Friday, August 12, 2011

Growing Up Fast

Last night I held a “speedwork” session for the soccer team I coach. This practice was not about kicking, shooting, passing or heading. Nope, this was about running. Fast.

Since it’s still vacation season I expected a small turnout, and that’s what I got. Just four girls plus one sister.

It was a beautiful, clear, relatively cool and humidity free, spectacular, late summer evening. Perfect for just about anything—including running on a track. The girls are headed into their U16 season in a new (to them), more competitive, league so fitness, speed, and agility are at an even higher premium.

I was able to find a wealth of drills that I could use to help improve speed with repetition. Some of the exercises were kind of goofy, and it wasn’t immediately obvious how they help. You sort of have to trust that they will.

After stretching, I sent the girls off on a few easy laps. This was the first time I could just watch them run. In fact, when I thought about it, I very rarely just get to watch them do anything. At practice and games, my mind is constantly adjusting, thinking, planning, strategizing, and wondering how to get all of the moving parts into a functional whole. Just watching, and enjoying, is one of the last things I get to do.

Their strides, seemingly effortless and free, were beautiful to behold. Not perfect, but pretty close. Okay, I’m biased by love and I sometimes (often) have a hard time seeing their flaws. But, still, they looked awfully good to me. I can remember when they were ten years old and they ran on short little legs that couldn’t get them very far very quickly. Where did these powerfully athletic young women come from?

Perhaps in comparison I was also thinking about my own heavy gait as opposed to their graceful movement. I don’t care. I could have just stopped then and there and called it a good night, but we had work to do.

In front of the setting sun they stayed focused and did every weird thing that I asked them to do. Hopping on one foot then two, marching with stiff legs, skipping low and high. Falling start. Seated start. Lying start. Almost everything as fast as they could. Few complaints. Plenty of smiles. Camaraderie. Too quickly, we were done.

They finished with three more easy laps. And I watched these beautiful, graceful athletes run again. Proud of them. Proud of their effort. Wishing that they wouldn’t grow up so fast.

Oh, wait, this is speedwork. I want them to grow up fast, but not quickly.

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