Irony. My Dad always used to say, “Be careful what you wish for, it might just come true.” 12 year old Me didn’t understand ANY downside to wishes being granted. I mean 10 years later as a 22 year old I would’ve given anything for my dream of playing pro football come true. I mean what could’ve been the downside right!?!?!
Three years ago I was desperately trying to save a marriage with 3 little kids. I had two jobs at the time. My Full time job as Track/XC Coach at a College and running a family business. I was overwhelmed and while I didn’t do any job well that year, I did try and FAIL to save my marriage. I remember being at a Track meet early that year and WISHING Track season was over so I could get my life back in order. And that year, I should probably have been fired from all my jobs…ironically I was desperately trying to save my marriage of which I was terminated from. Any given meet I was at that year I just WISHED the season would end. And that particular year we ended up with 5 athletes at NCAA Nationals and three All-Americans. Good thing that wish didn’t come true.
The very next year we lost one of those All-Americans to injury and an Athlete I really cared about broke my heart and transferred schools. And just to be clear, she broke my heart in the Way that coaches fall in Love with Athletes. I was ready to build a program and team around her and she completely broke my already fragile, healing heart into pieces. After that I thought, I could really just use some old fashioned TIME OFF. And in a sense I probably did take the time off as it was NOT my best year of work. It probably was even WORSE than the year before. You see I fell in Love with a woman that year, and spent most of my time trying to WOO her. So ballroom dance become my Full-Time Hobby. Unfortunately, I had my heart broken again…this time my Metaphorical real HEART (LOVE). Basically part of that season’s problem was me chasing something that was never going to happen. The best part of that Heart Break was KNOWING that my Heart actually worked again; that I felt things, that I could LOVE. For awhile after my divorce I was really worried that I wouldn’t ever care about anything…and that really scared me.
So this real LOVE/Heart Break was a WAKE UP CALL to get back to work. Luckily it happened very early in the year and I recovered quickly. I recovered quick enough to be a part of getting back on track (pun intended). Our Women’s track team even won the indoor Championship that year as I was starting to feel like my old self again. Then a key woman got hurt during Outdoor Season and it took a lot of effort to get our Guy (see previous blog post) back to NCAA Nationals. But we did it. I felt like we (okay I ) was ready for anything the world could throw at me.
This past summer, I was ready to get our Team back to prominence and also to Live my Best Life. I was going help our team to WIN: I was going to LIVE my life to the Fullest. My Cross Country Season got off to a great start as we spent 4 days during Summer Camp on Lake Erie. It was BEAUTIFUL. The women’s team was strong and had many hard workers and a few really talented athletes. Our Men were really down though. However, we found some amazing Leaders on the men’s side and then picked a guy up mid way through the year to enable us to score in the Conference Championship. Our Men finished 7 out of 10. YES 7th… and it was an amazing Achievement as we should have been DEAD LAST. I was So proud of those guys.
As I say I was back to my old self, I also felt no Pressure. Our Women won the Indoor Championship in a pretty big upset the year before. We lost quite a few women due to graduation and injury. Those women were going to be tough to Replace. But about mid-way through the Indoor Season, We figured out a path that we could actually win this thing. When I say “WE” I mean my new coaching staff that is totally amazing and dedicated and energetic and FUN! The Competitive juices that I thought wouldn’t be needed this year Bubbled Up. How do we win?!? Let’s figure it out. AND WE DID. We talked about a FIGHT THEME. How I started taking fight classes (instead of dance…much more inspirational for a speech) and that we were in for a fight. How Boxing Matches aren’t won in the first round. We were ready to go the distance. And we did. Our women Won the Indoor Championship on the last race of the day, the 4 x 400 Meter Relay. The Men who had been really lagging the last few years just missed 2nd place and finished 3rd. I thought it was a pretty good Achievement. I felt like I was back: I felt like ME.
We start our Spring Break Trip. The weather was some of the best we’ve ever had. South Carolina was stunning. On one of my runs I ended up in a State Park where I saw numerous Alligators. My life was pretty good and exciting and interesting.
A week ago as I am writing this particular paragraph the SHIT started to hit the fan. We had two Women at the NCAA National Indoor Track & Field Meet with my Assistant Coach. We get an Email that the meet will be held with Limited Fans. Then another email that there would be NO SPECTATORS at all. One of our Qualifiers was a freshmen from California and her parents just flew in to North Carolina (where NCAA Meet was). Then 30 Min passed and the NCAA National Indoor Meet was cancelled. THEN so was the Outdoor NCAA National Meet. Ironically the night before in our NIGHTLY SPRING BREAK COACHES MEETINGS we thought we had a shot at Seven, yes 7, NCAA qualifiers for the Outdoor Meet. This announcement was a stomach Punch. We got an Email from the President of our college saying we were De-Densifying our campus and all spring Sports could stay and practice and compete while all classes would be online. Ok, this could be good. I could now practice at normal hours and be home for dinner with kids. Heck with not many people on campus I had plans to bring my own kids to practice.
Friday Morning, we depart early for our 2nd meet on Spring Break. We go in waves so people aren’t stuck at the meet all day as it was going to be warm that day. My Two Assistants take the first wave of athletes as their events were going first. I leave with a big group an hour later. On the way to the meet my Athletic Director calls me. He said to pull the team out…the President of the college instructed him to get us out. I call my Throws coach… we are done. Oh and the De-densifying the campus was OFF. Everyone was to go home. Three weeks we were told.
