Thoughts From Three: A Note To The Athletes

After the success of Jim Vermeulen's XC Journal in the many falls of Cross Country, we've asked again for him to provide some news and notes once a month. Think of these as the thoughts that cross the mind of your average coach. Up from Section 3, we present you with "Thoughts From Three."


You are receiving this e-mail because you have either signed up for Indoor Track or attended our pre-season meeting with the intention of doing so. 

 Welcome to Wildcats Indoor Track. Welcome to our cramped, third-of-the-upper-gym 'home.' Welcome to our tight-cornered, stuffy hallways. Welcome to stairwells that double as plyometric stations. Welcome to our cold macadam parking lots, usually cleared of snow but not always of cars. Welcome to our neighborhood roads where we race the early-season darkness, where we jog to the long tilt of 'The Rise' that indifferently accommodates our total-team "happy family" workouts--or to our Monte Vista hill that climbs an old drumlin and will challenge you, whether in late November t-shirts or geared up for February 20o up-and-around half-mile intervals. Welcome to the long winter weeks and the all-round-the-place 'messiness' that is Indoor Track. 

Does it all sound like difficulties and discouragements? Hardly. You never had it so good. 

You might not know this, but a few decades ago, the sport you've just joined did not exist in our district. For expediency back then, and as a sop to the community that had voted down the school budget, a former superintendent recommended to the Board of Education that Indoor Track be cut. They agreed, and your district became the only large school in the area without a program. In your time span, of course, that's all ancient history, but what shouldn't be dismissed is that parents and coaches and athletes fought hard to bring back the sport, though it took eleven years. And when they finally succeeded, appreciative athletes worked even harder to honor the opportunity to practice and compete. They had team meetings in a hallway where rain and meltwater seeped in. They ran hurdles on hard tiles. They hopped one-legged up dimly lit stairwells. By our second year back, we were up to thirty team members, and four of them went to the state championship. 

 A lot has happened since those early seasons. Our team sizes, with some fluctuations, have grown. We survived several refugee years after a ridiculous hallway-use prohibition banished us to practice two

seasons in the chilly, dimly lit buildings of the NYS Fairground--and then a few more winters scratching frozen condensation from cold bus windows on our way home from workouts at a local indoor soccer facility. Nobody complained. The athletes managed to have fun and make adversity an ally. 

 Along the way, we've had sectional champions, state championship medalists. We've had state and Federation champions. We've even had national All-Americans and grade-level national champions. But for all those talented athletes, we've had many more with highly successful seasons, not because they won leagues or 'went states,' but because they committed to mastering an event through hard work and personal sacrifice in pursuit of a worthy athletic goal. They set the standards.

They paved your way. Those are the former athletes-your predecessors-you should quietly thank them the next time you have the chance to muscle the apex of a sharp hallway turn or cinch up the hood and head out into the snow. 

 We've never been one of the so-called "popular" sports. And that doesn't really matter. What matters is whether indoor is popular to you, because you are the sport's most important constituent. Your predecessors proved it was popular to them--repeatedly. There's an old saying: "wind extinguishes a candle, but energizes a fire." Aside from the very literal fact you'll be dealing with some stiff winds this winter on The Rise or up Monte Vista hill, what the saying recommends is that you come into the season burning with the desire and the determination to excel personally. If you do, our training(that would be the wind) will ignite your true potential as an athlete. Then you'll be personally accomplished, a valuable contributor to the team, and feel pretty good about yourself as a result

I've been around awhile. I understand and appreciate the standards of effort and excellence set by your alumni forerunners. The fitness trainer of the Uruguayan national soccer team used to tell his athletes, "the effort is not negotiable." That was true for our former team members, and it remains true for you. Talent is talent, but ultimately, it's effort by which you will be judged-and rewarded. 

Come into the season prepared. Come ready to be challenged, both physically and mentally. Our expectations that you can "be better than yourself" will be constant and daily, but that's why you do sports. One of my father's favorites(and one he passed on too often) is that "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well." Expect to do this season well. 

So welcome to Wildcat Indoor Track. See you on opening day.

Coach Vermeulen