Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Staying Fit In A Pandemic -- Post #15 -- the Mental Side

This was shared to me by former Chabot coach, Ken Grace and worth reading. I interviewed Ken in 2011 and you can check out that interview at this LINK.
For my coaching friends ...from Vern Gambetta

Staying Fit In A Pandemic -- Post #15 -- the Mental Side

In 1985 I left college and became a teacher and a coach. My decision to do that was a combination of factors. The biggest was I loved to learn, I loved athletics and I wanted to share those passions with young people who I enjoyed being around. However, there was one part of my decision at that time that was made on a very poor assumption.

I also loved to run, had competed through college, and wanted to be an elite runner ... or at the very least make the US Olympic Trials in the marathon. During my freshman year in college I had run a marathon on a lark and until very late in the race was on a fast time finally stumbling into the Baltimore Civic Center disoriented but having finished in 2:38. I needed to get my time to 2:22 (16 minutes faster) to make the Trials in 1988. Now out of college with I thought more time on my hands how tough could that be?

Well, try getting to school at 7:30 in the morning, being basically on your feet till 3 in the afternoon, then coaching (usually physically demonstrating throughout a practice) until 5:30 if you don't have an event which would go into the evening, then head home to grade papers and prepare for the next day. I don't know what I was thinking? This was not a championship lifestyle by far. I had no idea what a teacher/coach schedule was like. But I was still hoping to make the Olympic Trials.

Philadelphia, where I moved in 1986, had a lot of post-collegiate runners who I regularly trained with who had similar hopes and dreams. A couple of them met a young sports psychologist who was trying to get her practice started and for $200 would give you 8 sessions. $200 seemed a near fortune for me, but as I headed into 1987 things had not been going well for me in racing.

Because I was so tired after a long day of teaching and coaching I was unable to do the training consistently enough it took to run fast. In fact, I would often get home from my school teams practice intending to get my training in and sit down on the couch and be unable to move off it again for the evening often falling asleep right there.

I decided to pay the money and meet with this sports psychologist. It was one of the best $200 I ever spent. I learned about relaxation skills and visualization and mental rehearsal -- all skills if you have ever been on the North Shore Country Day School track team we talk about and try to implement today with our athletes.

However, the most important principle she taught me for my training at that time I still call the 10-minute rule. I was struggling to get out the door after a long day of work. This is what she told me to do. When you get home get out the door as soon as you possibly can. Do not sit down. If you are feeling tired, say to yourself I am only going to run for 10 minutes. If you feel bad after 10 minutes, turn around and go home. If you feel better after 10 minutes keep going with your intended workout.

It worked! Every time I got home and felt exhausted from the day I would tell myself this and get out the door. More often than not after 10 minutes of running, I would feel invigorated and restored and keep going on my intended workout. The few times I felt poorly after 10 minutes and turned around usually there was good reason -- I was struggling with a cold coming on.

My issue was I was mostly mentally exhausted from the day. The 10-minute rule helped me get over that mental exhaustion and get back to training consistently.

I share this story because one aspect of interacting with athletes over the last two weeks -- not just our athletes at North Shore, but athletes elsewhere -- is how much some of them are struggling with strong feelings of grief, disappointment, and anxiety about the future.

The athletic world has uncertainties that we all accept. Can I hit the time? Am I good enough? Will I make the team?

But it also has certainties that we all accept too: when the season starts, when it ends, when the big days are, to name a few. All of a sudden now the uncertainties that we all accepted are complicated by the certainties that we organized our lives around and are gone.

So despite all the daily ideas for workouts, I have shared over the last two weeks, probably the most important thing to do right now is to focus on the feelings our athletes are struggling with and their spirit.

The USOC has posted two papers -- one for athletes, one for coaches, parents and support people -- on how to react to the changes in our lives this pandemic has created.

All our athletic plans (and lots of others) are on hold whether you were training for state competition or training for the Olympics. For some, they may be over -- and over in a very strange way -- having not known when your last competition was. This all leads to disappointment, grief, and anxious feelings.

Here are some of the key points that resonated with me in the USOC papers on managing the current pandemic psychologically.

For Athletes:
1) Take care of your body– Try to eat healthy well-balanced meals, train regularly, and get plenty of sleep. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

2) Connect with others– Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member.