So there was no real instruction on WHEN to come home and we had the houses for two more nights. SO We stayed. It was to be the last two days of normal I think I would know. The Drive home was weird…I missed my kids tremendously and I had never had spent so much time away from them, but it was truly a re-energizing vacation and totally worth it. But I knew I was coming home to a brand new reality.
So now what. Once Home we were informed our season has been cancelled . My Saturdays and Sundays were either Track & Field Meets or Fun Adventure Stuff with the kids. NO MEETS and Now, NOTHING IS OPENED. Mon/Tues were filled with Kids stuff. The Rest of the Week were filled with Late Practices, Fitness Classes, an occasional Drink Out, Night Runs, and More Fitness Classes (its way better than being an alcoholic…because that is where I am worried I am headed). Now there is nothing. Every one of my Nightly activities has been Eliminated.
This is MY FAULT. I just WISHED FOR A BREAK. I am getting it . I don’t have to rush around to five different places anymore. I don’t have to keep two changes of clothes in the car anymore. There is nothing to change for, nothing to rush for. By Trying to always be EVERYWHERE, I am actually NOWHERE. I have perfected the art. Now, there is not an EVERYWHERE to be because most things have been eliminated. I am forced to be Me. I better figure out who that GUY is.
For a brief moment, even I doubted him. When he went down at our conference Championships, I thought it was over. I had already been thinking about writing something about this man, sorry, this MAN. I say MAN because he keeps getting up. There was a scene in the movie Rocky (the first one in 1976)that reminds me of him. Apollo Creed was pretty much killing Rocky Balboa in a boxing match. Rocky went down(AGAIN) in a late round. The referee was counting Rocky out; it didn’t look good. Somehow, with wobbly legs Rocky got up. HE GOT UP! At 9 seconds into a 10 count of Jaevon Hardy’s Collegiate Track Career…HE GOT UP!
I pride myself in finding Talent. Okay, let’s be honest here. Talent seems to find me, but I am pretty good at figuring out who can do what and what event they should do etc. I am a college track coach with a very high school mind set. As a high school coach I would walk the halls or lunch room and ask kids to try track out. It worked. In this case, Jaevon sought me out. “Okay Jaevon, you can join the team. What are you good at?”, I asked the young man during MARCH (yes after the indoor Season) of his freshmen year. Jaevon came to Westminster to play football, even though he had only played one year of high school football (and way out of position). So, we put him in High Jump. He had no spikes and NO FORM. He was athletic though and definitely not terrible. However, my attendance policy is loose (Some would say LAX), and he was trying to play spring football and was (at the time) a science major. We didn’t see him as much as we should have. We had a pretty good men’s team that year and finished 2nd in the conference. We had a good 4 x 100 relay team and had a ‘B’ relay team as well. Jaevon was on the ‘B’ relay one day and claimed he RAN DOWN the #2 leg of the ‘A’ team. Well, as usual, I have 5000 things going on around me, and I thought he looked good but couldn’t quite remember him running the 2nd leg down (he probably did though in hind sight). Problem was I was focused on the A team and wasn’t really watching Jaevon. It seemed he made up ground but since in a far away lane and I couldn’t really tell for sure. Anyway, I made the coaching BLUNDER of my life and only had him in the HIGH JUMP at our conference championship. He didn’t place. The season ended without fanfare and I moved to the next year.
That summer I was offered another position at another school. I was tempted. I went to three interviews. This decision was tough. I was just very confident about this group of Men I had returning (ironically at the time, Jaevon wasn’t the reason I stayed at Westminster College). I stayed at Westminster College.
That year, his sophomore year, Jaevon started to come to Indoor Workouts as soon as the season started. In early Feb he asked if he could run the 60 dash as well as the High Jump. I said yes and entered him in a fairly big Indoor Invitational that weekend. Well, don’t you know it, without any block work, sprint technique work, or conditioning he wins his heat and makes the FINAL of the 60 dash at this meet. He finishes 2nd to a National Qualifier. OH Boy….I AM AN IDIOT. This guy is GOOD!
So Jaevon just missed Indoor Nationals in his Sophomore year, but he does make NCAA Nationals in Outdoor. Along the way he Leads our team to a HUGE conference title and almost making the NCAA in the 4x 100. It was such a fun ride. But as a Race Horse can be ‘OVER RACED” we (okay I) probably rode Jaevon too hard. He was in the 4 x 100, the 100, the 200, he Long Jumped, High Jumped, and ran the 4 x 400. He was SPENT. His shins were hurting. Oh and because I am a road tripper, we drove to the NCAA Meet in IOWA. We stopped in South Bend and stayed in Chicago on the way. He missed the NCAA final in the 100 meters by a few .100s of a second. We drive 12 hours back…empty handed.
During his Junior year, he was on FIRE. He sets records in the 60 and 200 Indoor. Our team is not great, but he puts us on his back and makes us decent as a team. He qualifies for the Nationals in indoor and then sinks to a Jaevon Hardy Low. We go to the NCAA banquet the night before the meet, and perhaps there wasn’t enough food for this man at the banquet. So after the banquet; the night before the NCAA Championship, he walks to Chipotle because he is still hungry.
The next morning I get a call. Its Jaevon. He’s sick. Throwing up, diarrhea, chills. OH NO!!!!! I go to pharmacy. I get everything I can to help him. We went to the meet, he heads to the warm up area, and he sat down. I walked out the warm up area and I knew…it was over.
