The sun was at its hottest and most intense point in the afternoon sky and showed no signs of letting up soon. My butt was getting numb from sitting on concrete seats after only 40 mins. Welcome to a typical invitational high school track meet in So Cal. Needless to say I was ill prepared for the day's events. No hat, no cushion and no water. Still it didn't seem to really matter. It had been years since I had actually been to a meet and I had forgotten what it was like to be around young athletes and feeling that electricity in the air.
Don't get me wrong. I had been prepping a handful of athletes for the upcoming season but most of our work was indoors. Armed with kettle bells, plyo boxes and mini bands we forged our iron inside so they could proudly put them on display as weapons on days like today. As I watched the athletes flutter from the stands to the track and back to the stands again. I realized how much I missed and loved the sport. I had heard whispers of how the sport dying and how things had changed. If it was or had I didn't see it. All I saw was a stadium full of young athletes getting ready to run, jump and throw.
Each in their own little worlds, trying to control the nervous anxiety that was in the pits of their stomachs or going over how they just did in an event.
"You were awesome out there!" A father said to his daughter as she made her way up the stands, his words meeting her half way up. She said nothing. He hugged her told her that she had run a PR in the hurdles. "Ya, but I came in last" she replied. He put his arm around her and said ya but you ran a personal best. I'm pretty sure conversations like these were playing out all over the stadium, parents and coaches either congratulating or consoling.
I had two athletes competing that day but I watched as many heats and events as I could, runnners, jumpers, throwers all with different talent levels, competing and having fun. If the sport was dying no one had told them. I clapped, I cheered and even gave a few pointer to athletes who eyed me quizzicality.
As coaches and parents are job is to encourage, to support, to grow our young athletes. There were far more 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th competitors than there were top 3. The joy was in taking part, trying to figure out what went right or wrong, and being hopeful for the next event. I remember beaming after I had won a race and feeling disheartened after I had lost. That's where I grew the most as an athlete and more importantly as a person.
At the bottom of the stands making her way up was my athlete. " you looked great out there" I yelled enthusiastically and with a big smile. She said nothing. I gave her a hug.