One of the banes of every track coach is dealing with sicknesses. Especially during the winter months. It's probably one of the leading causes of coaching stress, one of the worries that keeps us awake at night - no matter how minor any illness may seem.
But I have always maintained we have a much greater ability to reduce illnesses simply by teaching good habits that will reduce chances of getting sick. Washing hands is one - but there is another routine just as important.
December and January mornings as I walked through the swimming pool on the way to do my workout I watched the swim team doing laps and asked myself the question, "how is it that swimmers get through the season without EVERYONE on the team getting sick?" I mean, wet hair, sweaty bodies, and frigid temperatures are ripe conditions for colds - in fact the proverbial "perfect storm."
Pedaling away on the exercise bike for forty minutes I watched swimmers leaving the athletic facility with coats zipped up, a stocking hat on every head, most of them with a hood pulled over the hat as they pushed open the outside door to head home for breakfast. Hmmm.
What About a Trapper Hat?
How many times have you seen your athletes going home after practice in February, coat unzipped as they stepped outside, a stocking hat bunched up in their pocket, waiting in the cold for a teammate to show? Do they not realize that even though they are warm, there isn't an infinite time after a workout that they can continue to lose body heat without consequence?
Like the bloated feeling after overeating at Thanksgiving, it's too late when they finally realize the rapid heat loss from the body and head is probably not good. As a result, the rhino-viruses, which hover over track teams Like Pig-Pen's "dust of ancient civilizations," replicate and spread through bodies like a locker room rumor, waiting for some stressor to come along.
That's where it all starts. Unzipped coats and uncovered heads. So I came up with a clever aphorism that I always used during the winter months to remind athletes there is a good way to avoid colds:
"A stocking hat is like a condom...it only works if you put it on."
Enjoy this story? Be sure to check out the rest of the website where you can purchase my books, "A Golden Era" and "A Long Road Ahead" which tell the stories of the high school and college running careers of a father in the 70s and his son in the 2000s.