Coaching, like all of education, is about relationships. As a coach, it is my responsibility to get to know each individual athlete and to identify and understand what they most need for success. I broadly define success as personal and athletic growth, and as or more important to me than improving one’s personal best, is that the lessons we learn together in cross country carry over to improve student performance and connection in the classroom, with friends and family, and in the community.
The three most important areas that I hope student athletes will develop are grit and resilience, a growth mindset, and lasting hope. To get there, I rely heavily on my skills as an experienced school counselor.
GRIT: Grit, the concept championed by psychologist Angela Duckworth, is sustained dedication to a goal in spite of obstacles and has been proven to be a more significant marker of achievement than IQ and a host of other predictive factors. Grit is the backbone of good distance running. You have to work extremely hard, not every day can be your best, and there will be significant challenges and setbacks, but runners will come to learn the value of sustained dedication to a goal and be able to practice that commitment throughout their lifetime.
GROWTH MINDSET: Established by psychologist Carol Dweck, a growth mindset is one that does not see abilities or traits as fixed but as malleable and dynamic. By establishing that none of our athletic abilities are fixed, but can be grown and developed with hard work, students will learn the same applies to their abilities in the classroom, their future careers, and their relationships with friends, family, and other community members.
HOPE: Psychologist Shane Lopez has shown that people are hopeful when they can say Tomorrow will be better than today, and I have the power to make it so. His research with Gallup shows hopeful people produce more, achieve more, and are happier and healthier over their lifespan. In both our training and our team approach, students will learn how to set goals for their future, outline realistic plans and pathways to those goals, and most importantly, have a rock-solid sense of agency, or a belief in their ability to overcome obstacles in pursuit of those goals.
For us to have success as a team and for each individual to have a positive, fun, and rewarding experience, we need to balance individualized attention with a culture that emphasizes selflessness and dedication to a common purpose. Each runner on the team will come in with their own unique mindset and physiology, and it is up to me to devise both a training schedule and a relational approach that allows them to connect to the training, grow, and experience success. To do so, I work with the principles of periodization, specificity, and personalization within a training framework based on the work of Jack Daniels, Vin Lananna & Greg McMillan and adapted by mentors like Mike Smith (NAU), Chris Miltenberg (UNC-Chapel Hill), Dan Ireland (Columbia University) and Neal Blackburn (Rock Bridge HS). That is the science of distance running. However, the true art and beauty of cross country, and the greatest chance for team success, comes when individuals are able to see past their own performance and invest in the team outcome. Our team culture will establish a common purpose that recognizes the importance of everyone on the team, from the 1st varsity runner to the final JV finisher. Each student athlete will invest in and celebrate each other’s success and at the end of their senior season, my hope is that each athlete is not ending, but rather just beginning their life-long relationship with running and the running community.
First and foremost, community means building a strong, cohesive team culture where everyone feels connected and valued. Next, we’ll seek to serve the larger community that we are part of at Timnath. Ever since serving in AmeriCorps, it has been important to me that service and community engagement be part of my work with young people. It will be very important to our team culture that we find ways to engage and improve our community using the individual interests and talents of our athletes, and to do so in a way that represents the best that Timnath Middle High School and Poudre School District has to offer. My goal is for serving to become as much of a lifelong habit as running for each member of our team.