Chanman's Blog


Being a Coach when COVID-19 Closed Bay Area Schools

Posted in Coaching,SHC Track & Field by Andy Chan on March 15, 2020
Tags: , ,

I was already tired and had a lot of things on my plate when this week started. We had two meets the previous weekend, I lost an hour due to daylight savings time, and my shoes were still wet after being out in the rain for the aforementioned two meets. But this was not going to be a normal week and I needed to power on and be ready.

I attacked each issue one at a time. Was there going to be practice on Monday? What will we do when the school closes for five days – are outdoor off-campus practices allowed? Is the meet on Wednesday at Washington still happening? What about the meet on Saturday at Lincoln? Where can we practice on Wednesday if there is no meet? Should I just cancel all practices on Thursday since there is no available facility or coaches available? Where can we move the pole vault practice scheduled for Riordan? Is there an alternate meet the team can go to on Saturday? What will we do now that the Archdiocese has closed all schools until March 25? What are other schools doing?

By Tuesday evening, the issues had narrowed to three things: 1. Would there be Wednesday practice? 2. Would there be Friday practice? 3. Would we go to the meet at Aragon HS on Saturday. Entries for the meet were due at midnight. I needed to make a decision if it was worth it to enter 80+ athletes. I was waiting for the school to send me directives about practice and meets during the closure.

Some time before going to sleep Tuesday night, I think I knew in my heart what was going to happen. I didn’t do the entries. We might have Wednesday practice so I could talk to the team in person. But we were going to shut everything down after that – no Friday practice, no Saturday meet, no other track & field activities until school re-opens. This was my plan and I was comfortable with this, regardless of what the school decided.

Wednesday morning I got word that starting on Thursday all SHC athletics activities (practices and competitions) would be suspended until at least March 25. I started working on the speech that I would deliver to the team and later post on Schoology. The theme would be “The What and the Why.” I wanted everyone to know both “What” was happening but also “Why.” I wanted the word choices in my speech, my body language, and the tone of my delivery to convey my total belief that this was the right thing to do. As a leader, I felt that if I showed confidence, the team would more easily accept the disappointment.

Come Thursday morning, I had a lot of loose ends to tie up. I removed practices from our Google calendar, canceled buses with our athletic director, canceled the hotel and bus for our planned overnight trip, and removed meets from our schedule. I had already given some thought to the suggested distance training plan that I would post, so it was pretty easy to type and post that.

After that flurry of activity, I suddenly had nothing to do. It felt strange. It’s the second week of March and my life should be full of making weekly calendars and meet sheets, updating best marks files, writing workouts, and checking in with kids – about their grades, their training, their performances so far in the season, and life in general. Instead I was sitting at home at my makeshift office on the dining room table.

In previous stressful situations I could do what I always do – bring my team together. Their love would inspire me to be the best coach I could be. I would talk to them, measure the room, see who was particularly stressed out. I would look people in directly in the eyes and offer re-assuring words and hugs. But this time, coming together as a group was exactly what the department of public health wanted us to NOT DO.

My usual day of being passionate about track & field, interacting with the kids, and being my typical goofy self were on an extended time out. That’s when I decided I would post on Schoology every day a “2 Things From Andy” post. The first item would be something track & field related to keep the sport that brings us together as a community on people’s minds. The second item would be some random mundane thing….whatever pops in my head, the goofier the better. It would help the kids feel like they were at practice listening to me talk. At the end, I would ask them a question and ask them to comment back so they would feel like they were talking to me….and so I could feel like I was with them as I read their responses. These posts were going to be as much for me as they are for them.

I take my role as a leader for the SHC Track & Field program very seriously. I feel it’s my responsibility to frame things for the kids to help them cope. I stumbled onto someone’s social media post and decided to borrow parts of it and add to it. It’s been an unprecedented week everywhere. I’ve had to think about things and plan for things that nothing could have prepared me for.

I closed this most crazy of weeks by sharing with the team this idea: It’s OK to be sad/angry/disappointed that these things that you really enjoy and that you were planning on happening are being taken away (canceled or postponed). Feeling those emotions doesn’t make you a selfish person. It is possible to be both a caring person, empathetic to the situation, AND upset as to how it is personally changing your life.

Stay safe, everyone. Be smart. Everyone do your part. And hopefully, before we know it, we’ll be back out there doing our thing.

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