Sometimes anguish is the athlete's biggest competitor (CNN International photo credit)
It's "Money May" time for 2018 and the BIG MEETS have come. It's State Week for the ladies and sectionals week for the fellas. There is a sense of urgency everywhere, especially if you're a senior. It has gotten real! I saw my son's face on his last day of school when he realized, 'I'm actually done with high school...but, Oh Snap!' For the first time in four years, I can't come back as a student-athlete. Yeah buddy, it just got real! The 2018 season has probably been one of the wildest seasons statewide and nationally. So much so that the negativity has almost drowned out the great performances. The weather here in Illinois dominated the season as snow and freezing temperatures ruined a big part of the season. Now the heat is leaning on athletes at the meets. Athletes have finally been able to train and get their races in.
East St. Louis Sr. boys, a potential favorite to win state, had drama in the stands at their only home meet that just happened to be the conference meet. How costly was the violence? It cost E. St. Louis the rest of the season and ruined anyone that didn't have anything to do with the melee and any senior. Their high school career is now over! I am highly disappointed. A state meet with no ESTL! I had just written "Escape from the Hood" trying to motivate the team to dedicate the rest of the season to Roosevelt Davis (RIP) and go win.
Nationally, Tyrese Cooper of Florida has been the MAJOR story. He's been arrested not once, but three times. He is one of the high schools' all-time greats but even he is having problems "escaping from the hood". The one thing I've noticed this year, and the last four since my son is a senior, is there is very little or no sense of urgency... until it's too late. The moment after Tyreese's arrest, he had time to think about what he had done and probably asked: "I hope this doesn't mess me up in my chances to go to college". This is an athlete who had or possibly had a scholarship waiting for him anywhere in America. All he had to do is breathe and pick the school.
The old school barbershop conversation and some former state champions have talked about their lack of urgency in the classroom and even on the track. I remember as I drove my son to his first varsity football game, "Son, you don't have four years, you have a guaranteed 36 games and you can pick up a few or rent a few more in the playoffs IF the team is good enough to make it. That's 36 games to impress a college. That doesn't count if you aren't starting, injured, grade issues or politics at the school.
Sometimes stubbornness can be our worst enemy (Rediff photo credit)
As far as track, the four years go quickly unless you're a phenom and can make it to state as a freshman. If you can't and don't run club indoor and outdoor, well your opportunities get limited. Again, you don't have four years. When you add the type of weather Illinois had this year, that means fewer meets because of cancellations and less of a chance to perform at a high level because you aren't in shape. If you have injuries along the way or academic issues your time is even less.
I've seen some parents not have a sense of urgency as well; only to have the sad face at the end of the four years. They lived for the meets, interviews and newspaper articles and that's it. They didn't prepare for the future and before you know it the athlete in your home is a junior. That year, for whatever reason, doesn't go well and now you are down to one season. If anything goes wrong, you could be done as far as a future in college track.
Academically, if you didn't handle business in class, applied at the right time with colleges, or didn't take the due dates, time frames, ACT/SAT test scores seriously...well, right now you are in a bad spot as far as getting into college. Why? A lack of urgency and you could be agitating the rocks trying to find a job.
Now the moment of truth is here with state and sections. It's no different than The Avengers facing Thanos, or Houston facing Golden State in the Western Conference finals. Athletes and coaches have worked all season, made certain moves for these next two weekends. The sense of urgency should be at its highest level in practice. Everything must be tight technique wise, mental preparation and execution on meet day. If you are a senior, this is it! There is no next year! You either come through or go home. If you didn't have that sense of urgency these last few years, these very well could be your last meets... EVER!
Ladies good luck at state! Fellas good luck at sectionals!