3) Maintain healthy relationships, and build a strong support system.

4) Take breaks– Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings are temporary and will fade.

5) Try taking in deep breaths or doing activities you usually enjoy.

6) Stay informed– When you feel that you are missing information, you may become more stressed or nervous. Watch, listen to or read the news for updates from reliable sources of information.

7) At the same time all this information can be overwhelming, so... Avoid too much exposure to news– Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. Try to do enjoyable activities and return to normal life as much as possible and check for updates between breaks.

8) Seek help when needed– If distress is interfering with your daily life, talk to a sport psychologist, or mental health provider.

For Coaches, Parents, Support Staff:
#1 Grief belongs to the griever. Many of the suggestions, advice, and “help” given to people facing losses suggest that they should be doing it differently, or feeling differently than they do. Grief is a very personal experience and belongs entirely to the person experiencing it. Follow his or her lead.

#2 Stay present and state the truth. It’s tempting to make statements about the past or the future when the athlete’s present life holds so much pain. You cannot know what the future will be, and it may or may not be “better later.” That the athlete’s life was good in the past is not a fair trade for the pain of now. Stay present with the athlete, even when the present is full of pain. It’s also tempting to make generalized statements about the situation in an attempt to soothe the athlete. You cannot know that the athlete will “bounce back” or “get past it.” These future-based, generalized platitudes aren’t helpful. Stick with the truth: This hurts. There are countless uncertainties. I’m here with you to listen.

#3 Do not try to fix the unfixable. The athlete’s loss cannot be fixed, repaired or solved. The pain itself cannot be made better. Please see #2. It is an unfathomable relief to have a friend who does not try to take the pain away

#4 Be willing to witness unbearable pain. To do #4 while also practicing #3 is very, very difficult. Become comfortable with the uncomfortable, and recognize it will be challenging for you.

#5 This is not about you. Being with someone in pain is not easy. You will have your own reactions — stresses, questions, fear, or guilt. Your feelings may be hurt. You may feel ignored and unappreciated. This is a onesided relationship so don’t take it personally. Find your own people to lean on so that you feel supported in supporting the athletes. When in doubt, refer to #1.

#6 Anticipate, don't ask. Do not say “Call or text me if you need anything,” because the athlete likely will not. Not because they don’t have the need, but because taking that initiative is beyond their energy levels, especially if they don’t know you well. Instead, make concrete offers: “I will stop by to say “hi” tomorrow morning” or “I am at my desk/this location each morning from 7-noon.” Be reliable.

#7 Do the small things. The actual, heavy, real work of grieving is not something you can do (see #1), but you can lessen the burden of some life requirements for the athlete. Perhaps they need to eat but don’t feel like going to the grocery store or dining hall and facing everyone. Offer to bring them a meal. Support the athlete in small, ordinary ways.

#8 Show you care. Above all, show you care. Show up. Say something. Do something. Realize it may not always be perfect but effort counts. Be willing to sit with the grief without flinching or turning away. Be willing to not have any answers. Listen. Be there. Be present. Be a friend.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Fremont of Sunnyvale 1970 grad Francie Larrieu Smith inducted into National HS T&F Hall of Fame

Francie Larrieu Smith, Fremont HS (Sunnyvale) '70 grad was inducted into the National High School Track and Field Hall of Fame on March 12th (2020 was the 3rd class inducted into that HOF). One of the most talented high school runners in history, Larrieu still holds the fastest 1500m time by a CCS athlete as she tied the American record at that distance with her 4:16.8 effort following her junior year. That converts to about 4:35.7 for 1600m. You can read about that race at this LINK in her letter to CCS historian Hank Lawson. Larrieu also had a best of 2:05.9 in the 800m and her 1500m time stood as the California record until it was surpassed by Jordan Hasay in 2008 (4:14.50). When Larrieu was in high school, she competed for the Santa Clara Valley Track Club and then the San Jose Cindergals since Cross Country and Track and Field were not options for girls at that time. She competed against boys during her first two years of high school although was not considered an official competitor.

