You will be an effective teacher and your students will succeed is one of the most vague end results I have ever heard, and I have heard it hundreds of time in trainings.  What in the heck does that mean?  How does that look?  CrossFit coaches will show you what the end results look like.  They are clear, identifiable, and yet tailored to each lift or move or skill.  They will also go the extra mile to show you what not to do and how it will go badly.  That helps, too. 
  4. We need to know what we are doing right.  We are not always completely wrong.  There are things that as teachers, we do very well.  Yet, teachers keep getting the message that we need to get better, which seems to insinuate that what we are doing is not good, especially when we are told this by trainers who have never been in our classrooms. Heck, I got told that at my very first teacher training, and I did not even have a classroom yet.   CrossFit coaches tell athletes where their strengths are, and how to use those to improve our other skills.  At no point have I ever been told that everything I am doing is wrong, and my coaches carefully observe what I am doing several times before they say anything.  I am told often when a lift looks good, so I can repeat those motions over and over and over again.  And I am also told how to build on what I am doing right. 
  5. We need encouragement.  It is hard not to drown in negativity.  It truly is.  But negativity sells because that means someone can sell a product to improve your worker.  But how hard would it be for a trainer who wants to help improve to come alongside of us and encourage us rather than tear down.  Friday, during the worst workout ever, my cousin and coach stood next to me for the last nine lifts and encouraged me to keep moving.  This was the point in the workout when fatigue and frustration take over.  But she firmly kept encouraging me to keep going, and step by step, continued to give me instruction.  And I set a PR by five minutes. I have another cousin and coach who encouraged me to try lifting more than I thought I could.  And I successfully completed the lift eight times.  Think about it.   What could teachers accomplish with encouragement? 
  6. We need positive self-fulfilling prophecies.  As teachers, we keep things very positive in our classroom environments because we don’t want our students living down to lowered expectations and becoming a negative self-fulfilling prophecy.  If we tell them they are something negative, or will never get it, well…they won’t.  Teachers need the same thing set before them – positive expectations to live up to.  It is not hard, and does not have to be overwhelming or burdensome, as some trainers would have us believe.  It is simple – here is what we are going to do right now, here is what we will work on for a set amount of time, and here is when we will check and should see this much improvement.  I did this Friday, with my coach and cousin.  She let me do a workout with a certain weight.  She also said that I was to do this again with her in six weeks, in which time she wanted to see an improvement of 10 to 20 pounds in the lift.  My workout buddy has the same date with her.  We have six weeks to live up to those expectations, and you better believe that we are going to be working our tails off to do it.  Why?  Because that is her expectation of us. 
  7. We need empathy and validation.  Trainers will often use the “been there, done that” demonstrations to illustrate a type of teacher, usually a bad example.  We all have struggles.  We all have joys.  And we are all in this together.  And to acknowledge this is so critical, because without it, we often feel alone and isolated.  When I find myself struggling with something at CrossFit, more often than not, my coaches will offer empathy and support rather than saying that is just my problem.  They will readily share with me their own struggle with particular skills, and what they did to work through it.  Their way may not exactly work for me, but it is a starting point. 
  8. We need community.  Trainers can, without realizing, be very divisive.  They split faculties into the haves and the have nots.  This leads to isolation, and the feeling that there is no one, or very few people, who we can talk to.  We stand on the field, alone.  Why is that?  CrossFit offers community to all of its members.  I’ve seen other members who are drowning in a pool of their own sweat raise their heads and encourage others.  My coaches have stood right by me and told me to pick up the bar, that I had not failed yet, and those same coaches are backed by several others members.  I, too, have laid on the floor to support my workout buddy who was trying to die during Fran.  That was not going to happen.  That community and support is essential to everyone’s success.  We need it.  We crave it.  And it opens up a door of trust so that we can support one another.  We all win. 

