Today I have been preparing the paperwork to hand out to my potential cross country runners when we have our first meeting next week. It’s hard to believe that I am getting ready to coach my 14th season of high school cross country!
Over the years, I have seen many young people join the team as freshmen, just out of middle school, young, small, a little scared as they embark on the journey that is high school. They don’t know it, but joining the cross country team in one of the best, albeit one of the toughest, things they can do to help them succeed, not only in school, but in life.
This is a quote from what I tell the parents at our preseason meeting:
“We know your kids are tired. They are under pressure. They have school all day, a lot of homework in the evening, and then we have them up at 5 am to run. Fortunately, running is a great stress reliever. They are with their friends and teammates. They are learning so many things: Being a team player, good sportsmanship, responsibility, and accountability. Running Cross Country will have an impact on the rest of their adult lives.”
There are many lessons that high school students will learn from running. Over the season, as they work hard, enjoy some successes, suffer some failures, push through their discomfort, they grow as human beings, mature into responsible young people who are well on their way to becoming successful adults.
These are lessons that we as adults can learn (or be reminded about) too. We just have to pay closer attention and let it happen.
Life Lessons from Running
Don’t Stop When Things Get Tough
When we are young (or immature) we tend to give up when things around us get hard. Running teaches us that the reward comes when we keep going even though it is difficult.
Achieving Your Goals Takes Hard Work
If you want to win the race, you have to put in all the preliminary mileage and training that is needed to get you in top condition. Likewise, if you want to graduate from college or run a successful business, you need to put in the work to accomplish your goal.
You’re Stronger Than You Think
With hard work, training, and dedication to your goals, you might surprise yourself with what you can accomplish.
Everything is Mental
Running teaches you that your mind is your best tool. It can get you through those times when you feel like your legs can’t carry you one more inch.
You Do “Have the Time”
If you want something badly enough, you will find the time.
Working as a Team Will Lead to Success
While running is generally thought of as an individual sport, success in cross country and even marathon racing comes from working as a team.
If You Wait for “Perfect” You’ll Never Accomplish Anything
Whether it is perfect weather, race course, or time of the year, if you sit around waiting for it you won’t go anywhere.
You Define You
You get to choose the person you want to be. Not your parents, your teachers, your friends, your spouse, not even your coach. You can choose to push yourself to success, or to stay where you are.
Just Because You Lose Doesn’t Mean You’re a Loser
In running, most people don’t win. Yet they still strive to improve, work hard to achieve their goals, and challenge themselves to accomplish more. That sounds the the definition of a winner.
There are No Shortcuts, Hacks, or Tricks
To succeed in running, you have to put in the work. It is as simple as that.
One of the joys of coaching, even more so than teaching, where your students come and go in a school year, is the bond that develops between athlete and coach over the course of the four years of high school. I get to get to see them change from those scared little freshmen into interesting, responsible, dedicated, and usually taller young adults. Many stay in touch after they graduate and share their accomplishments and joys, as well as the challenges that they face.
In fact, Alan and I will be attending the wedding of one of our former cross country students in June (the same day as the Rock and Roll Marathon, which will be interesting). He came from an at-risk situation, a single parent family, four brothers, several of whom did some jail time. Now he has finished college, has a career, and is about to embark on a new phase of his life. He will be the first one to tell you that if it wasn’t for cross country, in particular, Alan, who was the boys coach, he wouldn’t have made it and would very likely be in the same situation a his brothers.
What life lessons have you learned from running?