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Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel · 25 April 2010

Being the newest member of the Cedarcrest Track and Field (T & F) coaching staff has been quite the adventure so far. The season is more than half over and I still have not written about getting hired or any of the other stories of the season so far. So here are a few highlights of my newest adventure.


A couple of months ago, one of the head coaches, Bruce McDowell, asked me whether I ever considered coaching track and field. The team had lost its throws coach to the police academy and the coaches were having a tough time finding the right person for the job. When Bruce approached me, I asked him whether he was scraping the bottom of the barrel. After all, I only did one year of T & F when I was in ninth grade, and only remember ever putting the shot once. Still, I told Bruce that I would think, pray, and ask my family about the proposition.


When I got home that night, I walked in the door and told my wife, The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi, that I had just gotten a crazy proposition. She barely looked at me and said, “Go ahead and do whatever it is.” I was flabbergasted because I really did want to know what God, my family, and even I thought about the whole thing. So we all talked together, and I thought and prayed about coaching shot put, discus, and javelin. After a day or so, I finally figured out what The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi knew immediately after I walked through the door and told her about the crazy proposition. I signed on to be the new throws coach at Cedarcrest High School.


The first day of practice, I was a bit out of sorts. For most of the practice, I asked myself, “What am I doing here?” I did the best I could with a few weeks preparation (which consisted of being coached by Doug – their former coach – and watching YouTube videos), but I was floundering. And then the moment of truth happened.


Now before I tell about that moment of truth, I must say that I had (rather have) big shoes to fill. I told the kids that I could never replace Doug, but that I would do the best I could to help them out. I had coached Doug in high school and we have become good friends since then. Consequently, I have been bolstered by his vote of confidence, words of encouragement, and all the other help he has given me. But on my first day, his shadow loomed large even though he was far away.


I was doing the best that I could that first day floundering around, barely staying afloat. Some of the athletes, sensing my tentativeness, were messing around a bit too much, which gave rise to one of the athletes saying (not too quietly), “I hate this. Doug wouldn’t put up with this stuff.” It was my moment of truth. I knew that I could either seize it or blow the whole season in the next instant.


I gathered everybody together including the folks messing around. I addressed the outspoken athlete and her critique by saying, “You are right. Doug would not put up with this stuff and I am glad that you pointed it out.” I wanted to get to the heart of the matter and let them know that what I said when we first met was true – I could not replace Doug. I went on to say that I would need their help to get everybody performing well. I needed them to help me help them. I could make them better athletes, but I would need the help of the veterans to make them all better throwers.


I must have passed that moment of truth because I did not have a revolt, and the athletes have responded to me so far. But I know that I have had more tests and will continue to have them. After all, each athlete has had to decide whether I was worth listening to or not. At the very least, my first day critic has accepted me. As a matter of fact, she took it upon herself to embarrass me on a road trip to the largest one day track and field meet west of the Mississippi, the Pasco Invitational.


We had all just finished eating dinner at Red Robin the night before the meet. All of a sudden, I looked up and saw the servers gathered around and one of them was handing me a bowl of ice cream and a couple helium-filled balloons. All of the servers and all of our athletes at the table were singing that crazy Red Robin birthday song. Needless to say, my birthday is not during track season. Still, I ate some of the ice cream, then shared the rest of it and gave away both the balloons to our high school athletes. It was a nice initiation to the track and field family conceived by or at least carried on by my first day critic.


The road from the first day to my initiation has not been an easy one for me. I have battled days of self-doubt and have asked myself what I was doing coaching our throwers. But the road has had its rewards and so far, I have done what I said I would do. I have helped my young charges become better athletes and helped them help each other become better throwers. We have had fun and learned lots so far, and we have had some great experiences together.


I like to tease Bruce that he was the one who said he was scraping the bottom of the barrel when he asked me to coach. Even though we both know that I was the one who said it. I really meant it too. Especially, knowing who I was replacing. But as time has gone on, I realize that I am doing my job and I am able to teach the athlete things that I have rarely done before. I have enjoyed the track and field season so far and am glad I am coaching. I am glad that Bruce asked me to get out of my comfort zone and start a new adventure coaching track and field. Even if he was scraping the bottom of the barrel when he asked me.

© 2010 Michael T. Miyoshi

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