And at the end of the day, we need to be able to celebrate our accomplishments.    The white board at CrossFit allows all of us to see progress and celebrate each other.  It does not matter if it is a gain of a single pound on a lift, or cutting our time in half on a benchmark, each accomplishment is celebrated.  We give out stickers and praise for students when they do well, but at what point do teachers get to share what went well for them and celebrate those accomplishments? 

What could we learn from CrossFit to help better train teachers?  Quite a bit.  We just need to start.



Taking Change One Step at a Time

I was talking to someone a few weeks ago, and she was asking me about how I managed to have a teenage boy and live a mostly grain-free lifestyle.  After all, she said, kids live on chips and crackers and goldfish, and there would be so much that they could not have.

“So much they could not have…”

This just seemed so overwhelmingly negative to her that it became paralyzing.  But taken in small steps, change can be done:

  1.  Determine what it is that you really want to do – You cannot just say that you want to eat better.  What is it that you really want to do?  More veggies and fruits and less processed stuff?  Lower unhealthy fats?  Eliminate gluten or grains or soy or dairy?  You have to have a destination in mind before you start the journey.

““`For me, it was to better fuel what I was doing in CrossFit.  If you have ever lived through a CrossFit workout with a name, you know you are working your tail end off to get through that thing in one piece.  It seems completely counterproductive to then drive to a restaurant, dive face first into a basket of chips, and then proceed to eat your way through a combination plate.  That does not fuel what I am trying to do.  I had to get a grip and make better choices, as did my son, who started CrossFit about a month after I did.

2.   Shift your focus – Don’t get in the mindset of what you cannot have. People making any kind of change tend to focus on what they cannot have, as opposed to opening a whole new world of what they can have.  As soon as you say that you can no longer eat waffle fries, your car automatically will go immediately to Chick-Fil-A and you will get the large sized waffle fries.  Start looking at what you can have, and make the most of it.

But seriously, do take a good look at your pantry and fridge.  Get the food out of there that you know will be a problem for you.  Don’t keep it around because your kids might want it.  That just sets you up.  Keep your pantry and fridge a positive place.

3.   Keep it positive – Keep your own attitude toward change very positive.  You are doing this for all of the right reasons.  Let the Negative Nellies of life say what they want, and you just keep doing the right thing for you and your family.

4. Don’t try to do it all at once – This can get overwhelming.  Try to go one day at a time, one meal at a time.  Make better choices each meal or snack, and they will add up.

5.  Get the kids involved – That is how I got my son on board.  As I stopped buying cereal and pop tarts, he had to figure out something else to eat for breakfast.  I told him to google it, and he found his recipe.

Mom, can I really have chili for breakfast?  I found a recipe for breakfast chili!”

Sure, why not?

And from that point, he was hooked.  If he can find the recipe, we can make it.  The interesting thing is that his friends now are trying to sneak parts of his lunch when he is not looking.  I think he lost and entire baggie of grain-free crackers one day when he got up to fill his water bottle.

You can also have your kids help with meal planning and preparation, let them coordinate or cook some of their own meals and snacks, or let them pick a new fruit or veggie at the grocery store to try that week.

There are also a TON of healthy living kid friendly websites out there.  Google it.  You will be amazed at the resources available to you.

6.  Make it fun for everyone – Get some fun baggies or containers for the lunches.  Make fruit skewers together and have a luau while eating them.  Make your own football or baseball stadium out of veggies and dip and eat them during the game.  Make faces with pizza toppings when you make home-made pizzas.  Get creative with smoothies.  Have some fun!

7.   Understand that this will never be perfect – This is a process, and there will be days that things just do not go as planned.  This is not an elimination game, and that is not your final answer.  You are not done.  You should not give up.  You should just pick up from where you left off and get going again.

Don’t give in to the thought process of “Well, I’ve messed it up now, so I might as well go ahead and finish that entire cake/meal/or whatever…”  Don’t.  Just don’t.  You are only punishing yourself further for making a bad choice.  And one of those can lead to several more and the feelings of failure that come with it.  Get started making good choices again.

Most of all, realize that one thought, one choice, on step at a time, it can be done…even with kids in the house.