Running IS a Team Sport

And pain is temporary, but regret can last a lifetime.

Coach Simmons taught me these things

back view photo of woman in active wear running on track field

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

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Giving “your all” individually is important, but Coach Simmons was all about the team. 

He was all about encouraging one another.

“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

I was “knee deep” into my run today and, nearly every time I run, I think about the words of the coaches I’ve had along the way.

I could’ve used a teammate’s motivation on my run today.

My apologies, Coach Simmons. Today I gave it up only 2 1/2 miles into my solo run. “But I got a late start and it’s already almost 100° in Arizona, AND it’s a bad air day due to all the fires.” I know, excuses excuses-He wouldn’t listen to excuses. Plan better. I should’ve hydrated better yesterday – my responsibility, not the failure of a teammate. 

Again, my apologies to Coach Simmons. 

Coach Simmons wouldn’t have wanted me to stop. 

A few brief words about Coach Simmons first. 

He was worn thin to say the least.

Not only was he our head high school track coach, he was also A-West’s football coach. He was also my typing teacher and, in addition, he taught the electives of law and society. Pretty sure he had a few more classes, I just didn’t know him that well. In retrospect, I have no idea how he did all this. Because he also was the father to two of my classmates. His daughter was on the cheerleading squad and his son was on the football team. Both were on the honor roll. (Wonder where they got their drive from?)

With all this on his plate, Coach Simmons was one of the most mild mannered, kind, encouraging coaches I’ve ever had. I never once heard him raise his voice. Now some might say this type of coaching won’t get you high performing athletes. Yet, this coach’s manner still sticks with me today. Coach Simmons taught us to encourage each other, especially when we want to stop or give up.

He would tell us, “If you see one of your teammates stopping or giving up, use every bit of your breath to encourage them and pull them along with you.

You see, Coach Simmons believed that it wasn’t about having the highest performing athlete; it was about building a team. He instilled in us healthy competition; but not at the expense of your teammates, your humanity, or your common sense when achieving these goals. He wanted athletes who gave it all, but also pulled each other along. Compete without regrets. 

And I was witness to the fact that this strategy worked. 

There were times when I was having a great day, and as I rounded that last corner of the quarter mile, when typically your legs feel like two by fours and your lungs are about to burst, I felt like I could fly; and I was able encourage a struggling teammate to “dig deep” that last 50 yards. Afterwards, they would tell me how that was the only thing that kept them going. 

More often times, I was that person needing the encouragement.

Is it laws of physics? Is it like “drafting?” Is it something deep in our cells’ structure or a brain synapse that is ignited with the right amount of positivity to push beyond the other voices in your head telling you that you can’t make it?

I can’t explain it, but I’m pretty sure Coach Simmons studied about it. 

Because it worked.

He built several relay teams that made it all the way to state. The Wildcat football team was always one of the top in the state, and often referred to as “the team to beat.” More importantly, Coach Simmons poured into the lives of so many athletes and his words and lessons live on, more than 30 years later.

Sitting in the cool of my house with a tall glass of ice water, I regret stopping. I could’ve finished. Next time…

Coach Simmons, you were right.

Another deep regret:  in my senior year after the track banquet, the team got together and TP’d (toilet papered) his house.

Wow—who knew we’d totally live to regret that??!! 

Again, Coach Simmons, my deepest apologies. 

But more importantly Coach Simmons, my extreme gratitude for being who you are and building our team. A team that looked out for those struggling. Individuals who used what they had left in their tank to build up one another. 

“He comforts me in all my trouble, so that I can comfort people who are in any trouble with the comfort with which I myself am comforted by God.”

2 Corinthians 1:4

To all the coaches, teachers, parents and individuals who take the extra time to speak into the lives of our youth; to those who are living examples of humility and kindness; to the ones who speak truth in love; to those who live the example without raising your voice or often, without using words—THANK YOU.

We’re all on the same team.

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