Oh and I was going through a divorce at the time. I was desperately trying to save this marriage and things started to hit the fan on this trip. The NCAA National meet was the start of our spring break trip which we went to Chicago then flew to Myrtle Beach, SC for our Spring Break Outdoor Track Training Trip. I had three little kids and was trying to save a marriage. I was away for like 11 days straight. It was as low as I have ever been in my life. I think (at the time) Jaevon was at his lowest. But it was at this point, that we really formed a bond. He saw me HURTING like no one else ever had.
That season was miserable for me. I was empty. I don’t know another word to describe it. I remember going to bed hoping that I could sleep and that the next day I would actually FEEL something. I had nothing. I didn’t care. I went through the motions. I entered people into meets, I made travel arrangements. I had practice. BUT I DIDN’T CARE. I knew my marriage was over and that I couldn’t save it. I had three little kids that I was trying to shield from this and I just floated through the entire season. I am pretty sure April and May of 2017 I had hit rock bottom.
Jaevon Hardy Saved me. He had a super hero team though. 2017 Westminster Track and Field may have been my worst coaching year ever, but it might go down as one of the most successful season of my career (NO THANKS TO ME). We had four unbelievable Pole Vault Women that made the NCAA Meet that year. In fact my Assistant Coach Bradi Rhoades was named Assistant Coach of the year in our Region for this. We get to the hotel and I had two to a room. But there was only one bed and the rooms were tiny. OH and it was a 1950s/1960s Resort town on Lake Erie. Plan B…GO. So I sort of pride myself on figuring out problems on the go. Plan A never seems to work so you’ve got to adjust. (One of my current problem is that I am beat down by never using Plan A that I just don’t plan at all. I need to get out of that habit). Geneva on the Lake is still a popular place but I was able to get everyone their own room. I write this now because at the moment I am staying in the exact same place. I try not to be superstitious….but I will take a bit of luck if it is there to be had.
Geneva on the Lake is just dead. Nothing like I remember. Places were boarded up and only a few things were open. The team and my assisntant coach looked at me like I was crazy. It was Scenic though. There were benches overlooking the lake at the park across the street. Beautiful. EXCEPT IT WAS RAINING…and that really helped us.
The NCAA committee moved the Women’s Pole Vault indoors. The two time defending National Champion was in this event. We have four women in this event and one of which was a 7 (YES SEVEN) time NCAA All-American. On paper, our girl is 3rd at best. In a stunning turn of events and a very fortunate bounce of a pole 14′ feet in the air, OUR Girl wins the NCAA POLE VAULT. Westminster College’s First ever individual National Champion. I didn’t coach this woman, but I had seen her grow up. My assisstant Coach had already strapped me on his back to carry me over the finish line of the season, and now he motivated this woman to do the impossible. AND SHE DID IT.
The next day it was Hardy’s turn. He didn’t run a great race and finished third in his heat. But it was enough to get the 7th spot. He qualifies for the Final of the 100 meter Dash. Our last night in Geneva on the Lake is memorable. Bradi and I walk to a Bar owned by an Irish woman. She was a pretty blond, mid forties, divorced. And just like in those dramatic DOCTOR Shows on tv… the paddles go on the patient, the doctor yells “CLEAR”, a pause….pause…ba bup!!!! It worked. My heart worked again! I never got her number or asked her out. BUT MY HEART WORKED!!!
The next day Jaevon Hardy shocks the NCAA. He runs an amazing race. He finishes 3rd in the Nation. We celebrated like he was first. I had a bit of that high the day before with Kalsey’s Championship. But I had a small hand in that. I definitely felt like I played a part in this one. We were on cloud nine and on top of the world. Three years of track…yeah maybe olympics…right?
That summer was up-and-down for me. There were still some low points for me (mood wise) but I was trending up. I was excited for the cross country season as we had many pretty good returners on the women’s side coming back. Jaevon was killing it in his preparation for the upcoming football season as many thought that he might even have a chance to go to the next level in that sport because of his size and speed.
I was so excited about the 1st game of the football season. I brought my kids to the game. We were playing a nationally ranked team. And through the 2nd quarter the game was close. With about 4 minutes to go in the 1st half Westminster begins a drive. On a critical down the Westminster quarterback launched a long pass down the left sideline that is a bit underthrown to one of the fastest people on the planet. Jaevon has his guy beat badly but has to slow down as the ball is underthrown. But in doing so allows the guy covering him to catch up. The guy dove at his legs and takes Jaevon down from behind. the crowd hears a scream. It is Jaevon; he’s writhing in pain. The Trainers ru out, coach runs out, it doesn’t look good.
It turned out that he broke his leg. And required surgery. It was going to be a long recovery. And we were told he may not ever be the same.
One of the problems of not caring about the job from November until the next school year is that basically I didn’t do any recruiting. We had lost a lot of people from the season before in cross country and track-and-field and we were reaping what we sowed. We weren’t very good at all.
To make matters even worse for me was that during XC we had a solid Women’s team. A sophomore woman almost made the NCAA meet. And a day after the Regional he mom dies. Then we found out she was tranfering to a
However we do find a few people that we did not expect to do what they did. The Titan women actually win the indoor conference championships in a major upset. All of a sudden we were on upward trajectory. Then at the same time as our Women are winning the PAC conference Indoor Meet, Jaevon, who wasn’t himself during his return, runs the fastest time in the nation in the 60 dash.
