The 2012 season has come to a close.
Our team banquet was a wonderful evening of celebration. We viewed the highlights video that I spent hours and hours creating (a tradition I started my first year of coaching). The runners told me days before the banquet that they couldn’t wait to see the video. Making the video is an excellent way for me to reflect on the season. As I inserted each photo and each clip into the video, I relived a pivotal, humorous, or memorable moment of the season. Season 2012 was definitely one to remember.
So now that the season has officially ended, I have found myself reflecting quite often about this team. Even though I graduated very few this season, I feel very sentimental about this year in particular. I am surprised that I feel this sense of loss after this season has ended. Why?
The team is a unique combination of athletes that create a different overall team personality each year. UXC 2012 was a very special team. I’ve never experienced anything like it. This year we were truly a family. I’ve never seen a mix of very different kids support one another like they did this year. It didn’t matter what social circle they were in, their grade level, whether they were varsity or junior varsity; they were a family. The seniors weren’t too cool to hang out with the freshmen at spaghetti dinners. The varsity guys always cheered on the junior varsity at meets. The veteran runners supported the new runners. We even had some 8th graders train with us this season, and the older guys made them feel welcome.
Not only did the personality of the team make practice enjoyable every single day, I truly believe our surprising success this season was due to their closeness. When you truly feel like you belong and you feel like an integral part of the group, aren’t you going to work harder for your team? Of course. Distance running is often seen as an individual sport, but it was far from being focused on the individual this year. The guys grouped up in every workout and every race. We had a larger team this year, so they really grouped up well at each level. They pushed each other every day. There was friendly competition among the guys. If someone lost his varsity spot to someone else, there were no hard feelings. They worked hard to earn the spot back, but it didn’t get personal.
I even did a rare line-up change for the varsity race of the county meet. One runner lost his varsity spot the meet before because he ran a phenomenal breakthrough race a few days prior, and he wasn’t recovered. I didn’t want him to be penalized for racing tough in a previous meet by losing his varsity spot. I discussed this dilemma with the two gentlemen involved. They both said whole-heartedly that the other teammate deserved the spot. That was one of the most impressive displays of team camaraderie I had ever seen on my team.
So why do I suffer from a little case of the post-season blues? I have realized that every season is different, and there will never be another season quite like this one. Not to say that next year won’t be quite as fun or exciting. I’m sure it will. We have a chance to accomplish great things next season, and winning is always enjoyable. But I am sure it will feel different. This year was special because this group was so young and so green (of 29 team members, 15 were first-year runners), that every time they had a breakthrough, the team celebrated. Next year, most of the guys will be back (we are only graduating 4), but there will be higher expectations, and the breakthroughs of these young men won’t be as surprising. Having a successful season will be expected.
Season 2012 was an exciting year of discovery. It was quite the ride. As a coach, I need to remember what it was that made this season special, and carry over as many of the positives from this season to the next: good leadership, mutual respect, hard work, tough racing, supporting one another, and simply loving being part of this team. I have a feeling that the tradition of our team being a family will continue due to their positive experience this year. When the younger guys move up, and the new guys come in, they will treat the new guys with the same respect as they were given when they were first-year runners. This is how a program is built. Each year gets better and better. This is why I love coaching.