Monday, May 30, 2011

Chapter 30: Senior Meeting

Beads of Sweat is a book about a high school cross country team.  This chapter is about the coach's meeting with his senior runners.

They knew it was coming.  Every year it happened about this time.  Nobody could predict the date for sure but when it happened, Hartman was finally recognizing them as members of the senior class.  The leaders.  At the senior meeting they set the agenda for the season.  Hammond, as Hartman knew he would, arrived first.
            -How are you, Paul?
            -Good Coach.                                                                                                            
            -How’s the body holding up?
            -Not bad…I mean pretty good.
            -You and the other upperclassmen are doing more this year than you ever have before.
            -I know.  I checked my log from last year.  We’re up eight, ten miles a week.
            -You guys have done the work.  Progressed up to it.
            -I’m feeling pretty strong.
            -The core work and the summer base will pay off.
            -I hope so.
            -I can tell you put a lot into it this summer.
            -Tried to.
            -Good.  Good…how are things at home?
            -How’s your dad?
            -He’s good.
            -I mean how are you and your dad?
            -Good…okay…I guess…he’s coming to the Starkfield State meet.
            -Is that going to make you run better or worse?
            -Better I hope.
            -Me too.
            -He just wants me to do my best.
            -We all do, but listen: I know you try your best.  I know it, and I can see it in a way a father can’t always see it.  Know what I mean?
            -If you ever need me to say—
            -No thanks Coach.
            -You have my email and phone number.
            -I do.
            -I will never put pressure on you.  You get enough of that on the inside, he tapped his sternum.  You are the epitome of a team runner.  You’ve built three years of trust and have been integral to making this team what it is.  Deo is nothing without you.  Torres and Galiozzi wouldn’t even be on the time without you.  You get them to practice.  You make sure they’re at the Dank.  You think I don’t know that?  You’re the glue.  I’m already worried about next year.  You’ve helped the team enough already.  Anything you do this year is gravy in my book.  You’ll do great.  You’ll run varsity, and I’ll be thinking it’s all gravy.  Got it?
            Hammond nodded. 
            -Good.  Now where the hell are Smith and Jenkins?
            After a hiatus of a good ten seconds, Hammond restarted their conversation.  In another ten, they were immersed in best times, favorite courses, and stories from last season.  Hammond was just saying how he wished he could’ve seen Mebkay cross the finish line with his own eyes and how pumped he got seeing that still on the jumbotron when in sauntered the two tardy boys. 
            -Better never than late.
            -Are we late?
            -Hamz is always early.
            -Hey, my dad’s military.  Five minutes early is on time.  On time is late.
            -You guys know why I called you hear?
            -We’re seniors.
            -That’s right.  You’re my three seniors.  Let’s get down to business.  First things first: you know this team doesn’t have captains.  No hierarchies.  No egos.  That said, as far as I’m concerned you’re all captains.  When you fill out your college apps, and you will be filling out college applications, you say that you ran cross and track and that you captained your team.
            They looked at one another.  Jenkins, who would be the most perturbed at Hartman’s decree, looked around one time and said, Cool.
            -Now that we have that covered, let’s talk about the team.  I need you guys.  You’re my eyes and ears.  If something’s going down, you tell me.  If somebody starts to stumble, and I’m not talking running, you let me know.  If Galiozzi drinks one sip of beer, you tell me.  If Spidestrom is flunking tests, you tell me.  You owe me that.  You owe your team that. 
            -That’s cool Coach.  We get it.
            -Good.  Now, we’re a fast team, but we’re not deep.  We can’t lose anybody.  Including the three of you.  Let’s not kid ourselves.  You guys will have difficult choices to make this year.  Parties, dances, girlfriends, the whole bit.  This is your first and only warning.  If you screw up, I will kick your ass off the team.  No second chances.  Underclassmen are young and stupid.  They get second chances.  Right Reggie?  You don’t.  I need you to lead by example.  It’s part of being a senior.
            -That’s kinda harsh isn’t it Coa—
            -Don’t give me that bullshit.  The team looks up to you three.  Sellberg clings to your every word.  Paws takes what you give him and comes back for more.  Ryan, did you know Hideo has all your PRs memorized?  He does.  You need to show them the way.  You guys have all taken minutes, not seconds, minutes off your freshmen times.  They need to know that.  They need to know that they can do that too.
            The three of them weren’t quite expecting Hartman’s tone.  They weren’t use to hearing him swear and he did so with such aplomb.  No pauses for effect or stumbles.  Nothing.  Just said those words and kept on going. 
            Hartman knew his seniors would respond well to tough decrees.  Anytime he gave them a choice workout – nine quarters or twelve three hundreds – it was an indecisive debacle.  These three needed to be told what to do and how to do it.  Once they knew what they were doing, they did it well.
            -I expect this team to police itself.  The little stuff, you guys can take care of that.  I don’t need to know about it.  The big stuff, you get me involved.  If I find out something’s going down from someone other than you, it’s your ass.
            He paused.  They nodded.  Then he went on to tell them that he abhorred this conversation.  Loathed it.  He said that this was the first and last time he hoped he’d have to discuss such things.  A necessary evil, he called it.  He let it sit for a few moments more then transitioned to the upcoming season.  He asked Hammond what he thought.
            The boy paused and mulled over his words to be careful not to say anything that would jinx the team. 
            -We have a chance to be real good, he said.
            -Real good, Smitty said, we’re gonna be the best in the state.  State champions.
            -I think we can run with anybody.
            -I do too.
            -Me too.
            -Well, we’re all in agreement about that.
            -Paddington will be right there.
            -So will Woodbury.  Did you see their results from Saturday?
            -Oh I know.  That win will give them the number one ranking in the state.
            -That’s okay.  Remember: we peak in November, not September…Let me ask you this: what planet is Coetaine on?
            -He thinks he’s a high jumper now. 
            -He got a girlfriend this summer.
            -Yeah but, he’s been better lately.
            -That’s true.
            -He was one of our top seven last year.  We need him.
            -I think he’ll come around.  Peer pressure will do that to a guy.  Besides, he said his IT-band is better now.
            -That’s good.  We’re gonna need him.
            -You have to admit, though, Deo and Spidestrom are looking strong.
            -I think they’ll both be top seven.
            -Add Torres to the two of them and us three and that’s our class team.
            -I know you don’t like counting on freshmen, he looked at his coach, but Paws could be a help.
            -Sort of like Spider last year.
            -Maybe better than Spider. 
            -They’re two totally different types of runners.  Adam’s a speedster.  Justin’s a workaholic. 
            -Hey coach, how come speedsters are never workaholics?
            -Don’t get me started.
            Their conversation continued for almost another full hour.  They talked about the class meet course, getting enough sleep, eating right, individual goals, Coetaine again, key workouts, the whole gamut.  Hamz and Smitty talked about Jenkins’ chance at winning state.  Ryan and Hartman smiled and listened.  They already had that talk.

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