Sunday, November 13, 2022

Quid Pro Quo? Invitation? Challenge?

How about a mutually beneficial and challenging invitation?

I've enjoyed watching our football team compete this season.  The improvement under second year coach Botelho has been impressive.  I have what is, I feel, a unique perspective.  I catch some of every practice each day during my teams' practice, and I attend many games at all levels, Freshmen, JV and Varsity.  I know many of the players' names, uniform numbers, positions and abilities. Many I know from watching local youth sports, some I know personally, and yes, I'm even related to one.  Oddly though, I've never had the opportunity to coach a single one of them.  I once enjoyed coaching one the team's assistant coaches in youth baseball many years ago, but never had a member of this football team on our Track and Field team.  Unfortunate?  For me anyway, yes.

But I understand somewhat.  Track and Field is not for everybody. Nor is it a "glamour" sport.  Not at this level, anyway.  I regret I don't have an opportunity to get to know those kids as well as I might if I worked every day in the school. When we cross each other's path, it is mere coincidence.  If I had the opportunity to speak with them, I might tell them I understand their game.  Perhaps as well as they do.  Like many of them I played youth football, middle school football, and in high school.  They might be surprised to learn I was a League All-Star and played amateur (semi-professional implies compensation) football well into my 20s.  Only after moving on from that sport, did I get serious about running, which eventually led to me becoming a Cross Country/Track coach, which I have had the privilege of doing here at WHRHS for the past 9 years.  And in retrospect, if I had the chance to live my life over again . . . I would have followed the very same path.  Football was incredible fun and I have memories and friendships from my high school playing days that go back more than 50 years.  But.  And it is a big BUT.  But, knowing now what I do about Track, I would have jumped at the chance to run Indoor Track.  (I played baseball in the spring but may have considered Outdoor Track as well.)  The reasons are simple.  There is no better way to improve:

Stamina

Speed

Power

Strength

Explosiveness

If you don't believe me, take a look at the 2022 NFL Draft Statistics.  88.9% of those drafted were multisport athletes, while 11.1% were football-only specialists.  68.7% were Track and Field athletes. Want to see it in black and white?  Follow the link:

Tracking Football 2022 NFL Draft

Let me bring it a little closer to home.  Remember your game against Duxbury High School just before Halloween.  You played an awesome first half and kept it close.  But Duxbury ultimately prevailed.  Give them credit.  They have a terrific team.  Nine (9) members of the Duxbury team are Track and Field athletes.  (#s 4, 11, 12, 18, 20, 28, 37, 63 and 77, if you need confirmation.)  I think that is more than mere coincidence.

Of course, I can give you all the numbers you want, or as many as might be needed to get you to consider the Track option.  I could tell you that our program does not seek to make you Cross Country runners.  Your coaches can identify and advise any kids who might be better served in another fall sport.  We want you to excel in everything you do.  Including football.  We will improve those five important elements of Stamina, Speed, Power, Strength and Explosiveness you'll need in your game.  You'll spend as much time in the weight room as you would during off-season while complimenting that with fast, straightaway speed workouts and developing the fast start you'll need every time the ball is snapped.  Think about it. It costs nothing to try, and you just might enjoy it.

Honestly, from a coaching standpoint, I'm tired of meets where the other T&F team's football players sweep the shot put and the discus.  Where the running backs and wide receivers impact the outcome of the sprints and hurdles.  I know that among you, there are kids who can make an impact on our Track teams and at the same time make a positive impact on your own football skills.  Take it from an old football player.  You CAN be better.  We CAN help.

We plan on holding a brief pre-season meeting in the next week or so.  Consider attending.  Consider bringing a friend.  We'll be happy to answer any questions you have.  Can't make the meeting?  Stop by XC practice.  The XC coaches also happen to be the Track and Field coaches.  In fact, we're all here all year long and would enjoy talking with you.

Congratulations on a very good season thus far.  Good luck in your final game against Abington.  But give some thought to what you might want to do when your football season is over.  We'd enjoy seeing you here.

Postscript:  I was asked for my opinion on sport "specialization" after publishing this blog entry.  My response:  "Sports specialization is unlikely to result in a college scholarship, will only marginally improve your skills in the sport, and will increase the likelihood of burnout and injury while it denies opportunities to experience and enjoy other activities." I found a study supporting my opinion which can be viewed at the following link:

HS Sports Specialization Patterns of Current D1 Athletes 



Divisional Meet Results - Friday, November 11

Full Results can be found at the following link:

BOYS:  Division 1C Results

GIRLS: Division 1C Results

The following was provided to Administration and the local media following the meet on Friday:

The Eastern Massachusetts Cross Country Divisional Championship was held in Wrentham earlier today.  The Whitman-Hanson Girls XC team finished 15th overall behind the efforts of Junior Sky Bucci-Anderson who finished 26th overall on the 5K course in a Personal Record time of 20:06, Sophomore Chloe Handlin (81st, 22:36 also a PR), Junior Caroline Poth (92nd, 23:04), Sophomore McKenna McCarthy (93rd, 23:06), Junior Lynn McCoy (103rd, 23:37) Senior Anne Tilley (113th, 24:15) and Junior Evelyn Williams (136th, 26:59). With her finish Bucci-Anderson qualified for the All-State Championship to be held November 19th at Devens, Massachusetts. 

