Dr.J. on Running


Star Athletes

Lesson Learned

Published May 6, 2002 in The Syracuse Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

Weeks of preparation gave way to the long-awaited weekend. A small Finger Lakes women's college hosted its conference championship. Faculty doubled up as coaches and volunteers to prepare the athletic field for the visiting teams. Groundskeepers mowed the lawn and painted the lines. The sun shone warm over the tree blossoms.

I attributed the tension within the home team to the sleepless nights of double-duty preparation. The athletes prepared both to compete on their home turf and to host opponents from around the region. The home team reached the championship as the lowest seed in the conference. As the start of the first event drew near, I sensed that the discipline and training had slipped by the wayside.

The head coach gave final words of encouragement, as his eyes searched into the distance for an elusive goal. Growing whispers eventually reached my ears. The star athlete of the home team was unexplainably missing. Her absence affected both the strength of her team and the emotions of her teammate. The concern for her well-being and the distraction by her absence were evidenced in the results of the first event. The prospects appeared grim and the weekend long.

Finally, our hero arrived two hours later than required. She blamed her tardiness on a hangover from the previous night. After all, college students have earned the right to party at the eve of a championship. She aggressively prepared to save the day. In a society where a mere apology can erase any sin, everyone expected her to take her rightful place at the start of the next event.

Her teammates had alternate designs on the day. Under the leadership of the captains and with the blessing of the coach, they voted to throw the star off the team. Unceremoniously, she packed her uniform and returned home to consume her hangover.

Awakened from a bad dream and rid of a burden, the fortunes of the home team took a decided turn for the better. The setting of their former star gave each athlete room to shine on her own, combining into a string of victories and a memorable weekend. When the darkness descended on the sleepy lakeside village and the visitors returned home, the host team celebrated their unprecedented victory and their third place finish in the championship.

My ride home was dominated by a related topic. Should athletes be required to train and compete with their teams during spring break, or can they go on vacation with their families? The captains of that home team answered this question convincingly.

© 2002 The Post-Standard.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Syracuse Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created TrackMeets.com, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at jabbour@i2sports.com.