Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chapter 13: Back Home

Beads of Sweat is a book about a high school team's journey toward a high school championship.  This is the first chapter after the team's week at training camp.

Downstairs in his cement grey basement Hartman quartered off a ten by ten square that he used as an office.  Against the foundation stood three four-foot high filing cabinets.  On the adjacent side stood floor to ceiling bookcases that he had built himself.  Both the cabinets and the cases housed voluminous stacks of papers, books, and binders all related to running. Some housed books on theory and running history (they were the resources for his camp week lectures) while others contained records specific to athletes he had coached.  There were mounds and mounds of folders and stray sheets that littered his desk.  He couldn’t leave his chair until they were all neatly ordered.

It’s true he had some catching up to do.  He was fried by the end of outdoor last year as Mebkay and Liston kept their end of a bargain that earned them a Hartman chaperoned trip to a national meet.  When all was said and done, he looked at the calendar and it was the fourth of July. 

He spent the next hour archiving their performances from preliminary and final times to splits to weather conditions to the surface of the track.  Once done he tackled the present.  He would never tell them but collectively this was the fastest camp week a team of his had ever run.  He had to recheck then double check the numbers to validate his data.  In the name of St. Sebastian, Torres was ten seconds off his 5k pr on Friday.  Hammond and Galiozzi were knocking on the door too.  Wouldn’t that be a pleasant surprise: Galiozzi challenging his mates for varsity bib.  Hartman loved intrasquad competition and this was going to be a good year for it.  He only hoped it didn’t leave Hammond for dead.

After crunching the numbers of camp week one last time and filing them in a fresh new manila folder with the words Camp Week 2009 written in a black sharpie marker, he set out to finalizing the schedule.  Every year it was a battle with the athletic director and after all these years, Hartman thought he might be getting the upper hand.  A hater of duel meets, the coach petitioned hard to have as few as possible.  He caught hell three years ago for not running a full squad against a sub-par opponent. Ran with four jv’s and still took the first three spots and tenth too.  AD told him he shoved it in the face of Flynn.  He retorted that it would’ve been that much worse if he ran his full squad.  In the years following, they came to an unspoken agreement.  The AD would schedule as few duels as possible and Hartman would field a competitive team for all.  Hartman worked around the agreement with lesser foes, and the AD was oblivious to such cross country minutia. He was a football man.

Swiveling ninety degrees to his old Smith Corona, he tucked a piece of paper around the spindle and began typing.  Thirty minutes and several traces of whiteout later he produced the season’s schedule.

WED 9/16/09
WED 9/23/09
@ New Martindale
WED 9/30/09
SAT 9/26/09
Skyhawk Jamboree
SAT 10/3/09
Lewis Park Meet
WED 10/7/09
SAT 10/10/09
Starkfield State Invitational
WED 10/14/09
@ Paddington
SAT 10/17/09
Great Bear Invitational
WED 10/21/09
Tonka, Sunderland
SAT 10/31/09
League Championship Meet
SAT 11/7/09
State Class Championship
SAT 11/14/09
State Championship

            Unfurling it from the spool, he grabbed diagonal edges and his lips cornered into a smile.  This schedule wasn’t perfect but it was the result of years of petitioning and massaging and fine-tuning.  Only three away duel meets. Every duel on a Wednesday.  This allowed for minimal training interruptions.  He couldn’t care less about the weekday meets.  Hell, he ran right through them most of the time.  He told the team they made their hay on Saturdays. The younger kids and some of the parents questioned his philosophy, but by junior year most of his doubters either no longer ran or became full-fledged subscribers.  Not much middle ground existed in Springfield.  He knew Mr. Hammond still held doubts and tried to work that out in a way that didn’t complicate Paul.  Paul was a believer and Hartman wondered if his father was telling him to do things that didn’t align with the team’s plan.

            The things that dominated Hartman’s running mind were the following: 1) putting the kids in a position to win a state championship, 2) keeping them healthy, 3) ensuring Jenkins had a shot of an individual championship, 4) making sure Coetaine didn’t quit, 5) seeing to it that Smith went to college, 6) avoiding a full scale blowout with Hammond Sr.

            He wondered what he’d be getting back on Tuesday.  The last thing he did on Friday was give the team a survey to complete.  Told them to take an hour, find a quiet spot, and fill it out thoughtfully, no off the cuff garbage.  He wanted them to take it as seriously as he did.  He learned a lot from his guys this way, and it often influenced the workouts he assigned.  Even got him into some individualization last year. 

            He also wondered if they’d do what he prescribed.  By just looking at their faces on Tuesday afternoon, he would know who did and didn’t do the work.  Labor Day Weekend served as the first trial of solitary dedication.  Having been instructed to run twice and take one day off—their choice which days they did what—proved to be a little more arduous for some than others.  But Hartman didn’t allow himself to dwell on cynical thoughts; he ensconced himself in ruminations and reveries of championships and personal bests, for this was a time for dreaming. 

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