I take a group of athletes to a meet, the week before nationals in New York City and it was amazing. I showed them all around New York and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a coach and we perform really well. The only drawback is that I probably should not have brought the fastest man in the nation.
He wins the meet in New York City but it may have been a pyrrhic victory. I ran him in that meet in the hope that he could qualify in the 200 meters as well. Well we never even ran that race-, because in winning the 60 m he said his leg didn’t feel right. So we definitely shut him down as NCAA Nationals was the following week.
We had a bad draw for lane assignment as Jaevon was way out in the outside lane. There was also a strange warm up time and I did a bad job of prepping him to stay ready. He ran an okay race, but Okay is not quite what we needed. He did not make the final. He was pretty motivated to come back strong for the outdoor season.
CAN WE GO LOWER?
We faced bad weather early in the outdoor season and for sprinters to run fast times there really needs to be some HEAT. Finally in our Home Meet with great competition and good weather Jaevon pulled up lame in the 100. There was just too much stress on his body and we were pressed for time. He is able to come back two weeks later in our Conference Championships. He wins the 100 at looks good However, the weather was BAD. Windy, rainy, and cool. NOT IDEAL. His 100 was so good though in ugly weather. We had no chance to win, and I probably should have just told him not to run the 200. But the guy was on his way to be a legendary PAC performer. Winning the 200 would give him 6 gold medals in individual events for his career. He looks good for 150 and is winning, but then you can see that the lack of training was taking its toll, and he was tightening. Then 10 meters before the finish his muscle strains and he pulls up lame. He Crossed the finish, but he didn’t win. No 200 Title and he leaves the meet on Crutches. Its over.
We don’t even go to a meet the next weekend. He says he wants to give it another go. Therapy has been good. He is sitting at like 35 in Nation (they take 20). OKAY, I am game…let’s give it the old college try. BUT in typical Jaevon Hardy weather luck, the next meet is in Cleveland and it is mid to low 50s. NOT GOOD SPRINT WEATHER. He runs an okay semifinal round…makes the final. When I say okay, I really mean he looked strained, hurt, tired. BUT him at that level is still better than most of the world. He makes the final.
RISE UP Part (I lost count)
He wins the Final at This race. He looked a little like his old self. It put him 20th in the nation. Later that evening, when other results pour in, he is back to 23….Not going to make it. So we have to run again. This is troubling to me because I know his body can’t handle the rigors of THREE HARD RACES IN like 18 days. We go to Ohio Wesleyan in Columbus, OH the next week and it is PERFECT Sprint Weather, HOT with a Slight Tail Wind. Same situation, it was an okay Semi…but it gets him to the Finals where there are 5 guys ranked ahead of him in the Nation that also make the final. This was the perfect opportunity. We both felt that he could beat them all. He does that and he is IN.
I was so nervous. The final was like 3 hours later. I took a walk; I walked all over. I thought about this man’s journey. I thought about my journey and how I had came to be at this moment. I thought about all the times together and how I didn’t want them to end. I prayed to the Track GODS.
Back at the Track, Jaevon gets ready for his race. And man if there was ever a guy that gets bad heat draws or bad lane assignments it is certainly Jaevon. Only two other guys show up for the heat besides Jaevon. The other five fast guys felt pretty good about their National Standing that they didn’t check in for this race. The only guys in the race were guys that Jaevon was clearly faster than.
If he was going to do it, if he was going to make the NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS, he would have to do it ON HIS OWN.
Just as in previous Championships, when we all got onto his back (FIGURATIVELY) and he carried us, THIS MAN, does it again. He ran the 2nd fastest time of his career and jumps into the top 10 of the Nation. WE WERE GOING TO THE NCAA MEET! WHEW!
So this is probably an anti-climatic finish…but Jaevon does not make the finals of the 100 meter dash. In many track events, there is time to make up for mistakes or to get loose during a race or to recover from a bad step. In the 100 dash…when many are all similar in talent, every 100th of a second is CRITICAL. The amount of FORCE each step generates would injure a majority of the population who couldn’t handle that much force. Jaevon was applying that force with pins in his leg (from the surgery which were never taken out. An X-Ray earlier in the year indicated that he had actually slightly BENT those screws that put his bones back togther). This man made it back up the mountain on One Freaking Leg. This last effort was not a Fall at all. Getting to that NCAA Meet was his last RISE on which he finished his collegiate career. There is a song by Andra Day called Rise Up. In it she says, ” I’ll rise up, I’ll rise unafraid, I’ Rise Up, And I’ll do it a thousand times again.” This is why I love Jaevon Hardy….because he will Rise UP!
This is a SWEATY, physically painful job. There is Travel and constant weekend work. It has an unimaginably, inconsistent time schedule and I work with very uncooperative co-workers. At times I freeze and swear at the wind which always seems to blow in the wrong direction. It is muddy, slimy, and sandy. It is also Heartbreaking almost every year.
BUT, I absolutely LOVE it. I love all that goes with it, and all the people that are connected to it.
Job #2 is dirty. It is Stressful. This job makes my clothes smell like dust/oil/factory. This job consumes way too much time. It keeps me up at night worrying. This job has me on the brink of being fired from job #1 and MAY have been a final nail in the coffin of the breakup of my marriage.
But, I Love the men who work there and the People surrounding it and the Legacy that it carries on.
