Even as an early age, I was always hypnotized whenever I watched any sport. It was as if I were starring at a wizard’s enchanted globe. I remember being fascinated with the skills demonstrated by athletes in their particular arena of sports. Whether it was good dribbling skills of a basketball player, great footwork of a boxer, or incredible running power of a running back, any athlete with a good amount of skill was able to enslave my attention. My dad first encouraged my passion for sports at the age of 5. I remember watching basketball, football, boxing, track, tennis, and other sports in the living room with him.
On the weekends, my dad would always spend a couple of hours throwing the football, shooting a few hoops, and racing to see who was the fastest with me. This not only fueled the flame of my sports passion, but it sowed the seeds of growth in my young physical and mental well-being. To me, my dad is like a great scientist or teacher when he introduced me to the concept that good physical and mental fitness go hand-in-hand. Even though I am an avid fan of many sports, the one I actively participated in was track. I ran track during my middle and high school years.
During my middle school years, I was a decent track runner as most middle school students are. When I reached high school, I was an ok runner at first, nothing exceptional. Then my parents made the decision that would bring my running game to the next level and I didn’t even know it. During the summer after my sophomore year, my parents decided to enroll me in K-Y track club. It was basically a summer league track team that competed with other local and regional teams. When they first told me, I wanted to stage violent protests and start a bloody revolution. I was thinking, I don’t want to run in the summertime you idiots!
If you think it’s such a good idea why don’t you get out there and run! ” I thought to myself, wishing I had the guts to say it to my parents. Despite my protests, I was forced to go. Little did I know I was going to meet another one of my great teacher of sports; Coach Willie. Coach Willie is a well known and respected track coach in the Baton Rouge and surrounding areas. He has been coaching track for several years, and has coached several local, regional, and national champions. He was one of the greatest and most knowledgeable athletic teachers and trainers I have ever met.
He re-programmed my running game to give it maximum efficiency and output, as he has done for several kids. The road to improvement was not easy; I had no clue of what I was in for during the first day of practice. The first practice took place by memorial stadium in Baton Rouge. After running many laps around the stadium, running up and down the hills the surround it, and numerous other sprints and exercises, I threw up which was usually a sign that I had a good practice, learned something, and was ready to go home. I asked one of the other kids a seasoned veteran of Coach Willie was it time to go home.
He looked and laughed and said, “Practice just started that was just warm-up exercises. ” I think I was too shocked to faint at first. “Just a warm-up! School track practice wasn’t this hard! ” Now I really hated my parents, what kind of death-camp had they signed me up for?! I could have just gotten a job! This is pretty much how the first half of the summer went. I would wake-up thinking of a lie that could get me out of practice for the day. Try the lie on a parent, have lie fail and have to go to practice anyway. While at practice, would engage in what Coach Willie termed “up-grading” and “re-building”.
Up-grading ourselves from the laziness we had acquired in his absence and re-building ourselves from the current level of garbage we were at, to the machines we should be. “I’m actually saving your lives. ” Coach Willie would say as he walked watching us practicing and training with sweat-drenched bodies. “You should be paying me a hundred thousand, no a million dollars for even being out here looking at y’all. Not to mention getting you right” He would shout as he watched us from behind his aviator shades, barking commands as he watched us get in training formations like an army of well-muscled children soldiers.
We were trained to be the most lethal competitors that stepped on the track at any meet we went to, to kill and dismember competition with no remorse. “Training and attitude separates winners and losers ladies and gentlemen. ” Coach Willie would preach while bearing down us from beneath those shades, his silver-whistles hanging from his neck, reminding me of a slave-master’s whip. Every time he blew it, the mass of us would change exercises, or slow down or speed-up while running, mostly speed-up. For me the first half of the summer was brutal, not to mention the track meets.
Whereas the competition in my school district had been kind of good the completion in summer league track was next level. I mean fourteen, fifteen and sixteen year olds were walking around reminding me of Nazi experimental super-soldiers. Every race I ran in I was pretty much punished and embarrassed. By the time the fifth or sixth meet came, Coach Willie had begun to give me a few pointers during practice and he began to gradually bring the dog in me out. I was a sprinter so he helped with getting a good start or “getting out of the starting blocks good” in track-talk. “A good start can win the first 40 yards of the 400 meter dash.
So being able to get out the blocks smoothly is important” Coach Willie told me, he trained me on that and maintaining explosiveness of my speed during the race. I also begin to push myself and train a little harder during practice. It was difficult at first, but I began to notice the pointers Coach Willie was giving me would always shave a second or mille-second off my running time. I went from being last in the races, to being second-to-last, to being third-to-last, and so on. I knew I had truly made improvement when I placed third at a meet. Yes, I was actually in the top three and not last for once!
I was ecstatic! Right about that time the summer track season was ending and school was re-starting. I was surprised to see myself actually feeling regret that summer-league season was over. When school track season started back I had forgotten that the competition in our school district was not on the same level as the competition in summer league track. I had gotten used to competing against some seriously good runners. The first day of track practice bore a hint of what was to come. When I emerged on the football field, which was where we practiced, something was different about me.
My eyes had keen and dark look of wolf, my walk was well-coordinated like a boxer. My face bore a mean frown. My teammates watched as I stripped out of my tracksuit to warm-up. Eyes widened, jaws dropped, where there had been a skinny wimp now stood a finely-muscled, well-trained, running-assassin. I began to institute my new world order in our school track district. I quickly began decapitating the competition in track meets. I went from being a joke to being feared on the track, every meet I left opponents disemboweled on the track, showing no remorse or mercy.
My teammates began to do better also; it was like we fed off each other’s dark energy. An energy which I was the first to bring to the team. It was like I was the leader of a ruthless band of mercenary and we fulfilled only the highest contracts. I remember wishing I could make a belt or necklace with the heads of fallen opponents. At the peak of my track career I was third in our school-district among sprinters. This was pretty good to me seeing as how far I had come and that the other two guys on top were very good. All of this change I owed to Coach Willie.
This taught to fight and leave it all on the field in life and sports. To never give less than 100%. I owe Coach Willie much thanks, I’m glad he put that competitive attitude in me. To always be willing to out-fight, out-think, out-train, and out-work my opponent. Always try harder. Lock on it like a pit-bull terrier. This is one of the many reasons I love sports, I love when it comes down to the wire, when athletes give it their all and it is pound-for-pound, blow-for-blow, that is where training and attitude come into play, which is what sports and life is all about.