Saturday, June 6, 2020

Its Been A While

Will Rogers said (among many other things) "Never miss a good opportunity to shut up."  Many of us have been understandably focused elsewhere.  The things that I personally find enjoyable have, for a time, become somewhat trivial.  But nothing stops life.  Times change, we adapt.  And I am ready to move on, however slowly.  Each season brings a new beginning and the upcoming season's beginning takes place today.

Some of you have taken the opportunity to seek out summer training plans in preparation of Cross Country 2020.  In fact, several are well into the second phase, their second 4 week plan.  Distance running requires a slow, methodical buildup.  Those who have started theirs will reap the rewards in the fall.  The pain will be behind them, the possibility of shin splints remote, acclimation to heat accomplished, and a strong base on which to build will have been established.  All positive steps in the right direction.  They will be at the front of the pack, the head of the class.  But there is room at the top. You have an opportunity to be there.  Eleven weeks, four days until we get underway.  I have never had had higher expectations or looked forward to an athletic season with more anticipation than I do now.  We have a nucleus of incredible young people intent on success.  They need your help.  Some want more than anything else to lead YOU!

So it is after thoughtful and careful consideration we want to announce the leaders of the 2020 Cross Country Boys and Girls teams.  The Captains for the Girls team are Anna Flynn, Myah Kamperides and Bryn Miller.  For the Boys team, Captains include Liam Cafferty, Theo Kamperides and Chris MacDonald.  All experienced veterans of XC, all leaders inside and outside of athletics.  All team oriented and all excited about this year's possibilities.  And most importantly, all willing to help you have the most enjoyable season possible and assist you in achieving your goals.  They join Coach S, Coach Coletti and me in promising you an extraordinary experience.  I urge you to learn from their dedication.  Follow their lead.  You CAN become a major contributor to the success of our teams, just as our Captains have.

I know you join me in congratulating Anna, Myah, Bryn, Liam, Theo and Chris.  I know you stand willing to support them in the same manner they are committed to supporting you.  Let's all get started on something that can be very special.  Begin your season today. Will Rogers also said, "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."  That said, you AND I now have the chance to follow Rogers' sage advice . . .

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Now what are we supposed to do?

Admittedly, I've moved beyond the "lost" Track and Field season.  I'm disappointed that our Seniors are going out this way, and that our underclassmen won't have the spring season to build upon.  There is a ripple effect of missing out on classes and extra-curricular activities, the extent of which we can't possibly calculate at this point. And there is an enormous impact on those whose structure is "out the window" and are left to function within the restrictions created by the pandemic.  In my case, I go to work each day . . . twice.  I head to the office at 5:00AM and leave for home when the parking lot starts to fill up or I have to go to the bathroom.  I won't walk the halls of the office building. At home I return calls and emails for an hour or two and find something to do until I go for my two hour walk at about 3:00PM (a poor substitute for practice!)  Eventually I return to the office at about 5:00PM and stay long enough to address important issues that arise during the day and then it's home for the night.  A cycle which is fast becoming tedious.  But I'm working it out.  Maybe that's why I'm so intent about Cross Country.

I put out the call for athletes to contact me if they had an interest in a training plan.  I'm disappointed, but not entirely shocked that I've heard from only 5 Boys and 5 Girls.  Uncertainty tends to immobilize people.  And we are in a period of uncertainty.  No doubt about that.  My spirits are buoyed though by the fact that I've found 10 kids who have found the ability to focus and seek to return some of that structure they've lost, into their daily routines.  They won't quit or be forced to inactivity by the current state of affairs. They'll create their own structure and return discipline to their lives.  It may not be smooth or convenient, as is the case with my schedule.  But it does return some sense of order to daily life.  And that is progress.

We've often spoken about goals.  Yesterday I listened to a fascinating presentation in which a Harvard Business School professor downplayed, even dispelled, the notion of goals.  As it relates to our current circumstances, I must agree.  The professor spoke about work, in your case training, being done with intentions, i.e. directional behavior, not specific goals.  And that is a point worth consideration.  August will arrive.  The Cross Country season will take place.  If it is your intention to run XC then start working in that direction.  Get out and work toward that certainty. Get off the couch.  Put the X Box away. Savor your last Ring-Ding and Mountain Dew and take your life back.  I think those who have received his/her individual training plan can see that the plan, rather coincidentally, calls for directional behavior.  Each recommends a plan for training over the next four weeks, with a follow up plan to be provided at the end of the four weeks.  Four weeks in which one's behavior may be positively changed.  At least to the degree that some part of each day is set aside for training.  A progressive, staged action plan designed to get you moving.  Designed to get you motivated for the next step through completion of the last.

