Letter to an Athlete, thanks to Coach Morris and Perciful. Episode 2 of Woodbridge’s The Runner’s High XC podcast series.

In receiving this email today –

“Mr.Brake I’m starting to lose my interest in cross country I think I’m going to take the year off and possibly come back next year but I would still like the letterman’s jacket I feel as if I have earned that for helping with the fund raisers.” – I had one thought, well maybe two –

  1. How devastating the Covid pandemic has been mentally and physically on so many people.
  2. My responsibility, as a coach to pass on the advice and counseling passed down to me from some of the best in the sport of Cross Country. So of course, I tapped into the second episode of my interview with Coach Perciful to pull out what I had been taught.

I wrote the below:

Okay _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , first – you need to stop being a knuckle head  🙂   Listen to me on this – I am not accepting your thought of needing to take a year off and drop out of this season.  You have too much talent and grit to lay such talent aside for this season, or any season, period.

This is the longest preseason we ever had, so mentally, this is a difficult time, as well as difficult as a physical time coming off of a Covid year and into the new season following Covid.  I say this because it indeed impacts everyone- whether you are a coach, an athlete, student, administrator, parent, etc..

Yet, if Covid has taught us anything, it has been being able to see your way through what seems gloom never ending, there is light on the brighter side if you are willing to go the extra mile and see beyond what is right in front of you.

Did you see how many times you were in the yearbook for XC?  This, on a personal note, is because others also see you as the face of determination, integrity, and toughness, and you have in the past, the ability to STICK and do the best with what you have.

Not only is the team depending on the willingness and stubborness to come back to something and improve, but to continually work through tough times, which we each have, be it academically, socially, athletically all of these have been amplified with Covid and truly only the strong survive mentally, socially, academically.

You have come back many times from the brink of almost not breaking through tough times, and you have always done so, this speaks volumes of you.  You have too much to offer to leave it behind.  Also, the letterman’s jacket is simply an object, something that represents all the struggles and the tough times you worked through and literally is a shield / symbol of the achievements you have worked towards.  Of course the jacket was earned through a fundraiser on your behalf, but if that is all it means, down the road you are going to be really disappointed with the experience you’ve had in XC and any sport.  The fact that the achievements and strides you have made weigh heavier than any one object is something you really need to think about.

Whether you want to hear it or not, YOU are a RUNNER, and you are a good one.  More than one coach, athlete, and parent has seen this, and to go easy on you and let you just walk away from something that is something you are so good at, the ability you have that many WISH they had, as well as your innate talent to improve – that would be one of the worst mistakes I could make as a coach. 

Trust me, from being 49 years old, I have seen and experienced the gamut of good to bad – and I do know you will regret walking away from something that you think might just be represented by a varsity jacket, but even deeper is the strength, confidence, and courage you provide to the other runners, your team, when you show up as you do – you whether you realize it or not, give that to others.  I have that perspective as a coach and again, I would be a bad coach if I did not lay it on the line and what I have seen and how you can be the best you.

Not sure if you are reading this at 1:18 AM in the Morn, but Tuesday is picture day for the team, 7:45, and with you not in that picture will be devastating for many of the runners, and to you down the road.  I’d like you there, in the picture, because whether you believe it or not, you belong there. Yes you had miles this weekend that probably did not get done, but I am willing to work on that with you for the sake of helping you guide through this long, extended patch of practice we are working through now.  Killens Invite is the first huge meet on September 11th, and the absolute rush of being able to demonstrate your ability among that many people is simply – unmatched.  It is going to be one of the biggest (and first) meets of the season due to this being after the initial season of Covid, and as much as the team relies on you to be there, whether you realize it or not, you need to be there as much as the others are depending on you.  

Please listen to this segment 2 of Coach Perciful’s podcast, the best mentor I coached under, and ran with, and have experiences the up’s and down of life, with.  Trust me, the life of Vince Morris, both our friends, who was fighting Lymphoma cancer while coaching his XC team taught me alot about sacrifice is and what a full life can be, and how to navigate the toughest times in our lives, and what and how it makes you feel when you have others around you willing to support you through those tough times. 

This all might sound like alot of craziness, but I agree with what Coach Perciful says at the end of this podcast, the only nobility is proving yourself better than yourself and that is you in a nutshell.  There is so much in this podcast that is you, and I cannot accept you walking away and being content with that as a coach and what I have seen you do up to this point.

I want to see you back with us because you are a large piece of the best of us.  At the very least, I give you this offer  – AT LEAST stick with us through Killen’s Invite and the first official meet and if you still are of the opinion this is not your year, so be it, I am at peace with that – but to not really experience the fruits of the work you have put in, is just a waste of your natural ability and potential.  Truly as Rob Perciful says in this podcast, we all remember Vince cracking jokes and saying in his last days in the hospital, “If I was any better, I’d have to be twins!'” and I always thought, whew  – what can we do with the healthy selves we have?  

You have this potential this year and next to blow open the times that many expect you to have and what you can have, and I hope you will see this as well.

Without further ado, Coach Perciful’s podcast, episode 2.


About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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2 Responses to Letter to an Athlete, thanks to Coach Morris and Perciful. Episode 2 of Woodbridge’s The Runner’s High XC podcast series.

  1. Cp says:

    Sounds to me like that Perciful guy is crazy. I wouldn’t listen to a word he said.

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