While winter is slow to relinquish her grasp on the weather, spring is here for me as I’m now two weeks deep into spring track. The middle school kids joined us this week with all their exuberance and lack of focus, making my already grey hair retain its translucency. While it’s great to see their unbridled energy, corralling them into becoming athletes appears to be this season’s challenge.
The beautiful thing is for me is that I’ve got a lot of new kids coming out for track this season and so far, they’ve shown excitement and determination that can be hard to find when the temperature is 42 degrees and it’s raining. There are no other sports at Mascenic that continue to train outdoors when the weather’s bad, just us.
This isn’t meant to be a brag about track athletes or even my athletes, it’s just an observation that we’ve got some new kids that have played other sports coming to us, a sport outside their comfort zone willing to put in some hard work in difficult conditions. Resiliency seems a fleeting trait among young people, looking for easier ways around more difficult problems.
One of the other observations I’ve made this season relates to the other spring sports at our school. The number of athletes in the track program grew over last year while we saw significant drops in baseball and softball. Neither of these teams will host a JV program due to lack of interest, and one can ill afford any injuries or they may have to forfeit some games. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason however I feel that some of it is the dependence those athletes have on the other members of their team in order to fulfill their potential.
With us it’s simple. What you put in is what you get out. Athletes get the opportunity to choose their level of commitment and amend it as they develop the skills necessary to compete. Someone brand new to the sport shouldn’t have the same commitment that one of my four year State Championship cross country runners does. The champ should be all in, knowing both how much I will give and what they are looking to get out of the season. The newbie is just getting their feet wet in the sport, not yet knowing what the sport can give them.
That’s not necessarily true with baseball or softball. The team lives and dies by its weakest player, whether weakest is defined by skills level or interest. And if it becomes about living up to the teams goals and not about building on an individual’s potential, there are some that might see through the smoke and decide to invest more in themselves.
My windfall has not come at the expense of the baseball or softball teams directly. I have only one athlete that has converted over from softball as they said they never really liked it but went along with their friends. However I definitely pulled from the pool of potential candidates for those other teams giving me the biggest numbers I’ve ever had. It’s would be nice to chalk it up to my magnetic personality but I think there are different reasons afoot.
The beauty of this sport is that you get out of it what you put into it. Hard work and persistence always wins out in stronger performances, both on the track or trail, in the classroom, and in life in general. No one has ever ended up worse off from working hard and our sport is full of hard work.
I’m looking forward to working with this new group of track athletes over this season, seeing what they’re capable of and what kind of athletes they turn into. For those that continue on with cross country in the fall, I’m hoping to develop the habits that will make them successful on the course. For those playing other sports I’m hoping the hard work they do this spring prepares them for success on the field hockey field or volleyball court. They certainly will have learned that the value is in the work and performance comes from that.
I’ll see you out there.