As though stigmatizing the girls' basketball program at Green Fields Country Day School weren't enough, I now also "coach" the track and field team at the northwest-side school as well.
"Coach" is probably too strong of a word; indeed, one of my better athletes told my athletic director that I'm not so much a track coach as a track supervisor. However, being old and ... well, mostly just old, I'm able to get the kids into really cool competitive situations. For example, early in the season, we compete in the Round Valley Invitational, an indoor meet held in a domed high school football stadium up in the White Mountains. It's way sweet.
My son, Alexander (who was a champion discus-thrower in high school), started the track team a couple of years ago. But his studies limit his time, so I took it over last year. I really love track, but I'm still learning as I go. So far, my coaching technique—such as it is—pretty much amounts to pithy sayings, like telling runners, "Don't look back," and jumpers, "Get up in the air!" I also like to spring stuff on the kids, like showing up for a meet and telling them that they're competing in events that they've never practiced for before.
Kid: But Tom, I've never, ever done this before, not even in practice.
Tom: Yeah, after today, you won't ever be able to say that again. And try not to throw up.
I'm compiling all of this for a coaches' handbook I'm writing.
The kids actually had a spectacular season for which, despite my best efforts, I can take almost no credit. By season's end, we only had four boys and five girls in the entire program, but both squads finished fifth in their respective regional meets, and then the girls finished in the Top 10 at state, while the boys had a Top 15 finish. That's actually amazing, considering that some of the other teams had 20 or 30 kids each.
The state meet was held on the campus of Arizona State University, the motto of which used to be "ASU: We're Almost a College," but is now "ASU: Deceiving Tens of Thousands of People Every Year."
Because the Class 1A, 2A and 3A meets were being held simultaneously, the meet had to start at 12:30 in the afternoon ... in mid-May ... in the Valley of the Sun. So, naturally, ASU sent a list to all coaches of items that were banned from the stadium. At the top of the list: ice chests with drinks and/or ice in them. They would, however, quite generously sell you a bottle of Diet Coke at the concessions stand for only $3.75.
I'd have to be spitting dust to spend that kind of money for a soda (and not even a Diet Pepsi). I showed great restraint by only buying four of them over the two days I was there.
The meet was run by Greg Wayne, an Amphi grad who now teaches and coaches at Window Rock High School on the Navajo Reservation in Kayenta. He ran the thing with such machine-like precision that the biggest problem we had was that the early (12:30 and 4 p.m.) sessions would get over early, and we'd all have to sit around like mamooches for an hour or so waiting for the next session to begin. That's not a bad problem to have, considering what the alternative is.
The first day went really well. One of my sophomore girls, Maya Holzman, won the state championship in the high jump. It was the first individual state championship for a Green Fields kid ever (although Kerri Strug probably would have won in gymnastics, if they'd had such a competition).
The next day, Maya came within 2 inches of winning a second state championship when she finished second in the long jump to a kid with the all-time-great sports name of Hope Redhawk. What's interesting is that we don't have a long-jump facility yet, so Maya never practiced the event the entire season. She'd just watch others do it (thank God for YouTube) and then try it in meets. She's just a stud athlete.
On the second day, Alexander showed up at the meet with a girl. And not a virtual one. I strained to make sense of it, and the best I could come up with was that she was a nerd classmate of his, and/or a hostage. He said she's a math major, so I'm probably right.
The second day was hotter than the first. It was so hot, I even drank some of that water stuff. Late in the afternoon, the bleachers began to fill up. Sitting on the same row with us was a group of Pusch Ridge Christian Academy kids and parents. Sitting with them was Pusch Ridge girls' basketball coach and athletic director Lonnie Tvrdy (it's pronounced just like it's spelled), whose teams recently won four consecutive 2A state championships.
We noticed that the Pusch Ridge people had with them a party pack of eegee's. One of my kids asked how they had gotten that in when we couldn't even bring in a soda. I told him, "Apparently, their god is a more benevolent god than is ours."
The kid said, "Thanks, supervisor," and then went off to run in his event.