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Bad race for cross country boy -- now what? (Read 867 times)

    My 10th grade son had a very disappointing first race this week, running only just under 19:00 and coming in 5th man on his team and a good 30 seconds back of the next teammate ahead of him.  He should be a strong 4th guy and probably is capable of at least sub-18:00 with his current fitness.  He was very disappointed with his race.  He said he had a severe side stitch and just couldn’t run through it very well.

     

    After the race Wednesday and then on Thursday at school his coach had a few words for him:  told him that he gave up, no excuses; he cost the team at least one place in the meet; he shouldn’t run any more times like that this season; varsity runners run through side cramps.  Coach also told him that he needs to stay with the top 3 guys on long run days.  (Although when he tried to do that this past Monday the 14 miler devolved into a death march for him).  The boy was already feeling like crap after the race – now he feels even worse and more full of self-doubt than ever.  I know there is a place for a coach kicking a kid in the backside when he needs it.  I’m just afraid all the negativity after this race will do him a lot more harm than good.  I feel like what he really needs to do is everything he can to shake this one off and get into a positive, optimistic frame of mind for the next meet, which is a huge, out-of-state meet that should be a blast for all the kids.  I feel like the boy works hard and gives his best, I really do.  I also believe, and I told him so, that only he and God know for sure if he gave up during the race on Wednesday.  Our coach is new this year, and he’s very young and inexperienced himself.  (But I do like the guy).  He was a D-1 collegiate runner and I think he generally knows what he is doing, but I fear he has a lot to learn about coaching psychology.

     

    Anyway, I know a lot of you are coaches or have your own teenage runners.  I would be very interested to hear any perspectives that anyone would like to share.

    - Joe

    We are fragile creatures on collision with our judgment day.

      I think the coach's approach will likely create anxiety, resulting in even poorer performance.  That's the effect it would have on me, and I'm what, 20 years older than your son.  

       

      I would tell your son something like, "I believe you can run with those guys on the long runs, that you can race better than you did on that day. I know it and you know it. As for the coach, he is a little inexperienced and has high expectations for you, specifically because you are a good runner.  That said, it is a good life lesson to realize that people will always have their expectations and you cannot worry too much about meeting them. Give it your best and if people don't like it, it's their problem not yours. You are a great kid and will find your way."

      "If you have the fire, run..." -John Climacus


      an amazing likeness

        I'd recommend that that test yourself about *you* being able to 'shake it off' first, or he will take your clues and have a hard moving on.

         

        The coach sounds like he's set a tone of 'fix this' obstacles, rather than coaching a path forward....maybe that's where you could help...encourage your son to engage with the coach around "ok coach, what do I work on first? how do I do it?".

        Choosing my words carefully has never been my strength I've been known to be vague and often pointless


        In it for the long run..

          I have experience with this going back a few years.  My very talented runner son also blew some races- for various reasons- and had a coach who swore at him!  I think it is important to encourage your kid, while not undermining the coach since it's a long season.   Fortunately, our coach got canned after the season.    What my son did was book himself on a bus trip to Footlocker regionals (20 hour bus ride) with a bunch of total strangers and nailed the race.    It takes a little bit of success to ovecome a failure like your son feels he just had.  Maybe a strong workout or a short time trial will build his confidence.    Just be encouraging and try to figure out what caused the side stitch.    On another occasion my son was winning the 1600 at a big meet called Easterns.  With about 200 left to go he pulled over and started walking.  He had a severe asthma attack and had trouble the rest of the day.  We had flown from Texas to NY for the meet.     Now he is a triathlete and all I have to worry about is him getting killed riding his bike.

          "It's not who wins the workout..."

            Joe,

             

            I'd tell your son not to worry about one race that was impacted by a side cramp.   I'm not sure I believe you can just run through those things.

            I'd also tell your son to not over-react and start over-training. That will likely lead to worse race results.   Tell him to stay positive and believe in the training he's done.

             

            As for the coach, it's a good life lesson for Wyatt. The coach needs to know his runners and their personalities. I'm a little old school and that would have worked for me (and it did, many times), but it doesn't for everyone.  But, as you know, running is about believing in your ability. Minimally, this is a good sign that Wyatt's coach believes Wyatt can run better. Perhaps this is the only way he knows to motivate. LIke a Bobby Knight...