For the Boys, Junior Alex Keheyias was the top Panther finisher taking 53rd place in a  Personal Record time of 17:46.  Other WH runners included Junior Logan Bourgelas (72nd, 18:13), Junior Adam Vinton (107th, 18:58), Junior Gavin McCarthy (115th, 19:12), Senior Johnny Young (116th, 19:16), Senior Collin O’Sullivan (118th, 19:18) and Junior Shane Johnson (143rd, 20:05.). O’Sullivan and Young also established Personal Records in the meet.

Steve George, Head Coach


Thursday, November 3, 2022

Random (the meaning of which has been lost I'm afraid)

It's not (very) often that I don't have a lot to say.  Coach S has called me verbose for years, and there is (certainly) an element of truth in that.  One of the kids reminded me of that yesterday with a (simple) statement.  "Well, you are verbose, Coach!"  (Of course,) I laughed.  Verbosity is a trait, not a character flaw.  I'm OK with it. But there are times when I (really) don't have much to say.  (For example,) you didn't see anything on the blog with respect to the Patriot League Championship Meet because I expressed my thoughts at practice, and (at the same time) acknowledged All-Star performances by Alex Kehayias, Sky Bucci-Anderson and McKenna McCarthy, along with Personal Records established by Amilya Gretsky, Anthony LaBonte, James Molito, Lexton Tobiaz and Caleb Poth.  All noteworthy.  Following that meet, we had an (extra) day off from (formal) practice (the athletes were asked to run on their own.)  And we got right back to it on Tuesday with an (impressive) tempo run.  So, today's blog entry will be short (I'd usually add "and sweet".  Verbose.)  I'll simply say that while we have not (use contractions, Coach) had an (awful) lot to cheer about this season, (the best) part of my day revolves around practice, and I am (extraordinarily) grateful for the (cheerful) attitudes, (extra) efforts and (wide) smiles I get to see among the coaches and student-athletes (every day.)   Thanks.  

You could go back and read the foregoing paragraph again, this time excluding the parenthetical (let's call them verbose) notes. But then you'd have missed much of the sincerity expressed in the penultimate sentence!  Thanks, again. 


Monday, October 24, 2022

Back to Basics

This morning I read a number of articles regarding declining math and reading scores among high school students.  I guess because I'm on the periphery of education I take a special interest in the topic.  I'm also concerned as a grandparent of school age students.  And it's troubling to know that with all the technology this generation of students has at its disposal, my generation, simply stated, learned more.   I know that when I was young, my parents took a sincere interest in everything I did.  They read to me nearly every evening after steering me away from the "idiot box", their term for television.  I had countless books, a set of encyclopedias, an enormous dictionary, and a Roget's Thesaurus by the desk in my bedroom.  The desk itself was stocked with paper, pencils, pens, erasers, compass, protractor and ruler.  Even crayons and chalk should I decide to draw.  And I spent countless hours there.  In retrospect, I was a lucky kid.  Today's student will likely chuckle to hear that.  Many might not think it "cool".  I mentioned 20-20 hindsight in my last post.  I'll mention it again.  With 20-20 hindsight I can't thank my parents enough for their efforts. Looking back now, I was "cool."  I'd like to think they would be happy with how their work paid off in the late adulthood and eldership stages of my life. From somewhere I hope they're watching and know, my family, then and now, is my greatest blessing.  And I think we'd all be best served in a return to basics.  Whether it is within our families or within our education system.  Our kids' futures depend on it.

