Week in the Life of a Middle School Track Coach

by kevbalance Comments (0) Articles, Commentary, Guest Post

This article comes compliments of Chris B’s blog, Miles To Go Before I Sleep. Chis is a member of our Level Legion Blog Network.

The middle school track season is 7 weeks long, and is basically 7 weeks of not running for the head coach… One would think that coaching would be a great opportunity to get a run in, just go with the team, however this week is a good example of why there is no rest for the middle school track coach and even less time to run.

First, some quick stats on the team I coach:
Roster size: 110 boys and girls.
“A-team” roster: approx. 60 kids.  These are the kids who have met some qualifying standards and come to practice every day. The other 50 kids come every other day.
Practice: Mon-Fri, 3:15-4:45.
Assistant coaches: 4.
Average number of times a coach hears “I pulled a muscle and can’t run today” during practice: 8 (estimate, probably low)
Boys who think they are the fastest sprinter on the team: 45
Girls who think they are the fastest sprinter on the team: 45
Boys who have under 13 seconds in the 100 meters*: 2
Girls who have under 14 seconds in the 100 meters*: 4
Boys who still think they are the fastest on the team: 45
Girls who still think they are the fastest on the team: 0

*For our small place in the world of middle school track, sub-13 and sub-14 is fast, although I acknowledge that it is rather pedestrian.

This past week was a typical week:

Monday - Teach until 2:22. Get on bus and leave for away track meet at 2:40.  For away meets, we bring one bus-load of kids.  The roster I created represented approximately 2-3 hours of work - between assigning events, making changes and dealing with the fact that this meet was the Monday that we returned from our school break.  For these meets, I do try to bring as many kids as possible.  Arrive at meet about 3:25. Notice that it is 50 degrees and windy, with no sun.  Most of my team didn’t bring enough layers. Meet supposed to start at 4pm.  First heat of first event goes off at 4:35. Estimate approx. 150 kids in attendance for meet.

Notice that finish line crew doesn’t have their act together and the time between heats is excruciatingly long. Notice wind.

First major injury about 5:10pm.  Girl twists knee at long jump.  This is an actual injury.  Instruct her to call for a ride. No one can get her.  Knee visibly swollen and bruised.

Notice all teams and kids have congregated together very close to the starting line, causing extra chaos and noise for finish line crew.  Try repeatedly to have my team back away.

Watch some awesome kids run in tough conditions: amazing boys mile. Girls mile a little frustrating, as I gave my top athlete poor instructions that she followed.  She didn’t get out fast enough and never caught the winner, when she totally could have with faster start.  Adjust strategy for the 800. She wins, defeating the same girl who beat her in 1600.

Notice that my team’s top 400 meter boy just ran a 57. Smile.

Second major injury - top boys sprinter rolls ankle.  He usually whines about every ache and pain so I tell him to walk it off.  He does so. 10 minutes later, he says “I can’t do the 200.”  I notice he can’t really walk. Maybe he’s not whining this time.

Notice the sun going down. Still several events to go.  Frustration. Cold.

Meet finally ends near 8pm. On bus and home to school at 8:15ish.  Home by 9. Finally eat dinner (turkey sandwich).

Tuesday - Top boys sprinter not in school. Teach until 2:22.  Spend time during day making arrangements for our home meet on Thursday.  Need volunteers to run events.  Practice at 3:15. High school has a meet at our track today, even though they have their own track. Teachers and people in the office were telling kids and parents there was no practice today because of the meet. Attendance low because of this.  Some kids use it as excuse to skip.  Practice is hill sprints for everyone.  I make sure my top distance runners come close to 5 miles on the day.  I get less than 3, at sub 9 minute pace. Watch my former top runner win mile in high school meet in 4:51.  His splits were: 75, 75, 75, 66. Home by 5:30.

Wednesday - Top boys sprinter enters school on crutches. Foot broken. Out for season. Teach until 2:22.  Arrangements for tomorrow’s meet not going great. Still need timers and long jump. Email other coach for help.  Graciously offers his services.  Practice easy, except: some kids “confused” about practice schedule. Give team speech about attendance.

Thursday: Teach until 2;22.  Give 12 year old my set of keys so they can unlock track shed and bring out high-jump mats.  2:30, check email, one of my coaches has gone home sick, can’t run triple jump. Need to find someone to run triple… At track by 3. Kids warm up and I scramble to find coverage for triple.  Five schools will attend meet. Estimate: well more than 250 kids will participate in meet.  Extra high school students show up- great triple jump problem solved. A few extra parents volunteer. Timers solved. Another coach sacrifices his assistant to watch kids jump poorly into sand in the long jump AND make sure the girl running triple is all set - it is her first time running the event. Starter arrives at 3:55.

