Sunday, February 23, 2014

Track news for the week of February 23

Practice from 5-6pm this week, weather permitting

Assuming we're not getting a soaking, practice will go until 6pm this week. Check the team web site or @ctktrack on Twitter for a 4pm update if it's looking stormy outside.

War Path invitational, Saturday March 8, Ygnacio Valley High School

It's coming up fast! This is our first year attending this all-comers meet, to give both athletes and parents a chance to experience a track meet. This is a just-for-fun event, and results aren't recorded or counted.

Here's a copy of the information sheet I had at signups:

Watch for an email about this soon. I hope you'll be able to join us.

Uniform details

I've placed the order for shirts and sweatshirts with the printer. Once they arrive and are sorted out, we'll get them to you, very likely at a practice.

Athletes need to wear their t-shirts at meets, but they don't need to wear them at practice unless they want to. Black shorts are the other part of our meet uniform: leftover soccer shorts are fine. A parent reminded me that AYSO added fashionable go-faster stripes to their shorts, and that's OK.

You don't need special running shorts, and track pants or sweats are encouraged at cold meets. The t-shirt is the critical piece.

Any "vintage" shot putters?

You may have noticed some athletes doing shot put work at the south end of College Park's field. Coach Pete wants to know if any team parents have shot put experience and would be willing to lend a hand during practices. If so, please send both Pete and I an email, or find me in the stands.

Our email information is on the coaches page:

Even if you're haven't stepped in the ring in ages, any experience you can offer is welcome, and you'll help Pete not feel so lonesome, too.

Track Meet 101, coming soon!

I know we have a lot of new families to the team this season. I'm planning to hold some casual "Track Meet 101" sessions in the stands during future practices. The main focus will be the events and an overview of the jobs, so you can dazzle your kids with your knowledge in March.

I'll start pulling together some handouts and post them on the web site, and will plan to talk at length about them during practice.

Which event?

A few parents have asked about this already: which event will my athlete run?

Generally, it's up to the them: whatever they sign up for on the day of the meet is what they will participate in. Coaches may encourage certain events, and they usually try to get a start-of-season 100 meter time to help guide their relay team formation.

Beyond that, events are open to all, with a few restrictions. If you're brand new to track, check out our "How a Meet Works" page:

Results and ribbons

After the meet, we'll get the results back in an online spreadsheet. I massage those results as much as possible into a tracking web site that we've used for years:

Our team's page is:

A few days after the meet, the league prints up ribbons for the top three finishers in events, and we hope to get these assembled and handed out in practice before the next meet.

Our team also recognizes when athletes set personal bests in individual events, based on the stats in Athletes earn a gold ribbon when they've improved their marks, even by a little. Returning athletes have the advantage here since they're almost sure to improve season to season.

Finally, some athletes think track meets are an all-you-can-run buffet, and will gladly try every event they can during the season. Last year, we created the "seven-up club" award to recognize these die-hards. Athletes that attempt seven or more different individual events in a single season earn a stylish and exclusive patch, regardless of how they placed.

Last year, only eight athletes in the whole team reached this goal; how many will be in the club this year?

Refund information

Sometimes track isn't for everyone, and that's OK. If you're thinking of leaving the team, don't just disappear. You have until this Friday the 28th to get your fees 100% refunded, and have your volunteer check shredded, but you must notify me by email no later than Friday.

Starting on Saturday, March 1, the refund drops to 50%, and starting at the first meet on March 15, leaving the team means forfeiting 100% of the fees and your volunteer deposit check.

Once picked up, uniforms and sweatshirts are yours to keep, and their cost will be deducted from any refunds.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Track news for the week of February 16

Parent meeting tomorrow, Feb 17th at Christ the King parish hall, 6:30pm

New, lapsed, or confused adults are encouraged to come to the annual family meeting/information session Monday evening at the Christ the King parish hall in Pleasant Hill. Late registration and volunteer signups will start at 6:30pm, the meeting will come to order around 7pm. Come with questions! We'll try to be done by 8pm.

Athletes don't need to attend, and will likely be bored.