Following HS, Larrieu trained with the UCLA team although she did not receive a scholarship despite being a national caliber runner. She went on to qualify for five Olympic teams (1972, 1976, 1980, 1988 and 1992). Her best finish was a 5th place in the 1988 Olympics 10000m race and was the flag bearer for the US team in 1992 as she competed in the marathon. Her older brother Ron ran for Palo Alto HS and was the state champion in the mile in 1956 with a time of 4:20.1. He competed in the 10000 meters in 1964 which was the same year that Billy Mills was the improbably gold medalist. Ron finished in 24th in that race.

You can check out the rest of the HOF inductees at this LINK

You can also check out a five-part interview with Francie below by Southwestern University where she was a long time coach.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Corona Indoor Nationals with Amador Valley HS coach Jason Oswalt

For those of you needing a chuckle this morning, check out the following videos thanks to Amador Valley HS coach, Jason Oswalt.

You can also check out the following TikTok made by his freshman distance runners:

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

BVAL (CCS) Cancels the Remainder of the Spring Sports Season

As found on their website at bval.org (see below). Also have heard that SCVAL has followed suit and that schools are starting to announce being closed until May 1st.


Due to the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, the BVAL Executive Committee has made the determination that the best course of action for all student-athletes, coaches, administrators, parents and spectators is to CANCEL the remainder of the Spring Sports season.
We must all understand that this decision was not taken lightly, as we held our hope for a continuation as long as possible.  However, in light of the announcement that schools will remain closed through May 1st, there simply would not be enough time to adequately support our student-athletes.  We thank you for your continued support.
We all must understand the current situation and work to ensure the safety of everyone involved.  Stay safe.

Which four students would be on the Mount Rushmore at your school for XC and/or TF?

Moving this back to the top. Let's add more teams and individuals in the comment section below. 
There are lots of these kinds of lists so why not one for Northern California Cross Country and Track and Field? In the comment section below, name the four students/athletes that stand above the rest in your school's history in both XC and TF. You can name four students for each sport or four students for both sports. These lists will be co-ed which will definitely make it the best of the best. Thank you in advance for your nominations. 

Who else? Who are the all-time greats from your school?

George Washington-SF
John Pettus 100-200
Ernie Provost 100-200
Ollie Matson 100-200
Willie Eshman 1600

Miramonte High School:
Dixon Farmer Sprints/Hurdles
Adam McAboy 1600/3200
Marilyn Davis Distance
George Coon 800

You can view the rest of the teams if you click the headline above...

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Interviews with Charlotte Tomkinson, Scott Toney and JT Ayers

Now that I have some free time (ok a lot of free time), I have had a chance to reach out to athletes and coaches and in the next few weeks, I will post many of the interviews.

For this week, I posted interviews with Menlo senior distance runner Charlotte Tomkinson who ran 2:09.41 last year to finish 2nd at the CA state meet, St. Francis Mt. View senior pole vaulter Scott Toney who vaulted 17'4" at the Reno Pole Vault Summit in January and Trabuco Hills coach JT Ayers who has been on of the top sprint coaches in California.

You can find the interviews at the link below. If you want to see interviews with any athlete or coach, please let me know below or you can email me at albertjcaruana@gmail.com


Monday, March 23, 2020

California coach's meeting on Zoom this Saturday (3/28) at 10am

If you want to join another XC and TF coach's Zoom meeting this coming Saturday (3/28), please email me at albertjcaruana@gmail.com and let me know you are interested in joining us. If you haven't done so already, download the Zoom app (it's free) and I will send out the login info to the meeting at 9:50am that day.

You should come to the meeting with questions in mind for a stellar group of coaches or you can email me your question(s) and I will bring them up during our meeting. I think this would be a great way for many of us to touch base face to face again and can also use this as a way to learn from each other.

Feel free to share this info with other coaches that may be interested.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Friday, March 20, 2020

NorCal Cross Country and Track and Field coaches Zoom Meeting at 10am on Saturday (3/21/2020)

If you want to join other NorCal XC and TF coaches for a Zoom meeting tomorrow (Saturday), please email me at albertjcaruana@gmail.com and let me know you are interested in joining us. If you haven't done so already, download the Zoom app (it's free) and I will send out the login info to the meeting at 9:50am tomorrow.

If you have something you want us to bring up or have any good questions you want me to ask, include that in your email. I think this would be a great way for many of us to touch base face to face and go over what we have been dealing with and what we can do for the remainder of the season and beyond.

Feel free to share this info with other coaches that may be interested.

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