Saturday, September 24, 2005


Today was the Wasatch Rendezvous meet at Cottonwood Recreation Center. It's a great way to spend a Saturday morning--the junior varsity runners go first, then they have the varsity runners go, the seventh-place runners competing against all other seventh-place runners, the sixth-place runners against all other sixth-place runners, and so on, up to the first-place runners. Each school determines who runs in which place, and there were about twenty-four schools competing.

My son's coaches determined that he should run with the first-place runners. When the coach pulled him aside after training yesterday to tell him so, he told me, he replied, "Why?" The coaches wanted to give Josh, the kid who's been in first place for his school all season, except for the last meet, a chance to relax a little. He's been struggling, and last season, when it came to the Region qualifying meet, he choked, and the team didn't qualify. But the coaches also wanted to see how my son would do.

He got a little bumpy start--the official asked all the runners to step back from the line a bit, and my son looked to the side just as the starting pistol went off. He pretty quickly took up the seventeenth spot, and that's where he finished. The course was 2.9 miles, and he finished at 17:08.8, which gave him a 5:49 minute mile. Not bad at all, but not what he had hoped. When we spoke to him afterward, he was disatisfied with his performance. When he'd taken the hills--and it was a very hilly course--his legs had felt tired. "I feel like I could have run better," he said.

We noticed that, with so few kids running, maybe the first ten or so runners had a pack to run with, and there was a bit of position-shifting among that group. My son, however, occupied position seventeen with quite a bit of space between himself and the sixteenth runner, and quite a bit of space behind him as well. In that position, I guess, it's up to the runner to push himself to go faster, to cut into that distance. One thing I love about watching any of my kids play sports is seeing them take their experiences and figure out what to make of them. A less-than-stellar performance can be the occasion for figuring out how to take your game to the next level. I'll be interested to see what and how my son learns from this race. At some point, he'll tell me about it--I won't ask.

We watched Josh run with the second-place runners. His time was about eighteen seconds faster than my son's--so it's pretty clear that he's still the fastest runner on the team, though the top three kids on the team all finished within twenty-five seconds of one another. I've always enjoyed watching Josh run--he's tall and lean, has an easy stride; but he's lost some confidence this year--the expression on his face looks more uncertain. I wonder about the strategy of switching kids around in situations like this. I'm pretty sure the coaches weren't trying to play mind games with these lads, but that doesn't mean that the runners' minds weren't being played, nonetheless.


  1. Oh! The mind games of coaches! I ran on the track team for only one year, 7th grade. I organized the 4X4 and ran it at every track meet during the year. I was the only one who ran the race the whole year. At the city track meet, my coach pulled me from the race so Alice McDevitt could run it. I think he figured we had a better chance of winning the race if she ran it (I never was a very fast runner). In exchange, he asked me to run the 330. I refused, and never ran track again. Perhaps this explains why I still claim to "hate running" though it's the only form of exercise I've been doing for the past four months.

  2. My high school basketball coach and I had kind of combative relationship and he certainly played mindgames. Even though I was a varsity starter as a junior, one nonleague game he made me "swing" and play half the JV game w/ the lowly sophomores. Part of it was punishment, part was (I think) to get me confident and feeling like a scorer, but I didn't take it seriously and I did just okay. I didn't want to give him satisfaction.

    As a senior, we had a Varsity v. JV game and by some miracle the JV team beat us (or made it really close). As punishment my coach started this gangly uncoordinated sophomore ahead of me and I was benched. Although the player eventually turned out to be very talented he was not very good at the time and I could score on him at will. But he channeled brilliance and ended up scoring 24 points or something like that, whereas I, coming off the bench ended up w/ the coach was pissed, b/c the scenario he envisioned didn't really play out. He had to start me the next game even though I didn't rise to the occasion and accept my punishment.

    There is part of me that thinks he wasn't playing mind games, that he was just experimenting with different team chemistries, but I know that is false. He was definitely messing with me.

  3. Hard to figure out who is the best. In my running days I was in 2nd position all season but I always knew once we hit the important races Kurt Kotter would beat me and often even the first place guy. Kurt didn't like to hurt so I think he waited for when he would get a good return.

    Conversly, I found that I could almost always push it 100% (or maybe 95%--who knows) whether it was in practice or some little community race. But that also meant that was all I had--I didn't have a new gear for the big races. In the end, this "gift" did me in many times as I never rested enough and always pushed, partially because I was hard on myself and partially because I enjoyed the pain.



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