Let me be clear: I did not run the Chicago Marathon.
But my best friend Lauren did. And she totally crushed it with a PR time of 2:56. That’s an average mile time of 6:45. For twenty. six. miles. (and then some).
While Lauren was doing all that hard work, I had the pleasure of spectating with her parents in the Windy City. It was the first time I’d ever seen a big race and it was incredible. The elite men looked to me like they were running at an 800 pace. And I seriously cried when Rita Jeptoo, the first female, crossed the finish line because it was just so beautiful. Don’t even get me started on the handicapped competitors; extraordinary is an understatement.
Besides painting a poster and cheering my head off for my BFF (cowbell anyone?!), I was thinking of my Coach Mom friends. A marathon is such a long race and it reminded me of the basketball journeys you have all now begun with your teams. Here are three pieces of Chicago Marathon advice you can apply to your ’14-’15 season:
Count on things getting hard. Have a plan in place for when that happens.
After the race, I heard my friend recount her thought process during the most grueling part of the course. “I thought about Coach Bassett at mile #20. At mile #21, I thought about Cassie because she’s one. At mile #22, I thought of Jackson since he’s two…” and so on. Coach Bassett was our high school basketball coach at South Jefferson, under whom we won a New York State Title together when Lauren, our PG, wore jersey #20. Cassie and Jackson are Lauren’s super cute niece and nephew.
Every team will experience hard things this season. Dominant programs may deal with cockiness while young teams might struggle with insecurity. We all know what injuries can do to kill momentum. And hopefully you aren’t hampered by any team drama, but let’s face it, it happens. Fatigue… academic eligibility… 3-point shooting… Whatever the case may be with your group, anticipate potential challenges and have a plan in mind to get through it.
When you experience success, clearly identify the factors that worked in your favor.
When we made it back to the hotel after Lauren’s best run ever, I noticed her taking notes. She was remembering exactly what she consumed during the race. How many gels did she take and when did she take them? Did she drink more carbs earlier in the race this time? How could she replicate this nutrition pattern next time?
Coaches are very critical after a loss. We spend a lot of time evaluating what went wrong. But when you win, too, the evaluation is important. Be intentional about analyzing the causes for your success.
Be equipped by your preparation.
“I kept waiting for the wheels to come off and they just didn’t,” said my smiling friend after the race. This was Lauren’s 10th marathon, and she has mastered the training.
Continually remind your players that the way they practice in the early days of this season may well be the reason they are confident and equipped for the Championship game down the road. Even though the postseason seems far off, every drill matters now. When those crucial games come down to the wire, and it feels like the wheels might come off, your team will remain confident and rely on the skills they have rehearsed since Day 1.
Last but not least, I just want to mention how fabulous it was to spend a night in a hotel room all by myself, watching HGTV instead of Dora and spreading out across the whole bed. (I’m not sure why my husband and I still have a queen-size bed at 6’4″ and 5’11”, but I think a king will be our first purchase as soon as he finishes Residency). I took the short flight from Minneapolis to Chicago solo, thanks to my gracious husband and Father-of-the-Year candidate. My days are currently filled by mothering 1- and 3-year old girls, along with some basketball coaching on the side. Yours are spent coaching and caring for 15+ student-athletes as well as your kids at home. In any case, moms need to recharge once in a while. When the adrenaline of the new season wears off and you feel the first signs of weariness, do something that makes you feel renewed. One Coach Mom told me, “I have found I need a personal vacation about every 6 weeks…this is usually a night away from the kids & team. It has helped me to stay focused and not feel overwhelmed throughout the year.”
It’s not likely you’ll have the opportunity for a vacation night this time of year, but don’t underestimate the importance of carving out pockets of personal time. Afterall, you need all the energy you can get to complete this marathon-like journey we call basketball season!
(Did I mention that my friend finished 91st?)
(That’s 91st out of 18,390 female runners.)