Solving an Unexpected Puzzle · 18 May 2019

Photo courtesy of Sarah Kummer

Coaches do all sorts of things during a Track and Field (T&F) meet. But I never expected to solve such a puzzle at one meet.

I have already written about how a T&F meet is often chaos (see A Living Breathing Organism). It looks like a three ring circus with all the beauty and majesty of athletes performing their athletic events along with a bunch of chickens running around with their heads cut off. Technically, there really are three rings. There is the big track (400 meters of it), a shot ring, and discus ring. Like I said, those rings and some runways and pits and other parts of the field have the athletes doing their best to compete. But there are no chickens running around. Those are just the coaches. They need to get from place to place to place and do what it is that they do. Which, for the most part, is yell across the stadium for their athletes to run faster, throw farther, and jump longer and higher. Or maybe that is just me.

So while I run around a lot during a T&F meet, I also do other things. Like the yelling at my athletes. It is not that I am yelling at them in a scolding manner. I am usually just trying to get their attention. Or I am so far away that they cannot hear me unless I yell. But there are times when I am not that proverbial chicken running around with my head cut off. There are times when I do other things.

There are some T&F meets where I do a fair amount of coaching. As much as you can on the day of. After all, there is only so much you can say, so much you can tweak, on the day. All the preparation must be done beforehand. Like any athletic event. Which is why people think that coaching T&F is just about telling athletes to run faster, throw farther, and jump longer and higher. It is what they see on the day of a meet.

There have not been many of them, but there are also meets where I have not had much to do. Or at least where I have had some time to catch my breath. Those are the meets where my athletes are few or the meets where my athletes’ events are spaced out enough in time that I can get to them easily. Sometimes I am just a cheerleader or spectator. Other times, I do the unexpected.

I got to do the unexpected at a recent T&F meet. I got to solve a puzzle.

I had finished my running around like a chicken with my head cut off and settled down to just coaching my last athletes competing in the javelin. But they were not up yet. And there was a bit of a problem with the measuring tape. It was a tangled mess. I am not even sure how it got that way. Except that maybe the spool was passed through a bunch of loops of tape. Several times. After all, it is much easier to have a pile of measuring tape than to wind it up after each thrower. Much more efficient, especially when the throwers are throwing all sorts of different distances.

Photo (and embellishments)
courtesy of Sarah Kummer

At any rate, my athletes were not up yet, so I volunteered to unravel the mess. It took me a fair amount of time to do so. It was quite the puzzle. Which was good. After all, I like puzzles. I unraveled and unraveled and unraveled. And I finally finished. Just in time to be able to coach my throwers. Who I just told to throw farther.

I have done all sorts of fun things at T&F meets. (Yes, running around like a chicken with my head cut off is actually fun.) But I never expected to spend my time with a measuring tape around my feet puzzling about how to get it all untangled.

© 2019 Michael T. Miyoshi

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  1. Sometimes coaching like unraveling that tape…it takes patience, thoughtfulness and endurance. In the end I’m just glad you didn’t discus that mess into the jav runway. I might have…

    — Sarah Kummer · 16 May 2019, 19:25 ·

  2. I know how hard those things are to get untangled. I used to work on a survey crew and we had to use a 200’ and 400’ fiberglass tape to pull distances all of the time. occasionally one would get a twist or a loop in it, which doesn’t take much time or effort to correct it, but on the rare occasions the tape would get loose enough and a few of the loops would come out like yours did and them it is very time consuming to correct it as you found out. A few hints would be to keep the handle down so that it locks itself from moving too much and do not use the handle to unwind the tape (that will loosen the windings and give extra space for a loop to pop out and you know what happens next. good luck and keep writing. I usually look at your writing once a month and if I see something I like, I will usually respond.

    — K Lake · 23 May 2019, 08:22 ·

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