Friday, February 12, 2010

Coach Dog is back

If you know me well, you know that my favorite thing I've ever done for money (not counting that week in Tijuana that they told me never to mention again) is coaching cross country. I'm not even quite sure why I loved it so much: the camaraderie among the team members, the adrenaline flowing at the meets, the chance to teach something I love and help kids build confidence... anyway, I loved every minute of it during eight seasons at St. Joe and one at St. Augustine High and I've missed it very much.

And now I've got it back, sort of. On Mondays and Wednesdays, St. Paul has sports from 4 to 6 p.m. There's basketball and ping pong, and now there's "cross country", too. Mike Peck, our phys ed guy, encouraged me to see if anyone would be interested in going out to run. I really didn't expect that anyone would respond, but I got four kids: Geoff, the principal's son; Ecllid and Jee, freshman boys; and Buyoung, a junior girl who has a lot of experience at soccer.

On Monday, we went out for the first time. We walked five minutes to Citizen's Forest Park (yeah, I know it should be Citizens' Forest Park, but I didn't put up the sign) and jogged lightly to the path by the stream. For their first time out, they did well; Buyoung ran easily for a half hour and two of the boys ran most of that time. It felt really, really good to be... pardon the expression... on the road again. I actually got the feeling that the kids might listen to me about their form: forearms brushing the hipbones, parallel to the ground, torso straight up and down, don't overstride... great honk, I've missed this.

I was due for a comedown on Wednesday, and I got it. The weather was pretty raw: 40 degrees Fahrenheit, gray, the lightest of sprinkles. In other words: prime running weather. But Koreans hate rain; one of our students told me that getting rained on makes your hair fall out because of the pollution. At any rate, the kids remonstrated until I reluctantly told them they didn't have to go; it's not a team, after all, and they can quit anytime, so I can't push too hard. But it's a far, far cry from the true cross-country ethos: we run through everything. (Well, not lightning; we're crazy, not insane.) I'll always remember the county championship on Crescent Beach at high tide during Tropical Storm Gabrielle; the rain was coming sideways and the kids had to run through knee-deep ocean water, twenty feet across, at a beach ramp. (It's a shame that one Menendez girl was carried off by a shark.)

Anyway, on Wednesday I ran alone.

I can't force these kids into the true CC mindset, but maybe I can help them toughen up a bit and take pride in themselves over it. My dream is to have a team in a year or two and compete against other local international schools. We may have to run the boys and girls together to find five who really want to run, and I don't even know if any other local schools have running programs, but I can hope.

Meanwhile, I'll take what I can get. Coach Dog is back.

1 comment:

peacecorpskath said...

This makes me happy and miss Cross Country oh so bad! It was, quite honestly, the best part of high school.

That meet you happen to mention was my first ever cross country meet. I think I started crying half-way through and praying for my survival. I still wonder how in the world I decided to go to practice the next day.

Good luck, coach! I'm sure they will grow to love running in the rain with their hair falling out soon enough.