            Feeling the growl again

              After the race Wednesday and then on Thursday at school his coach had a few words for him:  told him that he gave up, no excuses; he cost the team at least one place in the meet; he shouldn’t run any more times like that this season; varsity runners run through side cramps.  Coach also told him that he needs to stay with the top 3 guys on long run days.  (Although when he tried to do that this past Monday the 14 miler devolved into a death march for him).  The boy was already feeling like crap after the race – now he feels even worse and more full of self-doubt than ever. 

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              He was a D-1 collegiate runner and I think he generally knows what he is doing, but I fear he has a lot to learn about coaching psychology. 

               

              I'd have a talk with your son...did you do your best?  Did you try your best despite the cramp?  OK, now what's done is done and put it behind you and set about proving yourself the next time.  Everyone has bad races, at least you got your out of the way in a lower-key race.  Learn from it and get back in the game.  Your coach may say some things you don't like but in the end he just wants you to try your best and work hard.  Do that and forget the other garbage he says, he's a bit of a blowhard sometimes (wink wink).

               

              Now to coach...being a former D-I runner means absolutely bumpkiss when it comes to coaching skills.  Let's get this straight...he had your son kill himself trying to keep up with faster runners in what was clearly a very hard run on Monday, then he's surprised when the kid flames out when he races only 2 days later?  Am I reading this right?  Pet peeve of mine with most HS programs I've been exposed to, train the hell out of the kids and expect them to race well 2 or even 3X per week.  And "varisty runners run through side cramps", like you're going to somehow run just as fast as you would have without one, is malarky.

               

              It is indeed an inexperienced coach who expects every one of his runners to turn in a top performance each race, especially early in the season under hard training loads like the above details seem to indicate.  I'm not sure I'd say anything to the coach yet...no coach likes to be micro-managed by the parents... but being pretty vocal, if that style continued I doubt I'd stay quiet all season (respectfully, away from the kids and other parents).

              "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand

               

                The best coaches take the responsibility for mistakes made and defer credit to the athletes. After all, the athlete is the one racing!

                 

                In this way, they model in their own behavior what it takes to be successful in sport and life.

                  ..... Let's get this straight...he had your son kill himself trying to keep up with faster runners in what was clearly a very hard run on Monday, then he's surprised when the kid flames out when he races only 2 days later?  Am I reading this right? 

                   

                  Yes, spaniel, you did the math correctly, and this hacks me off, too.  To turn around on 48 hours and run a good 5k after a flame-out 14-mile death march is not something I could do myself, and I am a pretty tough old buzzard compared to these kids (some of whom might be faster, but not many would be stronger, I think you guys know what I'm saying). 

                   

                  All, I really appreciate the feedback.  I don't want to be an overprotective parent, nor a meddling I-know-more-about-this-than-you-do-coach kind of parent, but I am disturbed about how this played out.  It's good to get outside perspective from you folks.

                   

                  MilkTruck:  Great advice about *me* shaking it off and setting the example!  I hadn't thought about that at all, but that's brilliant.  I need to think about exactly what that looks like, because that seems like the best possible thing to do.  Gotta do everything I can to get that boy's mindset turned around in an optimistic direction.

                  - Joe

                  We are fragile creatures on collision with our judgment day.

                    Sounds like the coach is pretty terrible to be honest. Having kids run long runs with runners much faster? Insisting that every race be absolutely hammered? Pretty bogus advice about running through cramps?

                     

                    Doesn't sound to good to me at first read. 

                    They say golf is like life, but don't believe them. Golf is more complicated than that. "If I am still standing at the end of the race, hit me with a Board and knock me down, because that means I didn't run hard enough" If a lot of people gripped a knife and fork the way they do a golf club, they'd starve to death. "Don't fear moving slowly forward...fear standing still."

                      Tell your son to look for the message rather than take what the coach says too literally. The worst case would have been if the coach started to ignore his racing performance. The coach obviously thinks your son has some talent or else he would not be pushing so hard. 

                       

                      The real test will be what the coach has him doing over the summer. If the coach is in his first season then he might attribute bad early-season performances to a lack of conditioning. Next year, however, he will 'own' your kid's summer conditioning program and may be a little less likely to say 'just push harder' every time your son has an off race.