Thanks for the Lesson, Coach: Part I

SCS Track Coach Tim Visser

Being a bit wiser and definitely older, I wish I could go back in time to thank some of the people who made an impact on who I am today. One of the people who taught me about student well-being is Ralph Honderd. Coach Honderd was my track coach my senior year at Calvin College. My college track career to that point was pretty non-descript. As a freshmen, I wrestled with how to balance college, a part-time job, and track. I decided to work harder my sophomore year and was rewarded with a broken foot while rounding the curve in a 400m hurdle race. I decided to work even harder my junior year until my season ended when a muscle separated from the bone. My senior year had to be different.

As the season began, I was really struggling. While I stayed injury-free, my times reached a plateau. I worked harder to get in better shape, and spent hours working on my form. After a particularly tough race, Coach asked me how I felt. Stunned that the head coach actually was concerned about the well-being of a washed up senior hurdler, I muttered, “The wind is good, but the legs feel like lead.” Coach thought for a minute and replied simply, “You’re working too hard. You need to stay off the track for a few days.” His words made no sense to me. The idea of not being on the track was completely counter-intuitive. He modified my workout for the next two days in preparation for the next meet.

I knew better than the coach. I went to practice early the next day to do what I felt I needed. I could do the coach’s workout when the rest of the team showed up. It would be a double workout, but the coach would never know. Coach also showed up early. He wasn’t hard for me to spot since he stood at least a head and shoulder taller than me. He called me over, put a huge hand on my shoulder, and told me to leave the track. For my own well-being, I needed to make some changes.

The next meet will never leave my memory. For the first time in over four years, I was leading a race. I was so far out in front that I was actually lonely. I still remember looking to my left in an attempt to locate my competitors. The next hurdle was the stuff of legends....

Come back to the blog next week to find out what happened, and the lessons Mr. Visser learned from his college track coach.