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.