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Dr. J. on Running

Kids Won't Say

Teen Lingo Dissected

Published June 19, 2000 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

According to my wise and knowledgeable children who attend school on running scholarships - I pay their tuition as long as they run - there are certain phrases you will never hear a high school runner say. I admit that I know adults who think the same way, but the following phrases have special significance for our future Olympians.

Go to any track meet or cross-country meet, or visit a locker room after an especially hard practice. Every teenager I know is hungry and ready to eat. Once the competition is done, high school runners never say: "Coach. Do not stop for food - we need to get home." The corollary to this phrase, when the coach forces the team to stop for food, is: "Hey! I brought enough money to pay for Coach's gas and dinner, too."

The return trip after a race provides coaches and runners quality time to bond, develop winning strategies and build team morale. Most of the time, however, the athletes have other ideas on their minds, but you will never hear a high school runner say: "Coach. Will we get back early enough to clean the van?"

On long road trips, many coaches use the radio to break the ice or unwind from competition. Here is another travel phrase you will not hear from a high school runner: "Coach. Please leave it on the country music station", or "Coach. Please keep the volume down so we can enjoy the rhythm."

Adolescent hormones rage at invitational meets, where wiry ectomorphic runners admire the sculpted bodies of mesomorphic sprinters. As the girls bend and stretch for the next heat of the 100-meter dash under the watchful eyes of the male milers, you will never hear the boys say: "Bun-huggers? What bun-huggers?"

Kids always wish the best for their teammates and friends, but there is something sacred about family records. This parent's strategy is to increase his racing distances to keep ahead of his offspring's PRs, but brothers and sisters are not as lucky. I have never heard older children exclaim: "Did you see how well my little sister just ran? I can't wait till she breaks all my PRs!"

High school runners often criticize their coaches, even when these elders try to give their best advice and share their experience with their athletes. You will never hear a high school runner say: "Coach said I should do a 2-mile cool down, and I think he is right, again." The corollary to this phrase relates to the athlete's potential at a given distance. You will not hear a typical high school runner say: "Coach, why can't I run the relay also?

When it comes to the mechanics of coaching, it is a challenge to find a high school athlete who knows less than the coach. Here is something you will seldom hear a high school athlete say: "To break my PR in the mile, I should listen to coach and carefully follow his training plan."

How many times have you been to a cross-country meet and watched the runners search for their shirts, shorts, socks, shoes, spikes, snacks or anything else critical to the race? Since the absent-minded teen-ager is a literary redundancy, you will never hear a high school runner say: "I brought extra shirts, socks and spikes for anyone who needs them." Or, "I am in charge of the batons, so when it comes time for the relays, I will have them at the starting line."

Just as certain as night follows day, injuries are an integral part of running. Through poor diet and overuse, high school runners are especially prone to injuries. Here is a phrase you will not hear at a high school meet: "No thanks. I will skip the ibuprofen and just ice it," or better yet "I will stay off the foot for a couple of days."

Heaven helps the runner who ignores a coach's advice and performs miserably. Worse, yet, heaven helps the runner who has a bad race and is the last one to the van for the return trip. One phrase you will never hear a high school athlete say is: "Please, let me ride shotgun so I can talk to Coach on the way home!"

As summer brings a new meaning to distance coaching, I salute all high school athletes and their coaches, and wish them safe preparation for the trails of September.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains TrackMeets.com, the world leader in live track webcasting, and receives email at jabbour@syr.edu.


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