The Last Dance

So last weekend was Meet of Champions at Hills Farm at Alvirne and my girls team was hoping to have an outside shot at making New Englands and we fell short.  While it was on our goals list, probably more important to the girls was winning D3s, something Mascenic had first and last done in 2006.  Our current co coach Becka was on that team so it was only fitting she was with me at the helm for this one.  The boys have enjoyed a more prosperous run over the years, winning eight championships in my 25 years compared to the girls two.  Additionally they did earn New England berths in 2005 and 2006.

But it turns out that this one in 2023 is the most special.  Not because it’s the best, or the kids are better, or we won by more, or any of that.  The boys had some fantastic wins, some close wins and some big wins, but there is one difference.  This is my last year at the helm of Mascenic cross country.  Many may have been waiting for the day I’m out of the coaching ranks and my wife is among them.  

Over the twenty five years we’ve given up and missed out on lots of other things we could have been doing.  For a quarter of a century I’ve had my mid August through early November weekly afternoons occupied by all things high school cross country.  And it is the same amount of years for outdoor track and a bunch for indoor track, that’s a lot of afternoons and weekends accounted for.  I believe the only cross country meet I’ve ever missed was for a wedding in central Maine where I was the best man and had to be there for the rehearsal dinner.

It is time.  My new job bose out of Concord has made this past season really tough to balance my work commitments with my coaching commitments.  If I was working in Concord I’d need to finish up by 1pm and make the 75 minute commute so I could be in time for 2:30pm practice.  Race days might mean I needed to leave earlier.  This wasn’t a concern during the days I was a teacher.  But that’s not the case now.

Now my employer has had no issues with what I do.  I work for the University system under youth development, certainly casting an umbrella over my coaching.  But it has meant for me that I sometimes get to Concord for 6am to either get in a full day or to make up time for other days.  I’m answering emails in the predawn hours and before I go to bed.

Now with what the girls intended to accomplish this year, along with my daughter being a senior, it was pretty important for me to see this season through.  I have girls on the team I’ve had a hand in their training since the fifth grade.  There’s a strong connection to them (as they are also my daughters good friends) and I felt very interwoven into the fabric of this season  since the end of last season.  But this season is now over.  And so is my tenure as head cross country coach.

There will be things that I miss.  I had a colleague reach out and express how this must have been an emotional MOCs for me as I’ve been doing this longer than I’ve done anything except my marriage to my  wife.  However I was never in this just to be a part of something.  Since the beginning I’ve sunk my heart and soul into those athletes I was coaching.  We’d share the blood, sweat and tears of training, with me often hopping into workouts and going out on long runs.  

My days of doing that are over.  While capable of running with some of the team, these individuals are now composed of my daughter’s friends, and we all know what happens on long runs should probably not be shared with the parents of the athletes which I am one of.

So I am walking away from the coaching duties I have attended to for the last twenty five years and I am content to be leaving on a good note.  I will still be connected to the sport; I see myself doing more commentating and continuing with my writing for the website.  I’m sure I’ll still bend ears with conversations related to coaching, hopefully dispense some useful advice and regretfully will begin to wax nostalgic for the good old days.  And who knows, maybe I’ll even sign on as an assistant somewhere or volunteer.

But what I do know is, come mid August I won’t be running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to figure out the specifics around the first days of practice or worry about the state of the cross country course.  I won’t need to check the soccer schedule or the field hockey schedule to make sure our workouts or race days don’t interfere with games.  I won’t worry about lack of busing, getting caught in traffic, or whether my kids will stay healthy and uninjured throughout the season.  I’m sure it will be different and a little bit weird, but it will also be good.

I’ll see you out there.

7 Responses

  1. Congrats on a great career and to all the runners that ran for the Vikings. Skye was so proud of this team and what they accomplished.

  2. You’ve brought so much to a lot of kids over those 25 years Mike. The sport will miss you as a coach for certain.

  3. We meet 6 years ago out in Reno at the National Jr. Olympic XC Championship, where does the time go Mike. Thank you for all the advice you provided my son, Jamie. You are an ambassador to the sport of XC (running) and all the young athletes you coached over the many years are fortunate to have had you in their life. All the best to you always and I hope our paths cross again down the road. Stay well Coach!

  4. Eyes up, knees up, crisp form and laser focus! You’re picture perfect my friend. Best of luck with all your shenanigans in the future Buttermaker.

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