Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ols'...2nd iHope Gift Awarded...Week 12

On Wednesday night I'm planning to scramble from the weekly Wednesday night group ride over to Davenport North High School for the Quad Cities Athlete of the Year and Hall of Fame induction ceremony.  My college coach, Paul Olsen is being inducted into the QC Sports Hall of Fame (long overdue) and I don't want to miss it.  Ols', as he is affectionately known by the thousands of athletes that have competed under his guidance, is certainly one of the top 5 most influential figures in my life.  Ols' began coaching at Augustana in the mid-1960's and is still leading the Vikings Cross Country and Track and Field teams nearly 50 years later.  Ols' earned his Ph.D from the University of Oregon in English.  He teaches English classes at Augustana even though he wouldn't need to if he didn't want to.  He loves teaching and his classes always are the first to fill up because he teaches like he coaches.  There are so many things in my daily life that would be very different if I had not had the complete and utter pleasure of running for him from the fall of 1999 when I tranferred to Augustana through the fall of 2002 when I ran my last collegiate race. I then had the privilage of serving as the assistant coach under Ols' during the 2004 and 2005 cross country seasons where he continued to teach me many valuable life lessons.  The following, in order only of what comes to my mind are things I learned from the greatest coach in the world. 

1.  The Journey is the Goal- When I first arrived on campus I assumed that journey must be to the national meet.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  This journey is life.  The goal is a successful journey through life and the teachings of Ols' allow that journey to be an awesome one. 

2.  Reckless, Aggressive, Enthusiastic, Intense- It was a motto of how we approached competition.  It had to be over 1,000 times I heard these phrases from Ols' in my time at Augustana.  Being fearless in racing and never being afraid to take a chance.  Ols' has so much history he has hundreds of inspiring stories of Augustana athletes and one that I remember was a 1500 meter runner Ols' said who was always afraid of dying at the end of a race so he never raced reckless enough in the middle of the metric mile.  Ols' told him one meet he didn't care if he stepped off the track at the bell lap...he wanted this guy to run gutsy in the middle of the race.  Ols' said the guy ran the first 1100 meters of the race on pace for a HUGE lifetime best and right at the bell lap the guy dove off the track.  Ols' was so proud of him for pushing the middle and the guy later said, "I could have kept going."  The next race he did keep going and he ran the huge lifetime best.  Lesson learned. 

3.  Enthusiasm- I've NEVER met someone with the enthusiam of Ols'.  Non-stop enthusiasm...if you know him you would swear he has never had a bad day.  He would get excited about anything...even if a race did not go well he would find something to be enthusiastic about.  His enthusiam is contageous and I'd like to think it rubbed off on me as a coach and as a teacher.  He once told me his enthusiasm is his greatest gift and I hope the same for myself. 

4.  Positive Thinking- Ols' found positives from every situation.  I ran on some of the worst teams Augustana has had in the past 30 years (which was still great by nearly any other team's standards) but he had us believing we were one of the best in the nation because of how positive he was.  He once told me about a study done by coaches of 3 different youth running teams.  One coach was very negative.  One was mostly positive but offered lots of constructive feedback.  The last was always positive no matter what.  He said the last coach would have kids fall while running and would say, "You got up faster than anyone I've ever seen" to put a positive spin on it.  After tracking the progress of the 3 different groups the negative coach's kids got worse, the positive coach who offered constructive feedback saw slight improvements, and the coach who was non-stop positive saw HUGE improvements." 

5.  "I Believe"- Another one of Ols' favorite phrases.  This one was on the back of my team shirt the first year I was at Augustana.  It goes along with the above in that Ols' always believe in what we could do.  He created this mindset in us that made us believe anything was possible.  It still impacts me today.  I can still hear his voice yelling "I believe" while running in races. 

6.  "Say Yes"...another favorite phrase.  This one applies to any positive thought that enters the mind..."Should I pass this guy?", "Can I go faster?", "Should I try to go out with the leaders even though I've never beaten them before?", "Can I do this...or that?"...the answer is always "Yes".

7.  The power of the mind- Ols' always taught us how impactful the mindset is in shaping the outcome of any situation.  I remember this story well.  Before a big meet Ols' came into the team meeting and said, "Raise your hand if you've had a wet dream."  We all laughed but then soon realized there was something serious behind this.  The reality is that wet dreams do happen and he was making the point that in that situation it is the mind which causes a physical reaction.  How powerful is that?  Knowing that one's mind can impact a physical response made us realize the power that the mind can have in determining how well we perform, how well we handle any given situation in life. 

