When I was in high school, I was a member of the HS Girls Track and Field team. My freshman and sophomore years I ran on the Junior Varsity (JV) team and my junior and senior years I was part of Varsity. The track team would practice monday through friday after school from 3:00 to 5:30pm. On Saturdays, we either traveled to another school to compete in an invitational meet or met at our own school for a morning practice. Most people did not come to practice on Saturdays, except the Varsity team (even though everyone was supposed to). The organization that was our track and field team was led by a head coach along with one coach for each subteam (sprinters, throwers, jumpers, and long distance. I will focus on the distance team i this post because I only raced and practiced with them.)
I gave a lot of time and effort to being on the track team. I was slightly less involved my freshman year, but after that I came to practice every single day except in extenuating circumstances. Being part of distance track meant more than just coming to practice during the track season. I, along with most everyone else on the team, was also involved in summer training (which met every morning from 7-9), the cross country team (which was a similar time commitment to the track season), and winter running club (met every day for practice but there were no competitions). Unless someone was especially talented or already committed to a different sport for one of the four seasons, everyone had to run during all four seasons to hold a spot on the Varsity team. We had 7-9 girls on the Varsity XC team with slightly more on the distance track team because there were more events.
My coaches faced a transaction cost in getting everyone to come to practice. One of my coaches acted passive-aggressively toward a student after she missed practice but did not do much else. My other coach did fun things to get us motivated to come to practice every day. She came to practice every Saturday when there were ten-or-so of us there and bugged the rest of the team on Monday about not showing up. She made a list of excuses that people had given and titled it “Why I Will Not Make it to State 2014.” People started giving outlandish excuses like, “I was making cookies with my grandma”, “I was cleaning my room”, or “I played Dance Dance Revolution instead.” It turned into a game where people were made fun of for skipping practice. This effectively minimized the transaction costs she faced while also making the team more enjoyable.
We did something different every day at training, but our weekly schedule was pretty much always the same. On Mondays and Wednesdays we would run timed repeats around the track. Each runner had her own goal times set up by the coach, and we were expected to hit those times during every workout. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we would go out in the neighborhoods for a medium to long distance run (40-65 mins). These were our “easy days” so we did not necessarily have to run at a certain pace. Some of the members on our team were so motivated, however, that they ran super fast on our easy days. On our Varsity team, pretty much everyone ran at the same pace in order to stay with the group. So those of us who were not as motivated to push ourselves on non-workout days were encouraged by the team dynamic to run faster. This served as a sort of positive peer pressure from the organization.
The track and field team also affected me in positive ways academically, physically and socially. Academically, it forced me to manage my time wisely because I usually would not get home until about 6:00pm. I would eat dinner and get to work right away. Physically, it of course kept me in great shape. Beyond that, we had weekly meetings on Wednesday nights discussing healthy habits (eating, sleeping, rest & recovery) and motivational strategies. Our distance coach also designed and printed books for each of us with space for meal diaries, workout logs, “How am I feeling today?” journals and goal setting. The meal diary made me more mindful of what I was eating and kept me accountable for making healthy choices. Socially, I made some of my best friends on the team and it was an environment where everyone did healthy things (running, weight lifting, journaling) together. Spending so much time with the Varsity team and going through such tough workouts was a great bonding experience.