Practice from 5:00-5:55pm this week

We'll tack on an extra five minutes for the additional daylight. Make sure everyone is dressed for the weather, and check @ctktrack on Twitter or our team site's front page if it looks rainy.

Sharing the track safely

We meet in the center section of the stands before we take the track at practice. Soccer games these past weeks caused us to shift our plans, and there will be lacrosse games in the future to test our flexibility.
  • Always come to the stands by walking around the outside of the track fence. Don't cut across.
  • Stay off all fences, including those in the bleachers.
  • Never jump hurdles, no matter how tempting.
I saw pole vaulters the other day, which is a sign of spring and high school track season.  Please keep out of the way of College Park's runners when you're waiting in the stands, and be patient as they finish on the track.
Lacrosse teams or youth soccer clubs will sometimes be practicing on the field area at the same time as we're running. Be aware and be safe!

Season schedule updated

The final meet schedule is different from what I'd anticipated at signups, so please look over it carefully. The placement of the relay meet and the qualifying meet are worth noting:

Warpath invitational - March 8 (special team event, not CYO sponsored)
Meet #1 - March 15
Meet #2 - March 22
Relay Meet - March 29
Meet #3 - April 5
Meet #4 - April 12
Easter weekend, no CYO activities - April 19
Qualifying Meet - April 26
Sectional Championship - May 2 & 3
Diocese Championship - May 9 & 10

I know that Catholic school and MDUSD students are on Spring Break before the Qualifying meet, and I understand that this may cause gnashing of teeth, rending of clothing and changing of plans. Believe me when I say that this topic was the source of much discussion and teeth-gnashing at the coordinators' meeting, too.

Last call for uniform and sweatshirt orders

This is your final chance to request a specific size. After the order goes in, any new athletes will be fitted with the surplus, and any size swaps or additional purchases will come out of what leftovers we have.

Youth shirt sizing is:

Small (YS) - 6-8
Medium (YM) - 10-12
Large (YL) - 14-16

I'll bring samples to the family meeting.

Athletes must wear their team shirt to meets as their uniform. The sweatshirts are optional, but fashionable and warm.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

February 5, on being flexible

I hadn't intended to post again this week, but those of you who came to practice on Tuesday may have noticed that we didn't actually start at the track, despite all my instructions to meet there. :-)

We're fortunate to have a nice facility right in the heart of our team's area to practice in. Sometimes, though, this means we also get to practice the fine CYO traditions of "being flexible" and "going with the flow." A College Park-hosted soccer game kept us off the track for a little while on Tuesday, bumping us to the large turf area beyond the baseball field for warm-ups. We were able to take the track later and complete our workout. Think of it as a little test of our adaptability.

And good news! We get another such test this Thursday, with another such game. There's also the chance that another club will be using the turf area. So what do we do on these days?

If you show up early, and there's a game of some kind (the scoreboard is on), then we won't be able to take the track right away. Our backup meeting place is at the bottom of the stairs from the main parking lot on the blacktop by the basketball hoops.

We'll try to warm up in the turf if we can, or figure something else out on the spot if we can't. Short of actual rain, though, we'll manage some sort of practice. After all, the kids carry all the equipment they need just beyond their ankles.

If you don't make it right on time, look for me in my brown cowboy hat, or a large group of school-age children and head our way. Be flexible! Some teams don't get to practice on a track at all.

Two last notes:

1) It's fine if your athletes bring phones or other personal items, but they are responsible for them. Our field-hopping yesterday caused a large deposit of expensive-looking electronics and other gear to be left unattended by the fence. (Not anyone's fault: we changed fields without warning.) Please remind your athletes that they are responsible for their stuff.

2) All parents have to be completely outside the track fence for the duration of practice: this is a CYO requirement from their insurance company. Only the certified track coaches, athletes and myself may be in practice areas during practice.

I know we were nomads yesterday and had to cross over the field. Come up to the stands with me, or head to your cars for warmth, but don't be inside the track fence for any reason while practice is going on. It's like a busy street, so cross carefully.

