Another year, another track meet: Musings from a coach

By Cara Jones

Another year, another track meet…

I thought this was going to be a one-and-done situation.  Last spring I volunteered to coach the Mulick Park Elementary track team.  I assumed that I was only standing in for that year and figured they would find another volunteer for the following year.  Then, at the last meet of the season, one of my athletes turned and looked at me and said “See you again next year, right, Coach Jones?”  Riiiiiiiiiight….

Fast forward 12 months and here I am – at Houseman Field with 25 Mulick Park Elementary students (in 2nd-5th grades) in 80 degree heat.  And you know who’s not here?  That little boy who told me that he’d “see me again next year”! How dare he move away…

Jones’ team strikes a group pose during a track meet at Houseman Field.

All kidding aside, I love this gig.  In fact, I’ve probably learned more about myself in this role than just about any other role I’ve ever had.  In my vast number of coaching years (1.5 currently) I’ve learned a lot and I thought that I’d share a few of those lessons:

  1. Have you ever watched 2nd graders try to hand off a baton in a relay race? It is equal parts adorable and anxiety-inducing.
  2. Volunteering is a family affair. It takes a village.  While I’m coaching, someone else is picking up my kids from school and feeding them dinner.
  3. Coaching teaches you a thing or two about yourself. Sometimes it’s about your personal level of patience and other times it’s that you really stink at the long jump.
  4. Volunteers don’t always have the time, but they do MAKE the time. I always panic the week before the seasons starts because I don’t know how I’m going to fit it all in.  Then I remember the village (see #2).
  5. If these kids are any indication – the future of Grand Rapids looks pretty darn bright. They are kind, funny and SUPER energetic.
  6. You will be moved to tears at least once. Sometimes it’s because you saw one teammate give another teammate a high five.  Other times it’s because you saw a member of your team help another team’s player up.  And sometimes it’s because on the first day of practice one little girl on your team picks you a bouquet of dandelions.
  7. Coaching at the elementary level doesn’t mean you need to be an expert. It means you need to have a good sense of humor and an ability to herd cats…into a cage…with a blindfold on.
  8. Coaching is good for your self-confidence. When’s the last time you walked into your office or home and everyone ran up to you, gave you a hug and screamed “YAY” at the top of their lungs?
  9. You don’t leave the kids when the season is over, and they don’t leave you. I keep a photo of last year’s team on my desk and often find myself wondering what they are doing and how their summer/school year is going.
  10. Last…if I can do it, you can too. Just not at Mulick Park, cause chances are I’ll be back again next year.

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