Monday, July 15, 2013


I have been thinking about teaching and how much we give when get involved with our students. And because I can, I wanted to post this blog post written by oneo of my sons for his runners. My son is a teacher at Hinsdale Central High School in Hinsdale, IL as we all an assistant cross-country and track coach. These are the words he wrote just before he left for a week-long educational program in Colorado, part of his own continuing education. His blog is at

July 8, 2013-Colorado bound
Early tomorrow morning I will be leaving the Midwest for the more mountainous lands of Colorado. I will be spending 8 days in Boulder, on the campus of Colorado University, to take a class about Japan in the 21st century. I teach an East Asian Studies class here at Hinsdale Central, so participating in this course will allow me to learn the most current scholarship and to interact with some of the brightest high school educators and College professors who specialize in this content area. As an added bonus, I will get to spend time in one of the best running communities in the country. The men and women’s Cross Country teams at Colorado University are perennially challenging for the national title, and Boulder is (or was at one point) also the training grounds for many elite professional runners, including Olympic Gold Medal winner Frank Shorter as well as more recent Olympians including Adam Goucher, Jorge Torres, and Dathan Ritzenheim.

I approach this upcoming trip with a mixture of excitement and guilt. I am, of course, thrilled to be headed to a city that is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen and eager to immerse myself in the study of a topic I find fascinating. Yet, I feel that I am in some ways letting the boys of Hinsdale Central down, as I will not be there to join them in the pain of tackling tomorrows 24*400 workout, or to share in the joy of finishing it. Furthermore, I feel I am in some ways violating my own moral code by not practicing what I preach: as a Coach, I expect my athletes to commit completely to our training and to each other, and I feel apprehensive every time an athlete misses practice due to vacation or other commitment, as I understand the reality that it is much more challenging to manage the rigors of our workouts alone than it is to do so with a group.

I offer as my excuse that I think it important that I continue to grow as an educator. Every summer, I try to find professional development opportunities that enrich my life and help me become a better teacher. I’ve been fortunate over the past years to join fellow teachers for programs in Japan, China, Korea, and South Africa; to learn about the Constitution in Washington D.C.; and about African American History in both Boston and Chicago. On these programs, I’ve never wavered from my commitment to my training, and have run laps around the Imperial Palace in Japan, through the crowded streets of Shanghai and the remote rural villages of Lesotho. I find running is my favored method of learning the lay of the land in the new places I’ve visited, and on these runs the harriers of Hinsdale are never far from my mind.

In the end, I cannot satisfactorily resolve the conundrum. We remind our athletes that, ultimately, they must choose how much they are willing to commit to their own and our team’s improvement. To absent oneself from practice on a regular basis, even with the good intentions of following the training plan one one’s own, is to choose to be just a little bit less prepared than you might have been had you attended practice consistently. I am making a choice that benefits myself at the expense of our team. I’ve tried to minimize the cost by planning my travels to intersect, as much as possible, with the days that the boys will be at the Wisconsin Camp of Champions. Nonetheless, these next four days will be the one time this season when I am not in attendance.

For our team to be successful this season, however, we must have trust. As we’ve discussed all along, the character of the team will be revealed based on how practices operate in the absence of coaches. I know I can have a bit more piece of mind leaving the team with a senior class led by individuals who are unified in their goals and committed to achieving them. I do (my students) to set a high standard which our younger guys will follow.

So let’s take stock of where we are at this halfway point of the 6-week summer running program. To gain a better historical perspective, I looked back to a previous blog entry in which I compared the 2012 team’s summer training to the 2011 team. Collating three year’s together, here is how our weekly mileage for the previous two weeks compares to both those squads:

(I removed the student names here)

Given this small sample, the 2013 team compares fairly well, with 12 of the top 20 mileage runners, compared with 6 for the class of 2012 and 2 of the class of 2011. However, we know that mileage is only one part of the equation – it does not tell us about the quality of the mileage, the personalities and attitudes of the athletes, or who the eventual members of the top 7 will be [(One top runner) had run 92 miles during this period last year; (another) was suffering from some influenza-like disease and not running at all.] I interpret this data as suggesting that we are further along than previous teams but not where I believe we should be. We have 5 athletes currently above pace to make the 1000 mile club, with 5 others who are not very far off pace. Our goal is to have 15 athletes achieve this mark, and we are clearly far away from achieving this. Far too many of our team members have left for vacations and seen their mileage fall dramatically. There are some talented members of our team who are not on the list above – they’ll need to start running more consistent high mileage if we are to develop the type of supporting cast necessary to contend against the top teams in our state.

Here is how I signed off the blog post I wrote of August 7, 2012 – these are words that apply as appropriately now as they did then: In short, we should be proud of what we have accomplished so far, while at the same time recognizing that the hardest work is yet to do. The true challenge of this sport is not any single tough workout but the daily grind - doing it day in and day out, week after week, season after season in the unceasing quest for excellence.

For those of you attending the Wisconsin Camp of Champions, I hope you have fun and learn a lot. I will see you all July 22nd, fit from training at altitude, and so excited to be rejoining you in our shared journey.



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