First calls made at 4.  First heat of hurdles goes at 4:10.  Things go very well at finish line.  Sure, we might not spell every kids’ name right and might mess up a time here or there, but we get the time in between heats down to under two minutes. 10 heats of girls 100 meters… 7 boys heats. So many boys enter the mile, we have to do two heats.  One of my athletes puts on a show: wins 100, 400 and 200, could get school record in 200 and 400 by end of season.  Girls’ 4×100 only needs to fix handoffs to get school record.  Great race in 1600 - my top runner edges out another kid just barely.  Friendly rivalry started as each kid knows they get to face each other several more times. Meet ends at 7:15.  Home by 7:45. This is how a meet should go.

Up until 11 pm creating A-team roster to post first think in the morning.

Friday: teach all day. Practice for kids going to tomorrow’s all-relay meet. Efficient practice, but I do a horrible job teaching relays to sixth graders.  All day have to deal with one kid who doesn’t want to do the events he is in tomorrow because he doesn’t like his relay teams. Eventually walk away from him after telling him that A) I was not going to replace him or allow him to replace himself and B) he could explain to his teammates that he did not want to run with them and that is why they are not running in the meet.  He just wants to high jump. Thinks he’s good because he cleared 4’4″.

Interjection: Saturday’s meet is all relays.  There are 9 events {(track: 4×1, 4×2, 4×4, 4×8, Medley (2,2,4,8) and a hurdle relay, FIELD: shotput, discus and long jump (field events scored by total combined distance of best throws/jumps)}. All events require four kids and must be girl-boy-girl-boy.  I can enter four teams in each event, meaning I need to create up to 4 teams of 2 girls, 2 boys for each event. One of those teams needs to be all sixth graders.  This is a Saturday meet, meaning that many kids are unable to attend.  Most don’t tell me until Thursday. I estimate the amount of time I spent on this roster is somewhere in the five hour range.

Saturday: Relay meet. Up early.  Make sure I have bag packed. Stop at grocery store for meet supplies: M+Ms, trail mix, coffee… At school for bus by 8. Bus leaves at 8:30. Almost forget one kid. At meet by 9:15. Warmups. Meet starts a few minutes late, but goes very well after that.  Finish line crew has got it down.  Starter and bullpen crew work smoothly and are very good with the middle schoolers.  Firm about meet rules and listening, but patiently explaining rules and relays over and over.  My designated A-teams, competing in the scoring events, win 7 of the 9 events.  We only don’t win the long jump and hurdle relay.  Shotput team sets meet record by more than 8 feet.  4×800 team wins by almost 40 seconds.  Most of our other teams win their heats and divisions (B-division and 6th grade division).  In a meet that is designed to be fun and attempts to give kids a chance to win ribbons, my kids win a lot of first place ribbons.  We also won the team scoring by a ton of points.  We got a cheap plastic trophy.  My second best girl distance runner overcame her “I’m a cross-country runner” mentality with a huge PR in the 800 on her leg of the 4×800.

While waiting for the awards, top boy runner somehow is challenged to a situp competition against a girl from another school.  They do situps for over 5 minutes.  He gets his ass kicked, but there is a reason he is a top runner: he refused to quit.

On the bus with our tiny, cheap trophy, tons of ribbons and some amazing sunburns.  Whisper to the bus driver: stop at Carol’s Scoop shop for ice cream. He pulls in and kids cheer.  I shell out some money for kids who don’t have enough to get ice cream.  Kids amazingly well-mannered and polite! 50 middle schoolers behaving well…  At school at 4pm. Had told parents: 4pm.  Last pickup around 4:25. Think about future meets and big picture stuff all night.  Don’t get my own run in.

Entire team wins the Sunburn relay.

Sunday: Write this blog-post while thinking about the boys invitational roster that I have to create.  At least the kids who will go to that are hoping to see their names on the roster, so I won’t get “But I have to do go to to my weekly croquet league” as an excuse.  Even my top runners know they have to earn a spot on an invitational roster and that it is an honor to go.  Last year, the boys scored over 200 points at this invitational (it helps when you go 1-5 in the 1600 and 800).  We won’t come close to that this year, but we’ll still be tough to beat. (Sorry Greg…).  I’m really excited to try and see if one of my boys can be the top point scorer of the meet.  Of course, I still haven’t received any information about this meet (bad omen) and was reminded by parents that last year’s meet started 45 minutes late and took forever (bad omen)… At least the girl’s invitational roster is created and posted…

Miles I ran this week: 25 ish.

If you would like to read more of Chris’s blog, click here.

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