8.  Behind every action there is a reaction- When we didn't get all of our trash picked up at a meet Ols' asked us what we thought would happen to the trash...when we left towels in the training room he asked us what would happen to made us realize that what we do leaves an impact.  When we leave something behind someone has to deal with that.  It taught us to be more responsible and respectful to the earth and our surroundings.  If often ask kids in my class that when I see gum in the urinal.  That gum doesn't just disappear.  Someone out there has to take care of it.  Behind every action there is a reaction. 

9.  "Pat's got a story"- We had a bus driver who we thought was a little strange.  She would say things that we made fun of in the back seats of the bus or when we stopped and got off.  Ols' knew this and when we were in the hotel room he said, "I don't know what Pat's story is but I know she has one.  You don't know her story.  You don't know what she has been through and dealt with in life so be careful making judgements without knowing the story."  Just because her story is far different than ours doesn't give us a right to treat her with any less compassion.  This has impacted me and helped me understand people with differences.  Great life lesson. 

10.  The Road Less Traveled- I've never had much of an appreciation for poetry.  I hated poetry in high school and college mostly because I never understood it.  My appreciation for one poem in particular could not be greater because Ols' taught us the mean.  The Road Less Traveled by Robert Frost was the poem.  Ols' would often recite this poem and tell us how eating nutritous foods in college was the road less traveled...getting up early for morning runs was the road less traveled, staying in on the weekends when most college students were out partying was the road less traveled...and that is what makes all the difference.  Frost writes about coming to a spot in the woods where the road diverged.  One was well worn...the path most people take.  One was overgrown.  In the poem he takes the one less traveled and knowing "How way leads on to way..." meaning how one things leads to another he doubts that he would ever come back.  That path less traveled makes all the difference.  I often think about this in my own life.  When deciding to resign from 3 sports while weighing 195 lbs. to go "all in" with a belief that I could become a professional triathlete while being married, having a full-time job, and having just had our first child...the road less traveled.  Now here I am 4 years later..."way leads on to way" and I'm so glad I have taken that path less traveled.  It has made all the difference. 

Thanks Ols' for everything you taught me.  Your impact has been felt by so many of the kids I teach and people I have met.  The same I'm sure can be said for thousands of other athletes you coached.  I learned more from you than I ever did in any classroom.  I'd say in college the impact you made on my life was greater than the impact of all my classes combined.  You taught me to believe that anything is possible and the journey is a great one.  What I learned from you is why I don't get afraid or nervous when I'm on the line at professional races with the best triathletes in the world.  Instead I embrace knowing that I've earned my place on the line with them. 

On Tuesday we were able to give our 2nd iHope gift of the year.  It was super inspring.  This gift was made possible by an anonymous donation to fund an entire iHope gift.  The student received an iPad and protective case.  The student's mom, grandma, and aunt all came to watch us give the gift.  The student had no idea and was more than a little surprised to see their family in our school conference room.  This student is a model of character for our school.  The student treats others with compassion and respect.  The student works tremendously hard.  When we gave the gift along with the letter the student was in tears and so were many of us in the room.  It was completely inspring and is exactly what we hope to be able to do more often as the iHope foundation grows.  The student gave us a thank-you card later in the week and described what the iHope gift meant and how it has been difficult being raised without a father-figure in their life.  The student mentioned the high goals they have for their own future and how they realize nothing will be handed to them...everything must be earned.  The student also said some day they are looking forward to being able to give back to iHope.  You can help us continue to grow the foundation by making a tax-deductible contribtion or just learn more about the iHope foundation by clicking here

The week was a good one.  The highlight was placing 2nd in a 5k over the weekend and earning $200.00 that will go to the iHope Foundation.  Because my parents have generously agreed to match all my race winnings that nearly funds and entire iHope gift.  Jen placed 1st in the women's 5k amazingly about 6 hours after her sister's bachelorette party ended.   Sunday was my biggest day of training yet this year at just over 6 hours with a 90 mile ride followed by a 13 mile run.  Only 5 weeks until my first triathlon of the year.  As I seem to say every week I need to make it a point to get to race weight now.  I'm strong and surprised by how well I'm running at my current weight but it's time to reduce my body fat % down to something respectable.  Thanks for reading!  DREAM BIG!

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