Guest Column: Coach Runs 12 Hours for Athletes

By Larry Clark, Wren coach

Coaching requires knowledge, teaching, commitment, perseverance, drive, humility, compassion and growth among other things. In my 25 years as a coach, I've had my share of success and failure along the way. I've discovered new ways to coach, manage teams and instruct. Through those changes, it was not until the last 10 years that I realized I was going about it in the wrong way.  Winning is not everything or the only thing. Don't get me wrong, winning is always going to be at the forefront of my mind, yet the end result and definition of winning can be in various forms. Here's what I mean...

In 2009 at Wren High, I was moved to a classroom that was across from the self-contained special needs class. Every day I saw these students with various disabilities enter and leave school almost without notice or incident. It was that year that I began to realize that my approach to coaching was not correct. On a whim, I went across the hall and asked the teacher, Mrs. Davis, if I could invite her kids to participate in
cross country and track. She initially looked at me like "do you really want to take this on?" I invited them to come run and participate no matter what they thought their limitations were. I had a few to come out that year and ever since, my approach to coaching has not been all about winning but to offer students the opportunity to be a part of the "whole" high school experience ( classes AND extracurricular activities).

So, to help show how important this group is to our school and society, this spring I completed a second fundraiser to raise awareness for these athletes. What began as a way to raise money for students to go a Disney trip has grown to not only raise money for a trip and equipment but also to show the importance of inclusion for all athletes. The fundraiser involves me running/walking for 12 hours. The run began at 6 a.m. with the goal of completing the 12-hour trek and not just logging miles.

Having trained and competed in many triathlons before, this was far more grueling knowing that there would be fewer people cheering and no medal at the end. Battling through the cold and wind at 6 a.m. was a struggle. I knew, however, that my cause was not for my benefit, but for those who could not run that far.  Connor, Anna, Hannah are three special needs athletes that inspire me. (Each of these athletes has various needs like cerebral palsy, spina bifida and neurological dysfunctions that don't allow the muscles and brain to work well together.) Running and walking the 12 hours was to bring awareness of those inclusion athletes and raise money for our team.

GOAL: If I could just get more people to know that any kid can be a part of a track or athletic program no matter what we may think they can do. But in sports like football and basketball, his participation is limited. 
The kids have raised a fair amount of money for the team and the cause, but more so, they have learned not to have pity on a person with special needs, but to include them as any other student/athlete. Helping them to become A PART of the program and not APART from the program. They are involved and participating.
The 12 hours was rough and my legs are still "screaming" about it, yet, it is all worth it to have such great kids and parents embrace others who are different. 

The views of this guest column of those of Larry Clark.