My Opinion – 2/23/13
I have the privilege of getting to go and watch many meets and then write about them for you. 99% of the time, I always enjoy the meet and the coaches that run them. Maybe that is one great thing about this sport is because we have so many people involved. The young athletes are involved in track & field is blessed to have so many good coaches in Illinois teaching them.
Over the past two days, I have been at two track meets. Circumstances happened. Between the two meets, it was a matter of night and day how they were handled. Here again, I could not tell you how many meets I have been in my life (probably in the thousands), but what I saw at the end of the Proviso West Invitational today made my stomach turn.
I was at the Normal West Invitational last evening. The host coach Steve Destri had a problem in the morning when four schools close to St. Louis could not come due to the weather. The meet had to be reseeded and new heat sheets had to be created. Destri made sure that the timing company knew of these changes and implemented.
The meet went on as planned. Each field event went on without a hitch. The only thing that Destri and the Normal West staff required is that each team makes sure they pick up their garbage before they leave. It’s a request that makes sense. The meet actually finished ahead of schedule. I will be back at that meet next year.
Today I attended the Proviso West Invitational. By the time that I arrived at the Field House, it was 9 AM. The majority of the schools were already camped out and getting ready for the meet. I got a meet program and saw that one of the schools had been marked off of the front page of the program. When I went to check the heat sheets, I noticed that the school marked out still had athletes in most of the events.
We got to 10 AM and the meet was scheduled to begin. Hip numbers were supposed to be given to athletes in each race to make it easier for the timer. No one was assigned to check in the athletes and to give out the numbers. Of line of athletes waited anxiously to do this and what stared at them was a box of numbers of two empty chairs.
I asked one of the coaches if Proviso West had a new coach. He told me yes. The coach’s name was Terrell Henderson. He told me that you would not find him on the track. He probably is giving out awards or somewhere else. The meet started 15 minutes late. He used another term for him that I would not repeat. By the time the meet was over, I could see that it applied.
I do not like being critical about coaching styles. Each coach has their own unique style that helps their athlete improve. I am still trying to figure out the style of Mr. Henderson. I was told at one of the first meets of the year by one of the workers that was in attendance, the Proviso West coach did not show up until half way through the meet.
I saw Henderson coaching his athletes one time during the meet. I was on the track the entire meet and I am a pretty observant guy. I saw as one of the Proviso West athletes was finishing, he was encouraging his athlete “Way to Finish! Way to be a Panther!” Looking back at it now, I am wondering if he being on the track was a coincidence. I went up a couple of times to look at the results that were posted on the wall by the awards. I did not see him any of those times I passed.
The meet ended close to 4PM, almost a half hour behind schedule but it seemed like more. Athletes had been in the Field House more than seven hours. They were tired because of the competition. They wanted to come home.
An announcement came from the public address system. It was not the voice of the meet announcer but that of Mr. Henderson.
“I need the cooperation of all the coaches, all of the teams. We need to get all the equipment put away. We need to get the high jump and pole vault pits put away.”
Now, most meets that I have been at or been a meet manager, there were student workers that would be assigned to put things away. It is hard for me to know if he had planned that. Tired athletes looked around for the guidance of their coaches to see what they wanted them to do. When I got to the meet site last year for the Midwest Distance Festival, the steeple barriers were not out. A worker and the track and I moved them into position. It is just something that if it is not done, a meet director has to take care of.
The same announcement came over the PA again. This time it was a little stronger in tone and more defiance. I was hoping that Henderson would step on the track and help out with the movement of the equipment. The meet announcer could have kept directing while Henderson helped other coaches and athletes clean up HIS school’s meet. There he stood looking over the track. There was reluctance by some. But eventually, the track equipment was put away. He may have said “Thanks” at the end of it but I do not remember hearing it. I was listening for that.
During the entire time, I watched as this was going on with disgust. Henderson just stood at the foot of the stands watching. Once everything was put away, then he gave out the team plaques to the top 3 teams. Hard to tell if that was a coincidence.
During the entire time, I saw a couple of Proviso West athletes move a couple of starting blocks to be put away. That was it. Henderson set an example today that his athletes followed. The problem was it was the wrong example.
Way to be a Panther.
This was the 48th edition of this storied invitational. Some of the top athletes in state track history have journeyed to this fabled field house. I was lucky to run in this meet three times. Each time, I noticed how well it was run. We always knew that it would be a good meet.
There were some great performances today at the meet. It was a good meet in that aspect. But the way that the meet was run by the school and Mr. Henderson was just not right. I heard coaches and officials leaving saying that this was the worst meet that they had worked at. It was obvious that other things that were happening that I was not privileged of knowing and did not want to know. The reputation is going to start about what happened at this meet. There are a number of facilities in the Chicago area that have 200 Meter tracks. That wasn’t the case when this meet started. Now, coaches have choices on meets that they can compete in. Eventually, coaches are going to decide that the hassle of being in this meet is just not worth it.
The West Suburban Silver Meet will be held in this facility in three weeks. If Proviso West officials read this, I doubt that I will be allowed in. But that might not be a bad thing. I could figure that a meet starting a Five o’ clock could go close to midnight. Maybe that has a tint of sarcasm in it, but I am just being realistic.
The way that the meets at Proviso West are run can improve. I do not think anyone could go through what I and many others went through again.
Proviso West’s track program WAS a great program. Times change and it has slowly declined. I can only hope that this trend can change and Proviso will find a path to where it was.
There is a saying that “You cannot teach old dogs new tricks.” I certainly hope this is not the case. Otherwise we may see this invitational fade into the sunset.