No one tells you how dirty this job is or hard…you have to find out for yourself. I get yelled at constantly and talked back to. I repeat myself over and over and over and over… I have totally unreliable “coworkers” who either wake up way too early or Don’t get out of bed at all until you call them, yell at them and threaten to “FIRE” Them. My feet are wet, dirty, and I seem to track mud everywhere. I pick things up to find that I have to do it again WAY TO SOON to the point where I wonder why I even bothered to pick things up at all. There is little to no sleep at times and the job is not a 9 to 5. IT NEVER ENDS! Oh and there is poop and puke!
THis is my absolute favorite job…and I would do it again and again AND AGAIN!!!!
I love them ALL. I wake up Happy. I do, however, have Guilt. Because of all these jobs I feel that I don’t (can’t) give 100% to all of them. This could lead to #1 or #2 being downsized or eliminated (but this is a really, really hard decision). Job # 3 is a FOREVER job and is my FAVORITE. In fact I am thinking of bringing on more of these Unreliable “Employees”. I just need the right “Business Partner”.
I don’t know exactly where the shift happened. Maybe my LIFE just got better in general. I studied in college to be a Teacher. I became a teacher and my first two years of teaching were NOT GOOD. I think it had to do with Coaching Football. I HATED IT!!! (Probably had a lot to do with being an assistant and not having control over my schedule). I traveled to Asia, Europe,and across the U.S for a year to “find myself”. I found out that you make your own happiness. When I returned I became a Teacher again and absolutely loved it!!!. I left that job for an out of State Teaching Job and was not so happy. I was just another employee…I did not matter. Then I became the Head Cross Country and Track & Field Coach at Westminster College. It wasn’t a job it was ME. There is an old saying: “find something you love to do and you will never work a day in your life”.
Eight Years ago my Dad passed away. He owned a business. The guys who worked there were like my older brothers and were in their 50s. I was worried about their future, so I took that responsibility on. I hated it at first; I had no idea what I was doing. I stressed over how to make payroll each month and that I didn’t really know how to generate business. Long story short…I kind of figured it out.
My ex-wife and I struggled to have kids. We went to specialists. We had so many miscarriages I lost count. They were completely devastating each time. Then boom, Boom, BOOM- Three kids in a row with hardly a breath between. Being a Dad added to stress level because I wanted to be a great Dad…like the one that I had. So coaching my kids’ sports (or just playing with them) now became another chunk of time and other things (like recruiting calls to prospective Student-Athletes or sales calls to clients) were seriously squeezed.
So as I was unplugging a Track & Field Steeplechase pit I couldn’t help but think about the DIRTY JOBS I have.
Here I am the HEAD XC/TF coach at Westminster College and because the PLUG in the pit was jammed, I was the one who had to go in and get it. I lay on my stomach and stuck my hand in. This water was GROSS. Rain water, slime, mud, environmental dust, leaves, slugs, etc. The water was brown…I couldn’t even see the plug. Yes, I could have had an assistant do this. One has small (as in length) arms and would have been in the water and one is a distance runner who probably wouldn’t have the strength to pull this plug out due to all the water pressure. I pride myself in leading from the FRONT. Don’t make someone do something that you aren’t willing to do yourself. Well, I wasn’t willing, but what other option was there. You think Nick Saban (Alabama Head Football Coach) or Urban Meyer (Ohio State Head Coach) have to do stuff like this?!?
But doing this made me laugh. It was just another funny story. Like the time my assistant and I had to move the high jump pits inside and realized the cover must have had a leak and the foam was full of water and FROZE. We basically labored to move frozen blocks of ice. Or the trip to NCAA nationals to Wisconsin years ago when we found our Women at a bar talking to some Men that we had met earlier that night and thought they were shady characters. We chased the guys off and took the girls into the elevator and we all busted out laughing. The People I coach are amazing. They are so busy…way busier that I ever was in college. They are truly STUDENT-ATHLETES that are way OVER INVOLVED. I think this is why I seem to connect well to them. I know how they feel. Each spring I have to say goodbye to the seniors. And that is the hardest thing about my job. I watch them grow up before my eyes. I see them come to my school as boys and girls and see them leave Men and Women. I am a CRYER….so yes, it makes these goodbyes unbelievably hard. While I hate Crying, I am so fortunate to be in a job that I get to share so much LOVE, JOY, and Pain.
Before this season started I started to wonder if I wanted to do the coaching job anymore. My kids are getting older and I am going to be forced to chose between my job and some of their extracurricular activities very soon. I expressed to one of my Long Time Assistant coaches that I was thinking of leaving. He told me to stop being a WIMP (Slight word Change) and that most people have to REALLY WORK. It hit home…yeah, I have a job I love with a lot of flexibility.
At my shop, 20 years ago we used to joke that Hollywood should make a sitcom about THE SHOP. Then Reality TV hit and those types of shows got popular. I think we missed our chance…but a reality show about The Shop would have had unique personalities and regular visitors that would have been an entertaining watch.
I get to go into Beautiful homes because we do a lot of residential work. I go to amazing lakes because we do a lot of marine work. And I end up at the Dirtiest of Steel Mills because of our industrial coverings. Every day is different and interesting. I used to be a school teacher and I cannot imagine going back to that job, same thing same place day after day after day!
I struggle with guilt because I try to be everywhere (school, shop, home) I often feel like I am nowhere. I can leave my house at 7:45 AM and get home at 7:45 PM (pretty typical day) and feel like I didn’t accomplish much. It is hurry up and get to the next job, or hurry up to pick kids up, or hurry up and wait. I can see my colleagues at either job saying “Tim is NEVER here”. Heck, I feel like I am never there!
