Friday, August 26, 2011

GateWay XC Season begins

I'm really excited about this season, though recruiting has been a roller coaster ride of having a full team/not having a full team from week to week.  Conclusion: the flakiness I thought presided mostly in the young adults (kids just out of high school) is certainly not limited to that crowd.

I knew recruiting a team comprised of mostly-adult, non-traditional students would be difficult or next to impossible. I've discussed this with many a coach and they've all been doubtful it could be pulled off.  Unfortunately, I'm at the slight disadvantage of not knowing how the whole process works, from start to finish, of signing someone, enrolling them in classes, getting all their paperwork together, etc...  I like to know everything so I can manage it all, but most of it falls in the hands of the Athletic Director, Jaime Long.

Here's the story of how it all started. The previous coaches at GateWay were personal friends of mine.  In 2003, I sent three of my Tolleson High track team to run for Eamonn Condon, the GateWay XC Coach at the time.  Rene Flores, Laila Arguello and Lourdes (Lulu) Soto ran 2 years for him and experienced some great success. It was my second encounter with Eamonn, though. The first one, I had volunteered to train his 4 steeplechase runners 1-2 times a week.  Daniel Pescador went off to be fairly successful at an out-of-state school.
Next, the reign of David Allison and his assistant, who is my best friend, Ari Rodriguez.  I trained alongside them for a season or so while they did their tenure at GateWay, but I didn't do any coaching.
Finally, Daniel Kanyarahuru.  He ran for Paradise Valley and beyond, experiencing some success.  He was named last year's coach, but recruited virtually no one and GateWay had little to no representation at meets. It was a cause for concern for Jaime, who I met at Sole Sports.  After seeing all the flakiness of those attending David's practices, I was a bit jaded and thought it would be a waste of my time (and a headache) to attempt this endeavor.  I had never had a problem with attendance in high school practices, but I knew it was different with college, as these individuals were finally free from most parental constraints and were now unleashed upon the world.  It was December when she asked me to coach, and I immediately turned it down.

Upon further consideration, I couldn't figure out why I kept wanting to say no.  I really wanted this opportunity but I was fighting it for silly reasons that I believed I could prevent. One of the other reasons I was reluctant was the AD factor.  If you coach a sport not revered by everyone, it's often a difficult battle to keep that program moving along.  It all begins with a supportive athletic director who cares for the school's programs and respects running as a sport. After interviewing her, I knew Jaime and I would get along famously.  With several days of deep thought behind me, I answered her with a resounding
"Yes, I'll do it!"

And so the recruiting process began.  Most high schoolers had already signed with other programs.  I found it odd that most of the top runners were just attending some big university but weren't quite good enough for the team, so their running career was coming to an end.  The community college experience seems like such a good deal, with general education requirements costing a fraction of what the universities charge, plus one is given the opportunity to take two more years to better oneself to get noticed by a university, who often gives them a scholarship to attend their school.  The other weird thing, and this is probably mostly relegated to West Coast schools, is that there are so many Mexicans that have had their entire upbringing here, but weren't born here (just brought over as babies), who now have limited rights for working and are charged out-of-state tuition for school.  It was a weird situation that I didn't expect to encounter.  So many of the kids on my recruiting list had to be asked up front, "Are you a U.S. citizen?"  It was both embarrassing and annoying, since these kids spoke English as their first language and had attended every grade here in Arizona or the U.S. 
At that point, I started recruiting people I met at or through Sole Sports, and used it as a springboard to find others that might be interested.  I know that I would be very thrilled, at my current age of 36, if a coach came up to me and asked me to run for a college team and would pay for my classes.  I'd find a way to make it happen--even with my jobs, family and other things I had to balance. I knew I had to strike the right chord with people, so I set it up so that it would require little to no work on their parts (initially)

So now we end up in our current state of affairs. A women's team all over 30 years old.  A men's team with one traditional student and a handful of men from 24-32. Impossible is now nothing to me.  I am so fired up to develop these athletes into the high-performance machines that people become with good training!

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