Out here on the periphery however, I have my job to do.  And after a disappointing Dual Meet season the team has returned to basics.  I've gone back to my training logs detailing plans I'd put in place long before I arrived at WHRHS.  To return to what worked before I took on beliefs that today's student-athletes needed coddling.  (All well intentioned, but a very poor idea.)  And getting "back to basics" came to me from the mouths of a handful of student-athletes who made great accomplishments here at Whitman-Hanson and who pointed out their success was based on pushing themselves and each other.  A few weeks back I attended the WHRHS Athletic Hall-of-Fame ceremony at which the 2011 Girls Cross Country Team was inducted.  I vividly recall the team.  I wasn't coaching here at the time, but my team finished 5th at EMass to them that year.  In fact, the next year WH again won Emass, with my team this time finishing 3rd.  The Whitman-Hanson girls were a tough, tough team.  Because they put in the work.  Because they wanted to succeed.  And because they understood the only thing that could hold them back was . . . themselves.  When one of the captains spoke during the team's acceptance speech, she mentioned the summer training, the 40-mile weeks and the difficult workouts they performed and that while it was hard, they loved it.  I know our kids today, want the same thing.  I also feel each and every one of them is willing to put in the effort as well. They don't need, and certainly don't want to be coddled.  And that is the plan going forward.

Within the past two weeks I spoke with a WH graduate, now a college student, who appears to be enjoying the same success he had here at his university.  During his four years here, he mentioned on several occasions, how his mother read constantly to him, and limited his TV time to public broadcasting and its educational environment.  I reminded him of that when I caught up with him.  He reiterated the positive impact his parents influence played in his success thus far and went on to tell me how he is progressing at college.  I was so happy to hear him speak.  Brilliant kid, with a brilliant future.  A lesson I'm glad to learn, which brough back a memory I'm glad to have.  And a method I'm glad to coach from here on out.  Back to basics.  Focused effort.  Hard work.  Love it.



Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Becoming a legend . . .

I don't need 20/20 hindsight to know the Boys 2020 Cross Country team was special.  They were undefeated while winning both the Patriot League title and the Patriot League Championship meet.  League MVP, Theo Kamperides, along with fellow Senior Captains Liam Cafferty and Chris MacDonald led the way, supported by a pretty fair group of kids which included Juniors Nathan Tassey and Gordon Johnson and up and coming Freshmen Logan Bourgelas and Gavin McCarthy.  An outstanding group of terrific young men and incredible athletes.  You've probably heard me say many times that my favorite moment from the 2020 season was seeing Gordon Johnson come through the driveway gate in position to seal a victory over a very good, and undefeated to that point, Marshfield team.  Then watching Gordie drive it home over the last 400 Meters to lock up the win and the League title.  Classic.  But something most people haven't heard about is another pivotal moment earlier in the day, without which none of those accomplishments would have been possible.  Something equally as memorable in retrospect.

When I arrived at the field to set up for the 2020 Marshfield meet, I was told by several of the athletes Nathan Tassey had gone home after school, an early dismissal day, and was sick.  He was headed right to bed and none of the other boys had heard from him. It looked and sounded like Nathan would be unable to compete.  It wasn't easy trying to convince the other boys that they could still win if each of them ran to his ability.  It was equally difficult trying to convince myself.  But after setting up the course and getting the boys to start their warmup, Nathan appeared, walking across the field toward us.  From afar, I thought he looked ill.  He sauntered along, finally jumping into the warmup and when I asked if he could run and how he felt, he insisted he could and that he felt well "enough." Actually, his precise response was, "No, I'm OK, Coach." He had taken a long nap and he felt that may have helped some, but he did not exactly exude enormous confidence.  His customary smile wasn't there, and he didn't have much more to say, but he was in uniform, ready to give it the old college try.  Ready indeed! Nathan exceeded expectations that day, finishing 5th overall, and 3rd for the team.  He looked incredibly strong in doing so, and that familiar smile was a mile wide after he crossed the finish line.  Helped greatly by his finish, the boys completed a close 26-29 win over Marshfield to close out the season.  They could not have done it without him. Nathan would go on to be a team Captain, Patriot League All-Star, Enterprise All-Scholastic and team MVP the following year.  All hard-earned and well deserved.  I look back on Nathan's days with us in XC and Track and Field with a smile similar to Nathan's after completing his race that day.  I'll always remember Nathan as a terrific runner, a respectful and incredibly humorous kid, and just a joy to have on the team.  A wonderfully unique young man.  But even with all the accolades gained through a stellar high school career, it would be difficult to imagine college performances that would eclipse those Nathan provided us at WHRHS.  Yet Nathan has done just that.  Resoundingly. And then some. The following links provide the details of Nathan's FIRST THREE COLLEGE RACES!!! (Better their words than mine.)  Just an incredible start of what I know will be a masterful college career and no doubt a lifetime of good health and fitness.  THANK YOU, Nathan!  We are all watching and cheering you on!!!







Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Whitman-Hanson @ Duxbury

The following was provided to the local media and Administration following the WH @ Duxbury Cross Country meet:

GIRLS

The Whitman-Hanson Girls Cross Country team (3-3) traveled to Duxbury Tuesday afternoon and defeated the host team 24-31.  Panther Junior Sky Bucci-Anderson took 1st place on the 2.85-mile course in a time of 19:04, followed in 2nd place by Sophomore teammate McKenna McCarthy (19:46).  Also scoring for Whitman-Hanson were Sophomore Chloe Handlin (5th, 21:10), Junior Amiliya Gretsky (7th, 21:32) and Sophomore Lauren Smith (9th, 22:12.)