I don’t know how to solve this problem, but it is a good problem to have. I know people that punch a clock for eight hours a day and hate their job. I am fortunate that I work 10-12 hours a day and it feels like I am not even working. Then I get to be Dad.
My dad was an awesome dad. He was my first and forever coach. Each day as I play with my kids, help them with homework, talk to them, take them to practices, bike rides etc I realize that I am trying to be the Dad that my Father was. I can only hope that I am as successful as he was.
Three on One Parenting is very difficult. Because at Home there is no MOM, I have to fill that role (a whole post can be filled on gender roles). I make lunches and dinner, do laundry, fold clothes, etc). I try to clean up! I DO TRY!! My guilt in single parenting is that I dont do the DAD stuff 100%. I try to play catch, wrestle, bike rides, kick soccer balls, play tag, catch crayfish etc. But it is really hard when also filling the mom roles. I am not sure women feel this guilt about Dad Roles especially if they are the ones who want divorce.
Each stage of my kids’ lives is a joy to watch. I miss them being little…but hey who knows…maybe the right woman will come along and I can bring a few new “UNRELIABLE EMPLOYEES” on.
My life is a Journey. I would like to say that I am picking all the paths that I want to go down on my journey, but I would be lying. There are times that things are so out of control and I end up on paths that are unfamiliar and scary. I picked some of these jobs and some of these jobs PICKED ME. I am happy that I chose to be COACH. I am happy that this Business picked me to be BOSS. AND I am VERY HAPPY that my kids call me “DAD”!
“In this world you can learn to dance like there’s no tomorrow ” Andrew McMahon LEARN TO DANCE
The year I got divorced was an emotional roller coaster. I wouldn’t wish a divorce (when one doesn’t want it) on my worst enemy. I floated through my days during the early part of the year. I was lost and felt nothing emotionally inside my soul for long stretches. There were bouts of extreme sadness. There was emptiness. The emptiness was worse. Then I felt extreme rage at what had happened to my family. I remember welcoming the anger because feeling anger was better than not feeling at all. And ANGER was certainly more manly than the sadness I felt. I could not control it though. It was like the characters Sadness and Rage killed Joy and Fear from the movie Inside Out.
I joined a gym and started taking fitness classes as the social aspects of group class soothed a lot of the rage and emptiness. I reconnected with old friends at the gym. One of my sisters old friend’s husband taught a fitness class where you lift heavy Kettlebells and do a lot A LOT of Burpees (you know where you throw yourself on the ground, get back up, and then do it again!…yeah, I pay to do it too. Perhaps a story on that another time.).
This particular gym had a Halloween party and I went. The old friend of my sister’s brother runs a Ballroom Dance studio. He was at the party with many of the members of the dance studio. A particular girl dressed as a character of one of my favorite ever movies The Wizard of Oz stood out to me. We actually had a good talk. She was a dancer. This dance thing might be really good for me. Long story short…I signed up for one free class at Fred Astaire Dance studio. I gave all my info and it was scheduled for around the middle of Nov.
I knew absolutely nothing of dancing. I had heard of the Waltz, but Foxtrot, Rumba, Tango??!!?? I struggled with the Electric Slide in college. I was always a willing dancer at weddings and parties though. Often (when married) I would be only guy on dance floor at weddings. I enjoyed dancing…but I just moved around a lot. No rhythm at all!
What would it hurt to take one free lesson, right? I got an email saying my instuctor would be Oksana. I creep on her Facebook. Eastern European…and from her dance photos-Damn!!!…that body of hers!!!! I was definitely more interested in this dancing thing.
Oksana was amazing. I was hooked from the first 10 minutes. I learned the waltz, foxtrot, tango, rumba, and swing. I signed up for the 10 class package. It was not cheap! But it was definitely worth the money.
There were group lessons too. On Friday nights there was a beginner group class and then a free dance party. I went most fridays. I danced with so many people. It was a little like being in 8th grade again at a school dance. I danced with everyone…great dancers, older ladies, beginners (not that many beginners as me though).
The Studio had a 60th Anniversary celebration, they had showcases, and they had Competitions. I went to watch most of them. The social aspect was soothing to my soul. I began to believe that I could do these things.
The change didn’t happen slowly either. All of a sudden I am watching You Tube videos of Dance Competitions in Europe, How To videos on dance steps, and past seasons of Dancing with the Stars. I am studying these (sometimes in slow motion) like a Football Coach watching game film..rewind, slow motion, again again again.
Oksana’s name became a familar one in my house and my world as I probably talked about her WAY too much. But she was helping me find the ME that disappeared the last few years of marriage. The ME that Traveled the world easily 20 years ago, that wanted to be around people, and the me that longed for Adventure and New Experiences.
“I am going to be a dancer”, I said to my kids one evening.
“Ha ha ha ha ha ha”, my son burst and pointed at me like i was some dork who dropped his tray in the cafeteria at school and He was the school bully. I have to admit, I felt a little bit of pride at his reaction. Dancing still felt a bit Wrong in my Worldview. It was like Billy Elliot in reverse.
