This past weekend, for many of Ontario’s top distance athletes, was the OFSAA XC championships (thanks to Valour for hosting!). Over the years there has been battles about “club coaches” involvement in high school cross country and track and field running! Today on top of outstanding athletic performances, I think the schools in Kingston that I have been fortunate enough to work with this past year have shown the positive benefits of working together, collaboratively, with one goal in mind; student athlete success.
With this in mind, I want to thank Marc Carriere, Bonney MP, Wes Garrod, Kendra Brennan, Neil Hopkins, Laura Mcdowell, and the rest of the Eastern Ontario coaches whom athletes in the group work with through their schools. Their commitment to helping the athletes achieve their goals has been second to none, and is in large part a reason why the athletes had such a fun, successful and amazing cross country experience this year. Seriously, I feel like the rest of this blog does not do the justice that is deserved for how incredible this experience has been! Things like this seem like they should happen regularly but this group really had something special this year, thanks to these amazing coaches!
This year with the additional teams and individuals the group(s) was able to send 48 athletes to OFSAA.
The results were spectacular, with many in season improvements from pre-OFSAA to OFSAA, first time OFSAA qualifications, team and individual medals, and a whole boatload of fun was had by all, even in the freezing snow at the end of the day!
This experience from what I hear is quite uncommon in Ontario, I’ve even heard of schools asking athletes to sign letters that they won’t work with clubs. But full credit to the Kingston schools, KCVI in particular who sought me out, and together we were able to form an amazing collaborative approach that built on all coach’s skills ensuring the athletes had successful seasons. In doing so we continued to show that when ego’s are put aside, coaches are willing to work together, and do what’s best for the athlete and too have mutual respect for each other the athletes (who this is all about) greatly benefit! I believe this should be how it goes in many cases. If we can utilize coaches and their knowledge regardless of whether it be school or club, to build training culture, increasing athlete participation. This can then showcase to athletes how positive sport can be for them, and teach them so many life lessons, while actually practicing what we preach, putting student athletes first.
Collaboration and trust are key this joint venture, I’m sure it wasn’t all easy and there were some walls put up at first by these coaches, as happens in any regions, when I started, but by being genuine, caring about the athletes- fast, or slow, within the sport and outside of sport, and just wanting to build the sport in the city, the trust came and the athletes reaped the rewards this year.
If you’re a club or high school coach looking to work with athletes I would recommend the following:
-Work together not against each other
-Athletes are at their best when they are having fun
-Every coach has skills that can benefit athletes
-Build bridges not walls, reach out, volunteer, be willing to learn and help
Culture often times dictates how a team is run and operates, however at this age, with athletes whom are still learning about themselves, often the culture of a team is reflective of the leadership and takes on traits of their leaders. This year getting to know this group of coaches it’s no wonder I’ve heard numerous comments from other schools, athletes and coaches, about how much fun it looked like the athletes are having, and how everyone was friendly and welcoming even if the athletes weren’t on their teams! The culture and environment these athletes and coaches have put forth quite simply was amazing to watch and these athletes are lucky to have all these coaches working for them and with them to help them succeed, learn, and grow!
In the end student athletes are going to choose with their feet, and want to be surrounded by people who support them and help foster an environment for them to reach their goals, from qualifying to winning OFSAA or just learning to run and enjoy physical fitness, each goal is important.
This year has been a great example of what can be done to help student athletes. Thanks to the high school coaches who welcomed me in, and I can’t wait to continue to see Kingston area running continue to grow, and all school programs grow their participation, and provide opportunities for athletes to enjoy our sport!