Every year, during the dead period, I do a lot of thinking and wondering as to what is to come. I cannot possibly know the future, but it's fun to think about upcoming workouts, trips to various invitationals, and traditions we have had for years. The traditions are 19 years in the making with us entering our 20th year as a program. Some have evolved in the last couple years, while others have been with us since our beginning.
It all started when Neuqua Valley opened in the fall of 1997 on the Southside of Naperville with freshmen and sophomores. After being named head coach in April of that year, I was excited to get a summer program up and 'running'. Despite all my efforts, we had 9 guys in our summer program. For some reason, I never felt defeated despite having only one guy attend a summer session in mid July. We now have well over 400 young men and women in our summer programs of track & field and xc.
That fall, I managed to recruit 14 more guys, and Jim Dickerson, a former runner I partially coached at Peoria Notre Dame, joined us as a volunteer assistant. Simply put, we got smoked that first year. Despite me visiting Mr. Newton at York and copying his workouts, organizing parents, writing a pre-season booklet, etc., we got our butts handed to us - at the frosh/soph level!
The next year, it got worse, for we now competed at the varsity level. However, we started a tradition of a summer overnight camp, increased our numbers, and our guys worked harder than the summer before. At the end of that season, I wrote them a letter. I Tweeted this out a little while ago - https://twitter.com/PVsteen/status/758020536937185280
In that letter, I asked them about how good they were going to be. After that season, I believed that we would eventually be good, but I quickly realized that my definition of 'being good' was more about embracing the process and focusing on having fun. It took until 2007, but I began to realize that me wedging a mini bus into the underground garage at the Pere Marquette hotel, playing the Wink game at our Oregon camp, watching our 78th man win the handicapped race, and jumping into the lake at the Culver Invitational, was far more important than any place or time. When I see Chris Derrick, we don't talk about running. We instead talk a little politics, discuss how good the NY Jets will be, and cite Mike Ruff quotes. Yes, we may talk about how he told Kevin Grady that he was his f*(&^ hero after the State meet in 2007, but we rarely talk about times or places.
Luckily, I have record of those memories thanks to an idea I stole from Mr. Newton. In our post season booklet, I post the Memorable Moments of that season. It is at the beginning of every booklet. When I pick up one of those booklets, that's where I go first and spend the majority of my time. I read those memories and laugh. I cherish those experiences and I know the guys do too.
This past summer, was no different in creating memories. We had another good summer of training that involved our traditional prediction race, the 5k under the lights, and our Oregon team camp. In fact, we had a record number of 67 guys attend our Oregon camp despite having a relatively small senior class. We may have had the best overall Led Zeppelin Hill Workout in our history. If we can match the energy of that workout, in developing a strong team bond, this season will be full of memories that last a lifetime. After all, it was September of 2007 when we were ranked #1 in the State. After I wrecked the mini bus and took out the water supply at the hotel, Mike Ruff said, "Coach, I don't care if we win the State meet this year, I will remember this over that". When I see the 2007 team, guess what they talk about? Mike Ruff was exactly right.