Part 2: The SHOWCASE
“She took my arm, I don’t know how it happened, we took the floor and she said, ‘Oh don’t you dare look back, Just keep your eyes on me’, I said you’re holding back, She Said ‘Shut up and Dance with Me’. SHUT UP AND DANCE WITH ME by Walk the Moon
Sometime in the middle of my Track & Field Season, while balancing 3 kids’ young lives, hosting the conference Track & Field Championships, getting over 150 customers awnings up for spring, bringing on a brand new employee at my shop, and trying to reach my goal of actually reading a book per season of the year (TOTAL FAIL) Oksana convinces me that I should do this showcase. The showcase is really just a synonym for a Dance Recital that grownups who spend a LOT OF MONEY on dance like to use.
She wants me to do the Waltz. She knows my dancing and where I feel comfortable. I completely feel at ease doing the Smooth Dances. I really like the Waltz, Foxtrot, and Tango. I am not so into the dance where there is a lot of HIP action and Rhythm. I like Waltz. I agree and sign up.
Oksana and the other professional at the studio had me watch them perform the exact dance they think that I am able to do with my current abilities. We film it. I get a copy of that film. If that recording was a VHS tape, I would have worn it out. I watched it, I studied it. I practiced it by myself. My college has a dance studio and I would regularly go there and practice always looking in the mirror in case someone was at the glass doors where I would then stop dancing and pretend to do something else when someone walked by. I remember being annoyed when the actual Dance team was in there using it.
Since I signed up for the second set of 10 lessons at the Dance Studio, I tried to balance the cost of the individual lessons and take as many of the free Group lessons that I could to lower the Per Class Cost. Once this Showcase thing got going, the frugality went out the window. I went to Private Lessons 3 times per week sometimes. I actually won a prize at one of the Friday Dance parties for most lessons attended during a week.
I actually had to take a week off due to work to travel to the NCAA National Track & Field Championships. The very next practice after that, I really had trouble with a step. I couldn’t get it right. I would step left instead of right. I would not RISE and Fall as you are supposed to do with the Waltz, I would get it right once then fail the next two times. I was frustrated. The next morning I was supposed to have a hard Run Workout. I started the run then stopped at the Tennis Courts at the park, pulled out the DANCE FILM on my phone and walked my dance out, then slowly danced it, then figured it out and turned it into MUSCLE MEMORY. When that worked, I started doing that a lot. Workouts went out the door. I had to practice this dance!
The dress rehearsal was on a Thursday. I was nervous during the day. At the studio that night the butterflies really went to a level I hadn’t felt since before playing for a college National Championship in Football at 21 years old. I was weak kneed! And IT WAS THE DRESS REHEARSAL!
I cancelled my friday appointment with Oksana (I was nervous to tell her..ha ha). I took a fitness class with my friend who in a sense got me into the whole dance thing. I practiced at the tennis courts that night…no Friday drinking or carousing for me. Laser focus…like the good old days. Oh to have something new and exciting to be Nervous about was exhilarating.
Normally i get my kids every Saturday at noon. I asked my ex-wife if she could keep them till Sunday. It would have been an expensive babysitter because we had to be at studio at 1:45 for the 4:00 show (and there was a party after). I was kidless for a Saturday. I went to the Dance Studio; hung out, we talked, we did another rehearsal. I felt much better!
Now when i say we had a dress rehearsal I should have said I HAD two dress rehearsals but my partner did not. Oksana wasn’t in her showcase outfit for either rehearsal. I did have to pick her up, so I was curious how that was going to go. When I see her dance outfit….I get those butterflies again. But these butterflies didn’t have spots…they had Hearts!!! Oh this WOMAN!!! Long Flowing peach Skirt and a Halter Top with ABS like a Fitness Model and Tight Tiny Arms with an Elbow that would cut you open. OH HOW ON EARTH DID I NOT GET INVOLVED IN DANCE IN JUNIOR HIGH AS I STARTED TO NOTICE GIRLS!!!
I get it together, but I am Nervous. I am first dance in the first act… We walk out. We dance. I KNOW IT! I DO IT! I step Right when I am supposed to. I step left when I am supposed to; I rise and fall as is the WALTZ. I nail the step that caused me to quit my run and practice in the tennis courts a few weeks ago. I time it right and we end the dance exactly as the music ends. I think I did well. We Bow…we walk out. She gives me a big HUG and says she is so proud of me. This woman has changed MY WORLD…and she is genuinely proud of me for a 2 minute waltz.
There was a dinner afterwards paid for by a VERY GENEROUS couple who were in the showcase as well. I go. There were about 40 people or so. I look around and realize that I have made so many new friends and now have new goals, new skills, and new dreams.
My divorce was official 13 months to the day of that Showcase. I will never forget that darkness in my heart. The darkness is gone. There have been a steady series of lights that have turned on in my heart to drive the darkness away, and that Dance Light is burning pretty bright right now!
If you are (or were) a team sport athlete (basketball, football, soccer, hockey, etc) you tend to remember games. You probably recall details of games that will stick with you (for good or bad) for years. I get together with old football buddies and we go over the exact play to win games or who missed an assignment at a key spot in 2nd quarter or how a missed free throw in 3rd quarter set us up for a big comeback. The sport of Track & Field is different. We dont talk as much about the actual races, jumps, or throws. Often it is the road trips, the tents full of team members that someone pushes a water pocket off and it ends up down someone’s back, or the restaurants we stop in after the meets that we end up talking about years later. We talk about the relationships that began or ended (often awkwardly) since we spend a lot of time together, the hotels, and the long drives.
And maybe it is just me that invites chaos or embraces chaos or is even attracted to chaos. But certainly being on my Track & Field teams is an opportunity for adventure.
