A Little Coaching

A Little Coaching

From Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul

A Little Coaching

The two important things I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavor is taking the first step, making the first decision.

Robyn Davidson

For me, it was normal to feel lost at the inter-camp track and swim meet. Four camps of kids were ready to lead their teams to a blue ribbon and win the day. Not me. I was too little to be a leader and too skinny to be an athlete. I knew this by the time I was twelve, because my camp counselors and the other kids reminded me of it every chance they got. So when our camp needed a fourth runner in the two-mile race around the lake, I knew I was no one’s first choice.

I hid in the shade of a maple tree as they called the names of the runners. My body tensed as I heard a counselor call, “Noah! Where’s Noah! He’s in this race!”

It was Bronto. His name was really Alan Bronstein, but everyone called him Bronto. He spotted me under the tree and lifted me up by my elbows. It was more than just his name that qualified him for his “Brontoism.”

“Noah, we need a twelve-year-old who hasn’t been in other events to run the two-mile.”

“But you’ve got three guys.”

“We need four. You’re in.”

He gave me a push toward the starting line. Trying to save myself from the humiliation of taking last place as four camps watched, I pleaded with him.

“But I don’t know the way around the lake!”

“You’re in. Just follow Craig.” Bronto smiled.

Craig was my friend and the fastest runner in our camp. And then Bronto said, “When you make it to the last stretch on the field, just throw your head back and run.”

At the starting line, I stood next to Craig and trembled.

“On your mark . . . get set . . .” The gun cracked and sixteen of us took off. Kicking up dust on the dirt road leading to the lakeshore path, I was determined not to get lost. I stayed close on Craig’s heels. A little too close for Craig, I guess, because he shouted at me, “Back off!”

I did. Two guys passed me but I kept my eye on Craig.

It was tiring. The distance was widening between Craig and me. We made the turn from the dusty road onto the muddy, wooded trail that wound around the lake back to the field. Through the trees I saw Craig slip and fall out of sight. A runner from another camp passed him.

In a moment, he was up again and running. He yelled to me, “Watch the roots. They’re slimy!” Struggling to keep my legs moving, I looked down and saw the tree root stripped of its bark. I puffed over it. Fifty yards later I was out of breath, but I turned up the hill into the sunlight again, which shone on the open field. My energy was spent. I scrambled up, ready to see the rest of the pack crossing the finish line and was about to drop to my knees and quit, when I saw not the fifteen guys that I thought would be in front of me, but three. The crowd was roaring, but I could hear Bronto over the rest of them, yelling, “Run!”

I threw my head back and told my legs to go. I never looked ahead and I never looked back for those last hundred yards. I felt free. Nobody was telling me what I was, or what I wasn’t. My legs were running a race against my brain and I was winning.

I didn’t know when I crossed the finish line. Bronto caught me and I collapsed—winded, but happy that I finished. Then I realized Bronto wasn’t just holding me up. He was hugging me!

“You flew! You flew, man! Second! You passed two guys!”

There was a crowd of kids around me patting me on the back, giving me high-fives. I had come in second. Craig had finished first . . . by a step, they said.

They gave me a red second-place ribbon. Even with that and all the high-fives and cheers of the day, the best prize that I walked away with was my confidence. That year I discovered I could do a lot of things if I put my energy into them.

I never got to say thanks to Bronto right after the race. But during the next events, I spotted him over at the lake. He was coaching a reluctant kid who was going to swim in the freestyle relay. I ran over to cheer him on. With Bronto coaching, I had no doubt that this was going to be another good race.

Noah Edelson

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