I am not optimistic.  Optimism implies that all of you will simply do the appropriate training on your own.  I am however hopeful.  Hopeful that I'll hear from more athletes who want to move in the direction that will help them achieve great things, however non-specific they might now be.  Hopeful that I can be an agent for that positive change.  Hopeful that our XC athletes can achieve things they didn't believe possible. Hopeful for your success.  It begins, and ends, with you.

Monday, April 27, 2020

What I'm looking for is . . .

Athletes - Whitman-Hanson students who can accept the challenge, and it is a challenge, of participating in Cross Country.  Distance running is not easy.  In fact, it can be painful, exhausting even dangerous and unhealthy without proper training.  But the truth is it can be exhilarating and rewarding if you work gradually toward your goals.  Maybe the goal is to lose weight, run a 5K or simply try something different.  I've known thousands of kids who have begun their journey with simple goals, and hundreds more who, after accomplishing their initial goal(s) have gone on to achieve far more.  Lifelong fitness, running marathons or even coaching the sport. But here is another challenge.  If you think you are as athletic, tenacious, energetic, or resilient as athletes currently on our teams. Prove it.  I often tell the story that I ran one year of XC as a high school sophomore because I didn't want to sit on the bench as a football player. That is only part of the story.  I played football as an upperclassman, not because I became a two-way starter, but because I wasn't sure I could cut it in XC.  Those kids were tough as nails.  And when my time in football ended, I returned to running, if only to emulate those incredible runners.  And I fell in love with the sport. It is really what explains how my journey led me to Whitman-Hanson.

Scholars - This works in two directions.  Both of which I am very familiar, trust me.  Runners are scholars, scholarly kids become the best runners.  At many schools coaches have access to academic records for one reason or another.  Here at Whitman-Hanson coaches are encouraged to speak with students having difficulty in their classes and to offer support aimed at improving their grades. At other schools, teams are rewarded for having good grades.  At one school I coached, the XC team had the highest GPA of any school team for 10 straight years!  That is not coincidental.  Cross Country coaches have long held the maxim the best place to recruit is in the AP class.  And it is true.  Intelligent kids are friendly, disciplined, flexible, independent and willing to make sacrifices.  What they are not is impulsive, egotistical, unafraid to try something different or short on productivity.  Give me a scholar, and I'll mold them into an accomplished and successful runner.  That is my challenge. That is my promise.  I also promise, that if you become a disciplined and committed runner, all facets of your life, including improved grades will follow.  Believe it.

Leaders -  Within the next two weeks the Captains of the 2019 Cross Country team will be selected.  There may be some surprises, we'll see. But you can be sure those selected will be focused role models.  Committed, trustworthy and honest.  They will communicate well and listen intently.  And they will be passionate about running and have a strong will to succeed.  Leaders do not have to be the fastest runners, although the fastest runners are often good leaders because of the commitment and dedication it takes to get there.  Anybody can be a leader.  Those traits detailed earlier, are traits for which everybody should strive.  Every team member should be prepared for a leadership role at some point. Whether it is being an event captain in Track, or in leading a group of XC athletes with similar abilities.  Leadership in XC is not being the best runner on the team, it is being the best runner you can be.

There you have it.  All you really need is the willingness and desire to become an athlete, a scholar, a leader.  You are not expected to walk through the door with more than that.  For many, a test drive works.  Others develop a love for running after a few months of steady work.  And others, like myself, after trying everything else come to realize. . . distance running is an amazing and unparalelled experience.  All are welcome to give it a try.  You can even start now if you'd like.  We'll give you all the support you need to succeed.  The rest as they say, is up to you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

17 Weeks 6 days

If you click on the button at the top of this page, you'll see how much time there is between today and the start of Cross Country 2020.  Of course it may be that long before I can get my hair cut again.  None of us can predict the future, or what we will be doing 17-18 weeks from now.  But if I were a betting man, I'd bet on XC starting as planned, AND me shearing these locks well in advance of our first practice.  Of course, there is a myriad of other tasks that must be performed in the interim.  And those tasks involve training.

