Thoughts From Three: Selected Short Rants

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."

Everyone Knows Everything

Internet experts are everywhere. The definitive answer to anyone's grievance is only a click away. A bored hour online some evening makes you the definitive oracle of your son or daughter's running success. Experience and acquired wisdom are dismissed as irrelevant. Emotion, sprinkled with an isolated fact or two culled from cyber-world, IS the new argument. Because everyone knows everything now, no one is credited for knowing any one thing, such as coaching.

"You got this."

We need to outlaw that phrase.

Got what, exactly? Mysteriously emergent ability? Instantaneous mental steeliness? A Big-Bang of belief? It is no small coincidence that this phrase is shouted to someone exactly at the moment when he or she so obviously doesn't have this-and is fully aware of the deficit. That hardly seems fair.


Chronicling the day-to-day minutiae of one's life is a de rigor posture to avoid simply disappearing into ordinariness. To be mentioned is what keeps the blood circulating, not the heart. Self-worth and self-promotion smugly join to form a möbius loop because, in the end, the only thing to fear is silence itself.

High school college-coach-wannabe's

My friend Tony once sardonically commented on a ladder-climbing acquaintance of his: "He is famous in his mind." For some coaches, there's always the danger of one's imagined profile overwhelming the actual participants. So, is it that you can't pass quickly enough through the scholastic ranks to land that prestigious assistant coaching position at Northern Podunk College? Early congratulations on your demotion. One of the obvious signs of success will be your shrunken salary. One of the less obvious losses is how effortlessly you forfeit the opportunity to yearly introduce young adults to the values of effort and commitment-both sorely needed these days. Your 'promotion' may also be a sign that you've lost the enthusiasm and joys of making sports successful for the 'average' athlete, which means it's time for you to move out, not up. Just a suggestion: take a break from yourself. Try a little humility. It's about the athletes-not you.


Follow your passion, everyone shouts to the young. That's great, but what if they can't sustain any passions long enough to make a difference? So often, passion is like lightening. There's a brilliant and flashy explosion of energy-and then the light is gone. Passion is over-rated, and it's mostly used these days to sell things. Give me conviction any day instead of passion. Conviction lasts. Conviction gets things done. Passion draws its strength from emotions, which are here one day, gone the next. Convictions build on ideas. Sometimes they can be weak or faulty ideas, but at least there is something there to study and consider and, if necessary, change. Coach them to develop some convictions-then they can follow those even if the light fades.

A Check on the Moment:

If this coaching gambit is not garnering you all the attention and respect you so obviously deserve, try recalling the moment when 'being a coach' became more important than coaching. That's usually a good place to start finding your way back.