The 2023 track and field season officially starts on Monday, January 16. But in recent times, its proverbial beginning has been preceded by the ITCCCA (Illinois Track & Field/Cross Country Coaches Association) clinic. We are talking about a conglomeration of over 1000 middle, college, and the majority of high school coaches who converge to seek knowledge, and fellowship, and just plain enjoy the company of one another.
The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) uses this opportunity to introduce any pertinent news for the upcoming season. They call it the rules interpretation meeting and most of us listen intently. It is also an opportunity to address concerns that one might have before the "grind" begins.
Among the features that draw interest were the coaching education classes. Among some of the newcomer presenters were James Kearney (Lewis University), Pete Wintermute (Prospect HS), former athlete Carolina Moll Carmichael, and Matt Sloan (New Trier HS). Mixed in were veteran clinicians such as Chris Parno (Minnesota State), Tom Kaberna (Lake Park HS), and Don Spencer (Judson University).
I never get tired of learning and listening to so many of my peers whether it's in one of the classrooms or outside in the foyer or at the coach's social. In fact, in 2019, I was fortunate enough to be a presenter with a colleague and former athlete of mine named Jeff Bryant. We spoke about training middle-distance runners with an emphasis on girls. It was a special moment for me that brought a ton of emotion and was one of the reasons why I got into coaching.
One of the main highlights of the clinic is the hall of fame inductees. It is fun seeing established hall of fame coaches come together to welcome their new brothers and sisters into their exclusive club. Among the new inductees was Neuqua Valley coach Mike Kennedy. Coach Kennedy joined his fellow colleague and soon-to-be-retired Paul Vandersteen. I am proud to call both of them friends and it obviously brings a smile to the program's collective face.
Perhaps one last smile upon former Marist HS athlete/coach Kennedy is the now deceased Marist coach Jon Gordon. Gordon passed away in November a few weeks after the state championship. I met coach Gordon back in the early 2000s when he coached at Chicago Northside Prep. His cross country teams were year in and year out very good. Gordon was a true athlete's coach in that he praised every single kid on the team whenever they accomplished a goal. His enthusiasm will be sorely missed.
Lastly, I want to shout out the ITCCCA clinic staff for a great job and a special shout out to Lake Park's Jay Ivory for his diligence and hospitality.