Our 2011 cross country season starts tomorrow—and so tomorrow also marks the end of my summer vacation.
We begin with a short meeting at 8:30 AM. The summer weather should not be too unbearable. We start a little bit later in the morning to give our boys time to travel to campus by trains, buses, and cars from their homes around the Chicago metro area. We expect a good turnout. We will probably have a roster totaling 50 or so in a couple weeks when classes actually begin. I have heard from some boys who will miss the first few days of practice, before classes, because of family vacations, summer job conflicts, or other issues. But we are expecting at least ten freshman on the first day, and I would expect more than 30 boys total tomorrow.
Our short meeting is important. Immediately after the meeting we hit the road, heading down Roosevelt Road to the corner of Michigan and Roosevelt, where we gather on the grass in front of the Agora or “legs” sculpture. Number one point of the meeting: our runners cross the city streets only at the corners, and they follow the orders of the walk and don’t walk street lights. We will do our best to keep the group together, but sometimes the group can be split up. If that happens, no one ever runs alone; the second to last runner in the group must wait for the last runner. Especially during the first couple of weeks, the older runners must look out for the new ones so that no one gets lost. Moving 50 or so boys down Roosevelt to the lake, or through the city to other destinations, requires careful attention. I am probably most nervous about this, in fact, on the first day when the runners are most excited, most inexperienced, and even if experienced, perhaps, most inattentive.
There are also other details that need to be covered in that short first meeting. But more than details, the first practice sets the season in motion in terms of goals and expectations. As an email from our athletic director Jim Prunty today said, “It would be an understatement to proclaim the importance of the first day of practice. The tone for the season will be set tomorrow. Good luck with everything. “
Next week we will have an evening meeting with parents and athletes during what we call our Fall Sports Family Night. I hand out a handbook with basic information about the team, including the schedule. I review the most important information directly. Again, we emphasize the importance of safety when we run on the city streets. But we also emphasize the seriousness of commitment that we expect from our runners.
Over the next few weeks, I have some standard speeches to give our athletes as we get started on a new year. The upperclassmen will have heard some of those speeches before.
As I thought about starting this blog in the past, it has occurred to me that some of that standard information could be institutionalized here. With that in mind, I have already prepared a post about what we tell our boys about buying new running shoes at the beginning of the season.
We will probably have a little bit of discussion in these first weeks about the multiplier—and how we expect to be successful this season as we compete in 3A against the biggest and best teams in the state of Illinois.