BOYS

The Boys Cross Country team of Whitman-Hanson (1-5) lost to a very talented Duxbury team 15-45 Tuesday afternoon at Duxbury.  Duxbury took the top 6 places on the 2.85-mile course and the Panthers followed with the next 5. Scoring for Whitman-Hanson were Juniors Alex Kehayias (7th, 17.37), Logan Bourgelas (8th, 17:39), Gavin McCarthy (9th, 18:01), and Shane Johnson (10th, 18:02) along with Senior Jonathan Young (11th, 18:03.)

Steve George, Head Coach

Complete results can be found at the following link:


Patriot Ledger Coverage follows:

Whitman-Hanson 24, Duxbury 31: Junior Sky Bucci-Anderson won the 2.85-mile race in 19:04 for the visiting Panthers (3-3). Sophomore teammate McKenna McCarthy was second in 19:46.

Duxbury 15, Whitman-Hanson 45: The host Green Dragons swept the top six places in the 2.85-mile race. Alex Kehayias (7th, 17.37) was W-H's top finisher.

The Dual Meet segment of our season has concluded.  Following a day off on Wednesday, both our teams will begin preparation for the upcoming Patriot League Championship Meet and the Divisional Meet later in November.  Practice begins at 2:30 SHARP on Thursday on the grass field by the school driveway.

Monday, October 10, 2022

The rare re-run of a prior entry, but it bears repeating . . .

 As you now know, former Panther Samantha Coletti was inducted into the WHRHS Athletic Hall-of-Fame last evening.  What you may not know is that, as part of the Fort Bliss Army Running Team, she was in Washington DC to compete in the 2022 Army Ten Miler, and unable to attend the induction.  LT Coletti finished in an extremely impressive 24th place (among >5,000 women) with an outstanding time of 1:02.02.  At the finish of the race, Samantha caught up with another USMA graduate and a former teammate, Lindsay Gabow, who happened to finish 10th, just ahead of Samantha.  In 2016, I posted a blog entry featuring something written by Lindsay.  Over the years I've referenced it at practice a number of times because it really speaks to your commitment to our sport and to each other.  I'm re-printing it today (a first in nearly 1,000 blog entries) because it is timely, relevant and truly inspirational.  

Friday, August 12, 2016

A truly motivational blog entry

As you can probably guess I enjoy following the post high school running accomplishments of all those I have had the privilege of coaching.  This morning while looking to the West Point schedule (you all know THAT graduate) I found a blog entry titled "Carry That Weight" on the USMA Cross Country website, written by a member of the team, that I found particularly interesting and inspirational. That entry follows below.  It speaks to the challenge you have chosen, the importance of how we perform our jobs, and the commitment we have to each other in what is absolutely a team effort.  Better than I could ever say it . . .

Army fans,

The middle of a cross country race is arguably the most challenging. No, this is not the most physically exhausting portion. The "get this elephant off my back" phase is a last mile-phenomenon. The middle presents an even greater challenge than mere physical pain and hyperbolic metaphors.

The middle of a race is the "fighting with myself" phase. The adrenaline of the frenzied (in my case) beginning has faded. The fatigue begins to stream through your veins. Your labored breathing seems deafening, even more so than your particularly zealous fans, who may also be family members (obviously not you, Dad). You are attempting to stem a tide of self-doubt. It's a sadistic test.

But unlike most tests, you volunteered for this one, didn't you? You didn't wake up in a basement to a mechanical voice asking rhetorically, do you want to play a game? No. You chose cross country over a less painful sport. Whether you did so for lack of hand-eye coordination or masochistic tendencies is irrelevant. We stood behind that line together. And now we're climbing this seemingly insufferable hill together that just happens to peak at mile two.

Earlier, I affixed the title "fighting with myself" to the middle of a race. This is not quite accurate. I will amend it slightly: "fighting with my selfishness."

It is difficult to transcend physical pain, self-doubt. Humans, like any other animal, are selfish. We are subjects of our own hunger, exhaustion and pain. In a race, we can only rise above these selfish needs by focusing on something other than ourselves. That is, of course, our teammates.

And this is the weight we carry, midway through the season. Not the weight of aggregate fatigue or frustration, but the weight of our teammates. Know the faded adrenaline, the fatigue that streams through her veins. Hear her labored breathing. Realize now, more than ever, that you must carry her weight, so she can carry mine. And I can carry yours.

Go Army!
-Lindsay Gabow