Over the next few days while we all get into XC mode, we will be putting together some training programs designed to get you to the start of practice in great shape and ready to go.  What we are looking for are those student-athletes willing to lead the way.  That is, to get the word out, encourage others to start (or continue) training, and be prepared for group runs when the time is right.  The coaches will be happy to answer questions, make suggestions, offer specific training plans based on past performance or future goals, and anything you'll need to fill the Grand Canyon sized gap between now and August 27.

But that Canyon will fill before you know it.  Right now it represents a king-size opportunity to prepare for your best season yet.  Don't think the "other guy" hasn't already figured that out.  To be competitive in the Fall, you'll have to train both Spring and Summer.  We have the chance to incorporate all that training we condense into a couple of months into meaningful and long term fitness and preparedness.

We've got a lot of ideas.  And we're ready to go.  Those that want to be a part of it can get onboard now.  I'd love to hear from anybody interested in a training program.  I'll need some information.  Particularly where you are in your training and where you want to be in the fall. (Text info to 781-367-8487 along with your name and email address.)  It won't  be ALL running.  There are other things you can and should be doing to put you in the best position to achieve all that potential YOU know is there.  Don't squander this opportunity.  Leaders . . . step up.  Let us know what you think.

In the meantime, an article, from a reputable source can be found at the following link which details the type of training which is safe, and even recommended at this time.  We'll be back quite often from here on out with ideas and recommendations.  No pressure from us, but don't you want to do it anyway?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

There WILL be a Cross Country season

Coach Coletti and I were texting earlier this morning about running in general and I commented that I "can't coach, can't run, the glass is now half empty."   Five hours later I'm looking for the silver lining in today's announcement that schools will not be re-opening this academic year but finding it nearly impossible.  This is obviously a setback for those who enjoy academics.  It will be difficult to make up the work missed.  Something has been forever lost.  And athletics for many is more than a diversion.  Countless kids looking forward to a big season in baseball, softball, lacrosse, track, or tennis.  That too is now lost.  Forever.  Our Seniors hoping to go out with lifelong memories are instead left with the hole that is Spring '20.  And who knows what other rites, ceremonial or otherwise they'll be missing out on.  At my age there are far more tragic occurrences, but for a 17 year old?  Perhaps not.

It's also sad for me to try and wrap my head around the fact there are quite a few terrific kids who have run their final high school race and will be moving on.  I sincerely wish them well.  I have nothing but happy memories, especially for those who spent 11 (should have been 12) seasons with teams I've coached.  Thank you for all you've done for our school, our programs, and for me.  Yes, for me.  This year's Seniors helped me transition into the bicycle rider I am today!  They know what I mean.  Coaching is such an important part of my life, and it is the kids who make that possible.  How many times have I said those hours in the afternoon are the best part of my day?  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  That said, I'll close out with my personal spring season banquet, which actually took place last week thanks to some of those kids who stopped by my house, as you'll note in the picture, and raise a tall Mint Chocolate cocoa to you all.  Take care, Godspeed, you're the BEST!!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Hello, Hello, Hello

Is there anybody in there?  
Just nod if you can hear me
Is there anyone at home?
Pink Floyd had no way of knowing that one day we'd ALL be home when it recorded Comfortably Numb.  But that's not what the song is about really.  And this post isn't really about Pink Floyd other than that the band's music was on my playlist during my late morning loop.  If you got here via Twitter (  ) you've already seen a sample of sights along the way today.
For many years I ran on the roads of Boston and communities south and west of the city.  My focus was always on my run, my goals, the temperature, or my running partners and the surroundings were "just there."  I ran in dozens of remote areas to avoid people, dogs and traffic but I listened more than I looked about.  As anybody who knows me is well aware, the running ceased several years ago and any exercise I've done has been done at home with the exception of riding a bike which like running doesn't provide a great opportunity to really view your surroundings closely.  Recently, with a need to fill a couple of hours each day I've taken to walking.  Walking, for me, is not entirely fun.  The pace is slow, there is little exertion, and after decades of running, well it doesn't measure up.  But I've run, or walked, out of options.  There is one more troubling thing about walking.  You see EVERYTHING around you. And I have seen some very ugly things these past weeks.  And I'm not referring to the Smiling Stone Face Guy I posted on Twitter.  There are a million stories out there.  I've walked the same 5 mile loop the past three days and earlier posted some pictures of mile markers along the way.  But each day I took note of my whereabouts . . . houses I passed, the wooded areas along the route, the parked cars, businesses sitting dormant.  There really is a lot to see and not all of it is pretty.  But today my focus is on one little problem which can best be summed up in the picture below.