It was my second or third year as a Head Boys’ and Girls’ (High School) Track & Field Coach when the Adventures started.
We went to Ohio State University for an Indoor Track & Field Meet. It was a friday night so it was well after 10pm when we were done. I took the team to dinner at 24 hour restaurant right in the heart of the University on High St. There were 12 of us, enough to fill a van.
So about 11:30 we leave the restaurant and go to the parking lot. As we approach the spot where we parked, there is a significant gap. No van, but definitely a sign saying Tow Away Zone-No Parking. How did i miss that?!? It was plain as day. It was dark though and I did back into the spot and I was managing 11 high school kids by myself…but HOW DID I MISS THAT?!?!
I am a big believer in Plan B, C, and D. I honestly don’t think plan A ever works so i am always ready to adjust. But i was a young, new coach then. Ok…”what do i do now, i thought?”. There was a phone number to call if vehicles were towed. I called it. It was impounded. The man gave me the address. It would be $100 to get it out and he said they were open 24 hours.
How do i get to this impound yard and what I do with these 11 kids? It was beginning of the cell phone age, so i had a cell number of one of my former track athletes who was a freshmen at OSU. I called him. He lived in The Towers.
I brought the team there, he lived pretty high up. On a Friday night in January, I dropped 2 freshman, 3 sophomores, and 4 juniors off in a College Dorm!
Our Alumnus had a car, so he drove me and two of my student-athletes to the address of the impound yard. It was in the dark outskirts of the city…like Escape from New York dark (you know the classic Kurt Russel film).
Dark, dingy, gated (do i need to mention the beware of the dog sign) was this impound yard. There was an office (do I need to mention the bullet proof glass). A man laying on a cot arises when we buzz in. I explain why I am there. He gets the paperwork and tells me $100. I go to put it my credit card in the exchange slot. “Cash only”, he tells me. Yep, plan C.
We leave the impound yard looking for an ATM. Anthony (perhaps my favorite athlete I’ve ever coached) said, “this is just like that movie Adventures in Babysitting!” Hmnn, i have always really liked Elizabeth Shue. And yes it was a lot like that movie. We find an ATM. I get the cash. We go back to the Impound yard. I pay the man. We walk through the Pipe Turnstyle Gate into the Yard. Lots of beat up cars, a few nice ones, and a white van. Whew!
Ok, next to rescue the rest of my team in the College dorm at now about 2am. We take the elevator up. All kinds of doors are open in the hallway and college kids are meandering in and out of rooms. We get to the room. They are all there playing video games and watching a movie. Again…WHEW! “Let’s Go, everyone,” i said.
We leave. We check into the hotel at about 3AM. I cant sleep. I take a bath because my adrenaline is still a bit high from the night. Little did i know that the adventures were just starting.
Plan A just never seems to work. Good thing i am always ready for Plan B.
My life is filled with Adventure. Obviously not James Bond adventure or Indiana Jones adventure, but my life is not boring! It got boring though for a time.
I am a single Dad. I get my kids (there’s 3) each sat at noon and we are a family till I drop them at school on Wednesday. I have adventures with them and when they go to their Mom’s my life becomes a bit surreal.
In another post I will fill you in on the me while married looking at himself in the mirror each night and each morning wondering if this is all there is in life (for the record, i did not want the divorce, did not ask for a divorce, and did all I could do to save my family-just way too late).
I decided to start this blog on my 44th birthday when I realized that my life is an adventure.
There are stories of what happens when I travel with my team, things that happen at my business, and when I am exploring life with my three kids. But the day I decided to start this blog is quite funny.
My business is somewhat unique in that we do a lot of varied things. We take fabric of various sort and make things. In this case we made a Winter Cover for an RV. It was a bright, beautiful November Day.
The customer gave me the address (as they hired us to install as well), and I set out with one of my athletes that I hired for the day. The customer warned me that the address was confusing. I didn’t necessarily believe her and relied on my phone (i rely on the phone GPS way too much…perhaps another blog on that later).The RV was on property overlooking the lake, and sure enough the address did not come up on my phone when (I felt) it should have.
There was an RV overlooking the lake about a 1/4 mile back. I went to check it out. It was next to The Twisted Cherry, a strip club…a very shady strip club. Upon inspection of said RV I noticed the licence plate was registered with as an Historic Vehicle. It seemed pretty beat up but that’s why they needed the cover, right?!? And the bluff overlooking the lake was stunning!
We set our ladders and began to install the cover. As the cover is just about on. My phone rings… it is the customer, “Where are you?”, he asks.
“Ummm, we are just done the road, I think. We are by the Twisted Cherry.”
“Ok”, he says, “you are about a mile away.”
My only thought is what is this trailer next to the shady Twisted Cherry actually used for…and who might be in there at this moment while I am on top of it.
We quickly pulled the cover off the trailer and threw it in the truck unfolded. We drove down the street where the customer was waiting by the road. The bluff overlooking the lake is similar but more scenic. The RV is same size but cleaner, nicer.
He sees the cover all ragtag in back of truck. “What happened?”, he asks.
“Uh, we ran into a bit of trouble. All good though.”
We got the cover on. It looked great. The view over Lake Erie was amazing. My assistant was a bit awed as he didn’t realize (he is from FL) the Great Lakes were like Oceans.
We leave, we pass by the Twisted Cherry, and we laugh. I think to myself. My life is full of stories just like this! I need to write this stuff down.