The Disappearing White Line
Let me tell you another true story.
In addition to being a life coach, I am an athletic coach. I hold a US National Level One coaching license from USA Track and Field.
When my daughter was in middle school, I was the coach for both the girls and boys cross country team.
I have also coached cross country and track at the high school level.
Cross country is a running sport in which individuals run races on open-air courses over natural terrain such as grass and dirt, pass through woods, rural country and urban country. Cross country courses include flat ground, hills, paths, sidewalks, etc.
In the Midwest, cross country is usually a fall sport.
In cross country, team scores are kept. Each runner is assigned a point total as they cross the finish line. For example, the first place runner receives one point, the second place runner two points, the third place runner three points, etc.
The lowest score wins the cross country meet.
I was one of the founders of the middle school cross country program at my daughter’s school and as the cross country program was new, I lobbied the Athletic Director of the school to host our first first ever middle school cross country invitational and he finally agreed.
Our AD secured the proper permits from the city to lay out a course country course in the city park and notified the AD’s of the middle schools in our city and surrounding cities.
We were hosting the invitational on a Monday afternoon in a local city park with a large number of old mature trees with a grass and dirt path through the park.
Virtually all cross country courses include a white line throughout the whole course for the runners to follow.
On Sunday, I went out with the high school cross country coach and we laid out a 1.5 mile course in the city park.
We marked a 1.5 mile course with white paint directly on the grass in the park.
Normally, the course is marked with marking tool in which cans of white spray paint are added to the tool and the tool includes a trigger mechanism to access the spray top of the spray paint can.
However, the marking tool was broken and I literally sprayed a 1.5 mile white line by hand using twenty cans of white spray paint.
Late on the next Monday afternoon, about one hour before our Invitational was going to begin, I got a frantic call from the Assistant Athletic Director at the middle school.
“Coach, they cut the grass this morning in the park! They cut the grass coach!!! They cut the grass in the park, the course is gone!!! What are we going to do?”Assistant Athletic Director – Middle School
Yes, unfortunately, the grass cutting crew had NOT been told about the cross country meet and that Monday morning they had cut the grass in the city park not being curious about the white line painted on the grass.
Since we had painted the white line directly on the grass on in the park, the whole white line was gone. All 1.5 miles of it.
I had to think think quickly and realized we needed the help of actual people. Lots of them. I called the high school course country coach and he agreed to bring both the whole men’s and women’s cross country team over to serve as course monitors.
The men and women of the high school cross country team were placed every 20-30 yards on the course to assist the middle school runners.
Our First Invitational turned out to be a huge success. My daughter was the first female runner and individual winner of the girl’s race. My best male runner was the individual winner of the boy’s race.
Both my girl’s team and my boy’s team finished in second place in the team standings with eight teams competing. A very satisfying day for me as a coach.
Although I have never been in the military, one framework I use when I am faced with adversity, is the “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome” from the U.S. Marine Corps.
When you are faced with a problem, work the problem with the “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome,” framework.Stephen Lesavich, PhD
Podcast: The Disappearing White Line
- Improvise. To improvise, you create a plan and take action steps quickly and spontaneously without preparation. For our cross country meet, the white line for our course was gone and there was not enough time to re-paint it, so I needed to quickly think, without panicking, of a creative way to provide a new cross country course that could be followed by middle school runners without a painted white line. For our cross country meet, I thought back on how some other cross country meets I personally ran in and coached, and in many meets there were people on the courses directing traffic so the runners ran the correct course.
- Adapt. To adapt, you dynamically adjust to a new set of conditions and make something suitable for a purpose. For our cross country meet, I estimated that we would have enough physical bodies if both the boys and girls high school cross country team would help. We can place the high school cross country team runners 20-30 yards apart and instruct the middle school runners to run the way the high school runners were pointing to the next person. I called the high school cross country coach and he agreed to hold his daily practice in the city park and then assist with our invitational.
- Overcome. To overcome, you succeed in dealing with the adversity you are facing in a new and unique way. For out cross country meet, I succeeded in overcoming the problem of the disappearing white line by creating a new and unique cross country running course. In fact, I received many complements from other coaches and Athletic Directors because many of the middle school runners (i.e., sixth, seventh and eigth graders in our city) had never run in a large invitational before with a large number of runners, were easily confused running in the woods and were happy to be actually be told which way to go by a human pointing in a direction to run instead of trying to follow a white line. If I did not work the problem and overcome the adversity I was facing, it would have been an embarrassment to me as the coach, the AD and the middle school. I would have caused irritation and aggravation to the other coaches and middle school runners trying to run on a cross course without a white line.
Using the Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome framework, will help you create a positive impact in your own life any time you are facing an adverse event.
Out There on the Edge of Everything® …
Stephen Lesavich, PhD
Copyright © 2023, by Stephen Lesavich, PhD. All rights reserved.