God on the Starting Line

Posted: September 25, 2013 by smrtnsasy in Runnin' & Readin'
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

BOOK: GOD ON THE STARTING LINE, The Triumph of a Catholic School Running Team and Its Jewish Coach AUTHOR: Marc Bloom                                                                                                                                PUBLISHER/DATE: Breakaway Books, 2004                                                                                               REPORT: If you ever wanted to know just how it is to coach a high school cross-country team, just a regular old team, nothing high powered, the kind of team that is typical of most high schools, then this is the book to read. It will tell you of the life and times of a small team struggling for their identity. While doing that, the identity of the individual as a coach will be clarified among the various tangents contacting this group.

I could identify with the author and his situation being that I am coaching a team that is struggling to find its identity. There are many parallels in the book and my case. I empathized with the author in many situations.

Marc Bloom, the author, writes very well as you will see in his easily readable style. He has written many articles on running and several other books on the subject. His experience with the subject pays off in his work. I have read other works relating the coaching experience, but this is the best.

A unique facet of the book is the spiritual aspects of two different religions. These obvious and subtle teachings affect the coach, the runners, and parents. At times, this causes conflict, while at other times it is the catalyst for success. At all times, it is an item of concern for the coach.

Another interesting and very real conflict is time. The time needed for the coaching and the time needed for family, including an illness of the author’s father, is related by Bloom in a very realistic manner. This is a real concern for anyone who has coached and has a family. Bloom was very astute in relating this throughout the book. He gives us the true picture which requires a great deal of honesty on his part. This one item makes this a great book for upcoming, young coaches to read.

This is not a book to read in order to glean workouts for one to use in coaching their own team. But, there is an underlying philosophy throughout the book that one who is astute enough can see will add immensely to any program. It will give a basic approach and leave a wide range of variation for anyone wanting to pick out information to use in coaching.

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In this story of a New Jersey coastal team, one can follow the tale of the different young men working to mold into a team. The coach guides the various personalities through the high points and low points of the off-season and season. He wins some and loses some. He has doubts. He has disappointments. He has success. He deals with academics, disinterest, disparity, and immaturity. He has a knack of recognizing the problems and has the patience to deal with them. This is an important reason for the success of the team.

Read the book if you like running. It doesn’t matter if you want to coach or just know more about it. Even for non-runners, the book is good in its relationships between a teacher and students, in this case a coach and athletes. You can read it as a very good story, or you can read it to find deeper meaning. Either way, it will be one of the best books you will read on running.

“This is where guts and biochemistry meet. The chemistry has been figured out. Guts are another story.”                                                                  Marc Bloom                                                                                                                                                Commenting on a cross-country race

By: Richard Westbrook

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