The Staten Island Runner

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April 3, 2000

Let it Rip!

by Mike Weiner

--Well, I guess at least one person read my first column!! He called me a loser in the forum, so I suppose the style of my article is effective! I'm only disappointed that he only called me a loser after he/she said the SI Runner forum sucked!, and calling someone else a J---off… He thought I was too harsh with my criticisms on the SW and ND track & field programs. As a note, my criticisms were not directly targeted at a particular coach(s). I found out that Jeff Benjamin was the ND coach after writing the last article. I wasn't aware that he was still there. I met Jeff several times years ago and found him to be a nice guy. This however doesn't change my feelings about the programs. People who follow Track and Field on the Island have seen this for many years. I might have singled out SW and ND, but that was primarily because I competed for ND. My comments went for any school out there where this condition exists. I believe that the school system should do a better job monitoring the coaches. For years I have been talking with coaches, and you'll always get around to "Can you believe that guy is still there ??" That's when you can clearly see that there's a problem..

--What the heck are those funny long poles, and the comfy bed mattresses everyone loves to jump on? Why is there a children's sand box next to the track? What is that rectangle hole in the ground that's always collecting water and garbage? Why are those boccie balls in the coaches room?? They're Pole Vault Poles, They're High Jump Pits, That's a Long Jump Pit, Those are Shot Puts..
People?? The sport is called Track and Field! It's not Track, its Track and Field… It is what separates the pretenders with the contenders, as far as teams go. Too often, the field events get clearly overlooked at the high school level, mostly because of lack of knowledge of the events, more closely translated into a lack of effort in learning the basics of the events. This is like football coaches teaching just Offense or just Defense. Like a baseball coach teaching just to hit or just to field. For some reason I take it personal when I hear coaches mention our track team, or I see a mention of only the track team. What about the Field team?? I must admit, I'm still bothered by Monsignor Farrell's Web Page (A great job by Andrew Blaich I might add). Its called Maybe I'm just a loony bin or something, but why isn't it called farrelltrack& ;-) You'll probably see me on Jerry Springer soon..

-- The whole idea of a compulsive disorder is to acknowledge that you have a problem, and understand that you will have this problem for the rest of your life. Knowing that you have this disorder, you don't want to surround yourself with these types of activities. That said, on the way to the office a week ago, I drove past Monsignor Farrell the same way I have for several years. But this day was different… I said what the heck.. I have wanted to stop in there for a while to say hello to the coaches. So instead of going by, I pulled into the lot. I started getting that feeling as soon as I got out of my car. I saw a few Long Jumpers doing drills by the pit. I could see the throwers through the stands on the backfield; Coach Garafolo was working with the High Jumpers and the Vaulters. Ahhhh! Just another day at Monsignor Farrell, but its comparable to a bottle of whiskey to an alcoholic or a trip to AC for a compulsive gambler. This to me is like a drug, so much that I will always be a compulsive Track & Field Coach, whether I am coaching at a school, coaching the neighborhood kids to hurdle, or stop by a foreign school to give a hand. Coach Garafolo asked me if I would like to work with the Hurdlers, which is like asking someone on the patch if they would like a cigarette!! After working with the kids for an hour or so, I was so high, I could barely breathe, seriously.. The joy of reaching a kid in some way, to see the excitement in there eyes is unparalleled for me. To see their confidence level increase after a workout, knowing that this will translate into more than track and field, but confidence in other areas of their life. After the practice, I joked with Coaches Tom Cuffe and Anthony Garafolo about Monsignor Farrell being a double edge sword. It's a coach's nightmare because they are expected to win every year, and after hard work day after day, they win, and it's ho hum. You were supposed to win, so big deal. On the other hand, all the pressure and hard work is worth it, because it's a coach's dream to be able to coach so many talented kids, where some of the other schools aren't so fortunate. I really appreciated the chance to work with the kids for a workout (thanks Tony + Tom) but unfortunately it was probably the worst thing I could've done, because now I can't stop thinking about coaching these kids again… That is what its all about for me, and anyone else who loves to coach…

--Hey do we have any type of Marathon on Staten Island?? I don't recall one, and I guess if it was as popular as I had wished, I wouldn't be asking this question.. S.I has such a strong running tradition and community, that it would be a great race to have.
Because of size constraints, a Half-Marathon would of course be more appropriate. I know we have part of the history with the NYC Marathon, but really, the race is only run on SI for about 30 seconds, until they get half way over the bridge at least. We have a lot of great road races already on S.I, I understand, but the Marathon races seem to be the marquee races. These are the types of races that get people who normally could care less about running to actually read about the races, get out to watch it, etc. Kind of like the Olympics, where everyone becomes a fan. Obviously, I am not asking the event to become as popular as a major marathon, but it could become a tradition for runners training for a major Marathon during the year. And it would give outsiders a chance to run through the scenic streets of Staten Island. The cool thing is, when it became huge, people who can't run (like myself) can get out there and dump water and Gatorade on them when they run by. Hey, if anything, this race could give the people in the SIRUNNING.COM forum something else to fight about!! ;-) What the heck is that all about?? Why don't you people who have nothing better to do on there, get together and have a real brawl. I'm going to create SIFIGHTER.COM, this is where I could host a list for that crap.. ;-) Wasn't I talking about a Marathon just a second ago??

