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It's Hard to Sit Upstairs.

I was a college coach for 35 years and a high school coach for four, stepping away from coaching seven years ago. Hard to believe it's been that long. There aren't many retired track or cross country coaches who miss all the travel, even if its all on a chartered bus or in an airplane.

And I definitely don't miss recruiting - driving two hours to watch five minutes of action and spending more time on the telephone than a thirteen-year-old girl. Then there's the bad slice of local pizza at the concession stand or a hotdog that no amount of catsup can make taste better.

Don't get me started on all the required NCAA paperwork each week or being under an AD who doesn't know s**t from Shinola when it comes to a sport which doesn't have a ball. There are so many things about the job that made my life stressful. Led me to chew on Tums like they were SweeTarts.

Yet, I do miss the moments at my practices and in the meets, where my love for the sport shines, time always flying by in these sessions with my athletes. Watching a freshman exhibit a hint of future success, or that moment when an athlete suddenly "gets" what you've been saying, or the 6th place breakthrough performance in a small meet that no one else noticed.

Those were special.

Coaches debate the right moment to retire - when it's time to step away and enjoy life - instead of putting in the 60-70 hour work weeks. Like crossing a state line when traveling to an away meet, 59-years-old becomes 60, and 60 becomes 65, the unremarkable events passing by unnoticed, all attention focused the myriad of tasks lying ahead.

It was a thrill to be a voice on the Horizon League ESPN broadcast this past weekend, to share my forty years of knowledge during the show, to watch and describe the conference meet in my own words, and to make, hopefully, an enjoyable program. But there was one task upstairs that shined above all others.

Interviewing the athletes was the best part.

It was amusing to find someone who moments earlier - courageously ran down an opponent on the final straight or another who found the where-with-all to produce the winning effort in a field event - now standing so timidly in the broadcast area, waiting to go on air. To watch their faces as they describe the victory, and the happy realization that dreams do come true.

I got to share in these sublime moments.

Yet as I tell anyone pondering retirement, every year past sixty, the BS meter goes off much quicker and more often, your tolerance for the "noise" (from administrators or parents) much less accommodating, the thought of stepping away easier to picture. Like a horsefly that won't leave you alone, it's time to hang it up, to put it all behind.

But make sure to stay involved in the sport we love - announce upstairs at local TF meets, volunteer as an assistant, sign up to be an USATF official - or do as I do, assist a timing company (they are desperate for help) so you continue to bump into the coaches and the athletes on a regular basis. You'll be surprised that it doesn't even feel like work.

Stay involved. Please!

Track & Field and Cross Country need your experience and wisdom.

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