Is this year’s team going to be great?
What makes a team great? In cross country, it is often the work done in June, July and August that determine how great a team or individual is going to be. Each year we are faced with graduating key members of our cross country team and faced with the challenge of replacing them. There are incoming freshman and new runners that often jump in and fill the void, and then there are those returning upperclassmen that want to secure their spot on the varsity roster. I have been blessed to have coached a few teams that I would consider great teams. Some by the accomplishments that they were able to attain, and some by the characteristics of the athletes on the team. When I sit back and look at those teams, there are certain characteristics that stick out to me. First and foremost the athletes were coachable. Second the athletes had the mentality of the team first. Lastly the athletes all had the same goals in mind. Let us take a look at each of these.
Coachable Athletes (The Desire)
A coachable athlete is not merely an athlete that seems to be the coaches favorite. I have had many coachable athletes that were a thorn in my side, yet that constant push back and forth is what got the most out of the athlete and the most out of me as a coach. A coachable athlete needs to know when to listen and when to speak up. Communication in my eyes is a leading cause of athletes rising above their potential. I remember my college coach telling me that you are not going to be on 7 days a week. You will have those practices that you just need to get through. You will have those practices that you may not finish or even start and then you will have those Olympic moments when everything just seems effortless and goes according to plan. The last one is the easy one for people to get through, but it is those difficult times that often lead to the most growth.
Team First Mentality (Selflessness vs Selfishness)
This one is often hard due to our selfish nature. In a sport like cross country, the team first mentality is often the cornerstone to success. Track & field can be very individualistic when you often feel like it is just you out there, but in cross country, there are seven girls on the starting line.It even goes beyond that. Everyone that shows up to practice has a roll and when the majority are putting the team first over themselves then the team will flourish. On those great teams, it was often individuals asking what needs to be done, not asking if this is all I can do.
I certainly have goals at the start of every season. Some specific for athletes, some specific for team aspirations, but it is the athletes taking those goals and making them their own that leads to success. Having goals for the team and goals for yourself can be the main driving force behind all the hard work you do day in and day out over the course of the summer.
Having goals is easy, Having the desire to be successful is easy, but it is the daily preparation that is the most difficult. We have all had those days where running got put off and on the back burner only to realize you ran out of hours in the day to do what was required. You can not pick and choose when you want to be successful. It must be a daily constant decision that you make. Often it is not easy, if it were there would be a lot more successful individuals in the world. So as we are halfway through the summer make sure you are doing your part to help our team be great next year.