--Here's an idea for a road race… How bout' having some kind of team race, where we pair a "young stud on the rise" runner (13-21), an "in the prime" runner (22-35), a "mid life crisis" (36-49) runner, and a "father time" (50 and over) runner, on the same team. The teams could be made up before hand, but it would be even cooler if the pairings would be made randomly on race day. I think this would create some friendships, while allowing some younger runners, to actually work with, talk to, and enjoy hearing some stories from some of the older runners in the community. Does this sound somewhat crazy?? Please let me know if this sounds ridiculous…

--There's a hidden treasure in our athletic community that while enjoyed by so many over the years, actually is not fully realized by many as well. This treasure is called "THE EMPIRE STATE GAMES". Most of the athletes know of the games, and tryout during the June, July months each year. Even many of the athletes who actually tryout for the games don't fully understand the impact they can have on them. Unfortunately, this is because of lack of marketing, money, and exposure that the games have. The Empire State Games is a free vacation every summer (if you qualify). They are a way to visit beautiful sections of New York State that normally you might not ever visit. They give you a chance to meet people from all of these regions as well. They give you the opportunity to compete in your sport at a high level against the best the state has to offer. They allow an athlete to experience the feel of an Olympic Games Competition. These games have given me some of the best memories of my life. I have met so many friends, coaches, and athletes during these times. If you're a runner or a track and field athlete that has never tried out, do it this year. Even the masters divisions, although not free (which sucks) is a great experience. Those people have the most fun of any athletes there. I always try to watch the master's athletes in a few track & field events, because they are fun to watch. The athletes are always having fun whether laughing, kidding with each other, telling stories, drinking beer!! Ooops!! Forget that last part… My main point here is that some athletes don't realize what a great experience the games are, because they have never been there. A lot of athletes treat the Trials as just another competition. If you know an athlete that has never tried out, tell them to do it.

--Competition is great!! It motivates athletes to strive further, and train harder, or see the area's they need to improve. Even competition among teammates is good. It allows them to make each other better for competition against other teams, etc. That's why a lot of the world's fastest men and women sometimes train together to push each other. Competition between teams or schools is great as well. It makes the sport interesting, with team titles, or area reputation and bragging rights. The only thing that's bad about competition is when the competition gets bigger than the event that's being competed in. Example: The S.I. Track and Field Championships. This has been brewing for years within the coaching and leadership ranks. There's always been this thing with not having specific events, because certain schools weren't sufficiently capable of training for them. The Javelin is the prime example. Everyone knows that the Javelin is a killer event; people are always throwing it through athlete's necks and hips. (That's another whole story) But don't take away from the sport of Track and Field because certain schools aren't willing to learn it, or make excuses that there's nowhere to throw, etc. This is bull.. In Indoors it's the Pole Vault. They make certain events non-scoring events, because certain schools can't train. When they do this, coaches aren't going to throw kids in it, because they're concerned about points in the meet. Unless those athletes only do those events, which they feel kind of slighted like they're event wasn't really part of the meet. Stop this crap, run all the events in the meet. Don't call some of the events non-scoring. You're only taking away from the meet, the sport, and your team. I remember Mr. Welsh teaching us how to pole vault in the gym during the winter on the High Jump Pits. We used to fly into him and crack him in the head. (No wonder he retired the next year) We were horrible, but it got us motivated in the sport, and got me interested in Field Events. I understand insurance issues, but most coaches say "well, we don't have this or that so we cant do it". Then fight to your Athletic Director that they are needed, and eventually they will come(equipment). The schools that have more equipment are a direct result of the coaches working with the A.D.'s of the schools. If you push hard enough, the stuff will come. Listen, I'm not being thickheaded on this issue to think that all schools are on a level playing field. Obviously, the catholic schools have more money at times to have better equipment, but this is part of life. My main point here is, run the meets with all the events. I will fill you in on a secret: Even though the team titles are important to the athletes (really coaches), individual performance is where you get your motivation from.

--Speaking of the NYC Marathon, if you don't run it, or have never volunteered for the start of the race, do it. It's a great experience. You get to see all the runners before the race, as they prepare, stretch, and get warmed up. It's actually pretty fun. So many runners, from so many countries, its cool. You even get a nice little NYC Marathon Rain Poncho (ooooh) ;-) All right, now for the bad news. Some of the runners just drop em' and start going to the bathroom before the race. I swear!! In the middle of the big grassy area, I saw several runners doing it. I thought it was hip, so I went to.. That's a joke!! Definitely do it, if you haven't…

--The internet has been a dream to see results, hasn't it ?? I remember back in the day, I had to wait weeks for the next track and field news to see results. Now, I can see what some sophomore vaulted in Idaho on Sunday. Good Stuff.. You can get them all from the SIRUNNING Home page > Armory Home Page or Wagner College Home page..

--Also, the SI LIVE site is pretty neat to check out the SI Advance articles

--You know, there's nothing like this time of year. It's about this time every year where I say " I want to get into shape" or "I want to throw this year(JAVELIN)". I'm sure there are several of you who do the same. It's like new life or something. It's like we go into hibernation all year, but once the weather gets nice, we want to come out and play. It feels good to get into the swing of things whether it's running, throwing, or jumping. It's so easy to get caught up with work, family, etc, that the time isn't there to compete for ourselves like we used to. But you know what ?? Life is too short, man. Get out and go for that run. Go down to the local high school track and run through a few hurdles, or take a couple of jumps in the Long Jump pit, or go for a nice run on the boardwalk by the beach, but whatever you do, please stretch well before and after.. ;-)

See you in a couple of weeks…

And when competing, remember to always Let It Rip!!!