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Just Ask Clarke
It started my freshman year of high school. I wasn’t much of an athlete and when I joined the girls track and field team, I was lost. All I could think was What do I do now? Where do I go? I don’t belong here. I was so eager to join the hurdles team but I did not know the technique involved. I went to preseason training and when I saw the hurdle, I jumped over it. I did not know there was a form; I also did not know the amount of steps needed to glide over the hurdles in a race. This soon changed because of Coach Clarke.
Coach Schmidema, the main hurdles coach was yelling “GO!” As he did, a runner would race past the starting line, running towards the first hurdle. When it was my time to go, I did just that. He kept yelling “LEAD LEG, LEAD LEG, USE YOUR LEAD LEG.”
I did not know what this meant. I was lost in a world of confusion. Some of the girls pulled me aside and tried to explain what a lead leg is. But it still didn’t make sense.
On the first day of the season, the head girls coach split us up into groups based on our events. Me and six other girls walked towards the West gym of the school, and a young man wearing a white football jacket awaited us. He introduced himself as Coach Clarke and he told us about himself.
From that day on, Coach Clarke became my favorite coach. He is the reason I do hurdles. He taught me to never give up, that hard times are when I have to push myself past my limits. He even taught me I need to use a leg to go over the hurdle (lead leg) rather than both legs.
Coach Clarke is a laid back coach, but he also makes sure I put forth effort. He will sometimes shorten our workouts if we prove to him we don’t need to do the whole workout. Despite this, Coach Clarke knows when he has to “lay down the law”.
I got a hip sprain my freshman year and I insisted I run a race, even though it felt like my leg was being cut off. Coach Clarke could tell I was limping and that I was eager to hurdle so he told me to run a 200 just to see if I could do that. I was in pain, but I tried to hide it, hoping that he would let me run. Unfortunately, he stopped me after about the first 70 meters and told me I would not be running the next day. This showed me that recovery is important, because running on that injury could have made it much worse in the long run.
Coach Clarke has taught me to never give up, and in order to succeed, one must overcome their fears. He had taught me this my sophomore year when I fell going over a hurdle. I either miscounted my steps or set my blocks wrong because next thing I knew, I was falling over the hurdle. The bang of the hurdle and my knee hitting the floor caused everyone to stop and look at me. I was so humiliated. Coach Clarke ran over to me, checking if I was okay. He then sent me to the trainer to get it checked out and when I returned, he suggested I sit out for our workout.
I earned third place in my first high hurdles race of the year, due to the fact that I was not taking the three steps, the steps necessary into recieving first place. I walked over to my coach with my head low. Clarke told me that everything would be alright. I told him I was scared of three stepping and falling. He responded with “then don’t think. Instead, hurdle with your legs.” This point has shown me that it’s important to stop using your brain every once in a while and that it is important to overcome your fears.
One time, I was too tired to run up the hill one last time for one of our workouts. I told Coach Clarke that I was too tired and could not do it. He told me I needed to run the last hill, that running up the hill one last time is what’ll make me a better runner. He ran with me until I made it all the way to the top, telling me when I was almost there and then giving me a good pat on the back when finished. Coach Clarke had shown me that it is important to push myself every now and then because it will make me stronger as a person. By running that hill one last time, I improved as a runner.
Coach Clarke is kind, determined, and trustworthy. Without him as a coach I wouldn’t be the hurdler I am today, instead, I’d still be that freshman year hurdler, completely lost.