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.

Stop the Can’ting

Okay, I know that is not a word.  I do.  But in my 19th year of teaching, I think I have reached my limit on the word can’t.  Seriously.  People use that word entirely too much, especially about their kids.

If I had listened to all of the can’ts about my own son, he would never have played sports or been in any group, he would never have friends, he would hardly be functional in school, and he would never show affection.  Quite the opposite is true:  he has played soccer and football, has run track and cross country, is a member of the band and his youth group, and is a black belt in martial arts; he has a nice little group of friends who are ones I do not have to worry about; he has all A’s and B’s, and at 14 years old, he still hugs me in public.  I never told him that he could not do something – simply to do his best at what he did.  Is he perfect?  Absolutely not.  Does he struggle with organization?  Sure, what high school freshman does not?  But he does his best, and that is all I can ask. 

For years, I have heard parents say, even in front of their children, that the child cannot do this or that, was not born to do that, is not wired to do that, is too disorganized to do that, and so forth.  They are sending the very clear message to the child that they do not think him or her capable of accomplishing that goal.  It makes me frustrated and sad. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and children will believe what their parents tell them, because parents are the ones who are supposed to love them the most.  So they would know, right? 

To those parents, I offer the following:

 Your child can do amazing things, and he or she may not do it perfectly the first time – or ever – but it can be done.  And your child may have to reach the goal differently than other students.  So what?  They will make progress.  Why sell these awesome people short? 

So let’s stop talking in terms of what your child can’t do, and start looking at the skills and talents that he or she does have and put those to good use.  And let’s allow your child the opportunity to do things, instead of relegating him or her to the world of can’t. 

I promise, your child will surprise you. 

This Moment

 

This past weekend was the State Cross Country Meet. It was a true joy to watch my runners enjoy it.  To my team:

“Soak in this moment, kids. You have worked so hard to get here, so make it count. Remember this, because you will never have another moment like this very one.  Don’t rush through it. This moment is yours forever.”

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If found by the side of the road, drag across finish line

This is one of my favorite running shirts, because I have been there and done that.  When I started running, I had not a clue what I was doing.  I progressed slowly to running a mile, then a 5K, to a 10K, then a ten miler, and finally took the leap into a half marathon…all while maintaining a brisk 15:30 pace.  Yes, really, that was all the clue I had.  And when race day came, I was sick, but determined to run it since I had been training for months.  It was awesome and gruesome combined.  But I learned lessons that I will never forget – learn to run properly, good shoes that are broken in are essential, there is a place that serves smoothies on the corner of the Seawall and 63rd and they are yummy because the nice lady gave me a sample when I thought I was going to die at mile 9, the Gu packets at mile 11 were not a good idea and made me want to hurl, my husband and son are awesome, and hydration and rest are essential.  I limped across that finish line – barely – and was done.  I was too wiped out to even stay for the after party. 

I just finished my first season as an assistant cross country coach, and I crawled across the line.  We had been practicing since June, and just ran the state meet the last weekend in October.  Two practices a week during the summer, four practices a week during the first three weeks of August, and then when school started, four practices, study hall, and a meet each week. Bouncing between JV and middle school teams (coaching over 30 middle school kids by yourself is a challenge) and writing practice plans three days a week. All this, and I was still teaching a full load of classes and taking care of my family.  It, too, was awesome and gruesome. 

Seriously, I crawled – stressed, exhausted, at the end of my rope – and then collapsed. 

But from this too, I have learned.  I learned I needed to figure out the best way to help build up the kids so that they did not make the same mistakes I did.  I wanted to be sure that they could run properly, and run they did.  I learned that I had to have the right equipment – good mental shoes if you will – to make this happen.  I prepared everything, from making sure lessons were planned and ready to go weeks in advance to making meals and freezing them for two months ahead of time.  I learned that people will be unexpectedly kind, and just when you think you cannot do another thing for yourself or anyone else, someone will do or say something amazingly kind that helps move you along.  I learned that it is good to stick what is known.  I learned that I have to make taking care of myself a priority, because if I am sick and worn, either nothing at all gets done, or the quality is terrible.  And my husband and son remain awesome.  So the lessons are not necessarily new, the context of them has changed.

But this time, I stayed for the after party, and my family stayed with me.  We had worked too hard not to celebrate.