One thing I’ve realized over the past few months is that sometimes life has a way of putting you in the right place at the right time, even when you don’t know it right away.
My journey started last summer and fall when my job sponsored a company-wide Couch to 5K program and 5K race. Even though I’ve been running for years, I enjoyed going to the training sessions to run with everyone and encourage the new runners and others returning to running from a hiatus. Since everyone already knew I was excited about it and a runner, a lot of people came to me for advice, which I happily gave, along with the disclaimer that I’m just a recreational runner with no real training besides life experience and what I’ve read on the internet.
Obviously, after the 5K race, the Couch to 5K training sessions ended, and I was left with a lot of free time and missed the opportunity to encourage and motivate runners. This is when my awesome friend and coworker Celia told me about the Florence Track Club, which is a youth club in town for kids ages 6-18 to run cross country or track. Celia’s friend and the club president, Coach Bill, was looking for runners interested in running with the kids and coaching.
I took them up on the offer. I thought this would be a great way to get some running in and volunteer in the community.
It changed my life.
Through coaching cross country and track, I’ve discovered so much about myself, others, success, and what it means to truly be a winner- and it’s not always about a medal or ribbon at the end of a race. I took it pretty seriously, looking up workouts online, planning activities for my 1500m and 3000m kids to do during practice, and learning from other coaches and awesome runners.
But more important than workouts from Coach Google are the sweaty hugs and high fives, the lucky sayings and superstitions, not to mention seeing a kid “surge” down the track when they realize you’re cheering for them by name.
I think all kids can be successful in a sport, as long as you remember that success is different for everyone. For some kids, success is a personal best, placing in a race, or qualifying for regionals or nationals. Sometimes success is making it through an entire practice with no tears, learning how to listen to coaches, follow directions, and obey rules, or meeting a diverse group of friends when participating in your first city-wide sport.
Sure, coaching track is volunteer and won’t bring home the
bacon tofu (since I’m vegetarian) like my big girl job, but I treated it like a job, a responsibility to the kiddos. One little girl, who I didn’t actually coach- she did field events, even dubbed me the “Boss of the 1500”. I guess when you’re 8, the terms coach and boss are interchangeable.
Not only do I love motivating and encouraging others, I’ve learned that it’s truly a gift from God, and as the runner Steve Prefontaine quotes, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift”.
Even though I’ve moved to Charleston and obviously cannot coach for the Florence Track Club anymore, I refuse to sacrifice the gift. Once I’m settled, I plan to coach cross country for another club and am considering getting a USATF Level 1 Certification.
Last Tuesday night, the club gave me a journal that they signed and wrote messages in over the past week (I know my fellow 1500 coach, Belinda, headed this up, even though she tried desperately to keep it a secret!). Knowing I’d shed some tears, I waited until I got home that night to read the messages, but when I did, a few certainly stood out to me.
|Hey Coach Amy, I know there’s a lot of people sighing this, but know this- I will pray for you know matter what. May you feel God’s presence, belive, love, and stay strong. -V
Oh Amy… I know you put your heart in all you do and will be missed in the lives and places you have touched. Florence won’t be the same. Charleston better watch out for the Tiny Terror -A.
Coach Amy, You have been 50 percent of why I run harder cause you say no to the stuff we *want* to do. Thank you. -S
Amy, you are a great coach. The way you work with the kids makes me want to be a better coach. -S
This year, so many kids, parents, volunteers, and other coaches saw my potential as a coach, even when I didn’t always see it. When I read the last message, I saw it.
And originally, *I* was the one doing this to encourage others.
Last Thursday evening, the eve of my moving day and the USATF state meet, the club held its awards ceremony and spaghetti dinner, where everyone left with certificates, shirts, tons of encouragement, and bellies full of pasta and tasty desserts. I also got an awesome framed team picture of my track kiddos and a shirt that everyone signed.
I’m super proud of *all* the kids. This past weekend at the state meet, we had 47 young athletes qualify for the Regional USATF meet in Newport News, Va. We also had quite a few kids PR and set some state records. With moving, I obviously couldn’t be at the meet, but heard so many compliments on how well our kids did, both on and off the track and field. As coaches, we all know about their hard work and talent, but it was great that they performed well at the meet for the city and state to see.
I’m sure in life, I’ll coach many kiddos and possibly multiple sports, but this first group will always hold a special place in my heart. Way to go, Florence Track Club!