When I got home from my walk I decided to go a bit further from my house to a point about one-half a mile away along Lincoln Street in Abington.  On that walk I saw 38, yes 38 of those nip bottles either on the street, on the sidewalk or in people's front yards.  On my earlier 5 mile loop I saw hundreds of them.  Fireball, McGillicuddy, J├Ągermeister, Smirnoff, Jack Daniels . . . hundreds.  In two specific spots I saw about a dozen which appeared to have been thrown or placed in unison along Union Street in South Weymouth.  Did I say ONE, LITTLE problem?  I've got several big problems with what I'm seeing.  First, it is painfully obvious these small liquor bottles are consumed by drivers who callously toss the empties from their moving car to avoid having an open container in their possession.  Second, this trash is literally piling up everywhere.  
I haven't been in a liquor store in years, but I can recall that at many of the check out counters the small "nip" bottles are available for purchase at bargain prices, $1.00 or less.  Customers, stopping in on their way home to buy something for when they get arrive are literally faced with the temptation, a marketing scam, to add into their purchase, "one, or two, for the road."  That is just where many of them end up.  I'm not trying to generate enthusiasm for a temperance movement, and frankly, although I choose not to drink, I couldn't care less about adults who do . . . in moderation at appropriate places.  But drink at home, and leave your trash there as well.
All of which brings me to this.  And yes, I know this is a cross country blog and its primary target is young athletes, but I can assure you that the kids I know have little patience or sympathy with drinking and driving OR dumping containers on the sidewalks and roads they train on.  I have a community service commitment in my position as a high school coach.  Its not a WH thing, but something every high school participates in.  In the absence of an athletic season, I feel I still have a commitment.  So this week I am writing letters to South Shore Police Chiefs and to local and statewide politicians regarding what I've seen, my concerns (which include OUI), and requesting that (a) sale of nip bottles be stopped, or at a minimum these products be placed in inconspicuous areas within the store, and (b) that deposits on these bottles be required in an amount sufficient to either substantially reduce the numbers of containers tossed onto our streets, or provide the funding necessary for their cleanup.
Maybe this isn't the forum for this discussion, but lest you think I've become "comfortably numb", I'm still out here.  No, not running, but walking . . . and watching every step of the way. 
Hoping to see you (and not the trash) on the road . . . very soon.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Perhaps you guessed, but focus on the start . . .

Each day I try to get out for 90 minutes + and yesterday I was thinking about Cross Country and our Saturday long runs and missing T&F, the coaches and the kids.  So I decided my walk would take me on a 5 mile loop from one of our weekend starting points.  No lie on the Twitter pictures, as coincidental as they may appear.  Each one represents a mile marker along the way.  In spite of the nice weather I saw very few people and I've found NAS South Weymouth/Southfield/Union Point to be a great place for fresh air and minimal people and traffic.  Most of the parks are closed and this loop is near both my home, which my wife has me chained to about 20 hours per day (not entirely a bad thing!), and work which I sneak into for a couple of hours per day at times nobody else is in the building (for example, 6:00AM Sunday.) 

I was asked yesterday if there is a message I would like to convey to the team and without hesitation the first thing would be to stay safe and follow protocols (even if, like me, you look ridiculous in a mask!)  Enjoy the time you spend with family.  In that respect this is a blessing, not a curse (unless of course your children and grandchildren are elsewhere.) And finally, like the jet pictured, the time you have and how you use it can serve as the start of something wonderful (my walk yesterday for example.)  Get to a remote place for a walk/run, write a book, take an edX course, go on a diet, binge Downton Abbey on Prime, get some work done, and look ahead to when things return to normal, because when this is all over some things will have undoubtedly and permanently changed, but some things (thank Heaven!) will be as they always have.  Still hoping to see you all soon . . .