As a coach we love the highlights, those special moment when everything comes together and all the hard work pays off. When you see you runner run the race of their life! When you get to experience that spectacular moment of seeing records go down, championships won, and gold medals awarded. Now this article is not about those moments. Well at least not how you may think. It's about all of those moments that never happen. All of those great moment that slip past us just missing us by inches. Anyone that has ever coached can tell you what I'm referring to. Those slips happen and we never forget them.
Every once in a while a runner comes around that has such natural ability and talent that you all but giggle with excitement of what potential they may have and how far they can go. In some some cases you are able to see them rise to the call and reach that potential but there are those cases where through bad life choices, lack of dedication, or other reasons that no matter what you try or what you say that potential is wasted. Lost in a world where video games, skateboarding, and drugs have more appeal that putting in the work that it takes to reach that very potential. Youth these days think they know what's best for themselves and rather enjoy sleeping in than the rewards life has to offer in their success. As much as I have tried to tell myself that you can't save everyone and that there is only so much that anyone can do it never ever makes it any easier to see it happening. It's my experience that you have 6 month to 1 year to reach them. To find a way to light a fire under them that will burn throughout their lives. Problem is as coaches we often sit there throwing matches at the fire over an over again but just like a pile of wet wood those tiny matches will never keep the fire burning. The runner needs to find purpose in what they do for themselves not for us. Only then can that fire light and stay lit without coach's tiny matches.
I'm not comparing myself to a doctor but the feelings are similar. Those you have lost remain in your thoughts as much or more than those that you helped succeed. Sure I love the memories of the school record holders and when I ran to give them a hug after their performances. Of course I love the memories of making state and jumping up and down with our team as we celebrated. Those memories will live forever but those kids that had the potential to be among the very best in the state and threw it away because as coaches we were not able to reach them, those will forever be carved with in knife on my chest. So someday like these lonely long runs in when they run through my head one at a time. I think "What could I have said or done?" I think "What if things would have gone differently?" These are the thoughts that keep you up at night as a coach.
Now let me be clear I'm not ending this in a sad and somber note. Let me explain. I have no solution for the past and can't go back. No one can but I do use that pain from each one of those cases to fuel my passion for coaching. Here is why it works. For every failure for every one that I lost I find the energy to work hard to find new ways to reach the new kids that come to us. Those bad memories fuel a new drive to not ever let that happen again. Will it ? probably but not without an even larger fight from this coach. So in the end I chose to keep those memories with me so that I always remember the primary reason why I and other coaches coach. Yes we win championships and break records but we coach to change lives everything else is icing on that chocolate cake!
Coach Rojas has 11 combined years of coaching experience at various levels including coaching a high school D1 State finalist team and 3 years in a row of a top 10 state ranking. He is passionate of the sport of running and loves to see new runners take up the sport! He wants to share a lifetime of running experience to all