If we're bumped to the turf, parents need to stay well back by the gate. If you're itching to help out, please talk to me about coaching next season! Practices are a lot of fun, and I know we had at least a few parents planning a workout while their kids were running. Why not combine the two?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Track News for the week of February 2

Hello everyone, and welcome to the regular newsletter of the Christ the King/St. Catherine/St. Stephen CYO track team.

This installment is longer than usual thanks to all the start-of-season information.

Practice starts this Tuesday, February 4th at 5pm, College Park High

We practice at College Park High school track on Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting at 5pm and going until dusk. This week, we'll end about 5:45pm. We'll gain a few minutes each week, and once daylight savings begins, we'll go until 6:30pm.

I try to keep the schedule on the team site up to date:

College Park is on Viking Drive in Pleasant Hill, just across the street from the DVC stadium. You may park in the large fenced lot next to the high school. The track is at the bottom of the hill, to the west of the high school. We gather in the stands together before practice, as other sports may be using the track or field before us.

Here's a map:

  • Drive slowly in the parking lot
  • Walk your athletes to the track
  • Go around the outside of the track to/from the stands
  • Don't climb fences or the hillside
Adults are welcome to stay in the stands during practice. I'll be there collecting forms and fielding questions, and I always enjoy the company. Tip: bring something soft to sit on.

If you're looking for me in the stands, I'm the guy in the brown cowboy-style hat. I may not remember your faces, but I'm sure to have handled your paperwork a few times by now.

What if it rains?

The short answer is: "we get wet." It is, after all, an all-weather track...

Just kidding. If the weather looks bad, I'll make a decision about practice by 4:00pm and post to our Twitter feed about it: we're @ctktrack on Twitter. Assume that practice is on unless there's a message to the contrary.

This also appears on front page of the web site, in a box in the upper corner:

Always check Twitter or the team site if the forecast looks gloomy. To my knowledge, no CYO athlete has ever melted by being caught in a light drizzle.

Help spread the word

Our numbers are little down this year, especially in the girls' grades 4 and 5. If you have friends living in our team's area, or classmates at the parish schools or religion classes, please let them know about us! A mention to a teacher or other parents at drop-off would be appreciated.

We'll take registrations for a while yet, and I'll bring blank forms with me to practice for the next few weeks.

I'm happy to field eligibility questions, too. There are many CYO teams in the area, and all of them are eager for new runners.

Parent meeting, Monday February 17, 6:30pm at CTK parish hall

New families are especially encouraged to attend the family meeting, held in the parish hall at Christ the King church in Pleasant Hill. The hall is directly off the main parking lot, next to the gym. Doors open at 6:30pm for any new signups, and we'll come to order around 7:00pm or when everyone starts looking restless.

Children usually find this meeting utterly boring, and tend to be happier at home. I'll be on hand for questions, and I know a few of the coaches are planning to be present as well. We'll do our best not to bore the adults.


I'm pleased to announce that Gina Marks is our volunteer coordinator this season. She and her dedicated team of reminder elves will be in touch with you over the season to remind you of your upcoming commitments at meets.

Gina's contact details are on the site's "Volunteers" page:

I believe we still have openings for some team jobs, and are always on the lookout for any medical professionals who would be willing to work in the first aid tent at meets. Gina will be happy to sign you up for this elite squad if you can free up some Saturdays.

Experienced families: we have many openings for the "head" jobs at our meets. Timer, starter, head clerk, finish-line coordinator, etc... you should know these by now. Please contact Gina about upgrading your "general volunteer" position to a job that will earn you the admiration and envy of your children. ("That's my mom with the gun!") As meet hosts, we should be covering these positions. Gina is fully authorized to assign them so we can conduct the meets. Avoid surprises and upgrade today!

Being prepared for practice


  • Go to the bathroom at home
  • Dress warm (this applies to adults, too)
  • Bring water to stay hydrated
  • Wear running shoes
Bathroom facilities are very limited at College Park. Athletes will be happier using the restroom at home, I promise. The line will be shorter, too.

Everyone should be dressed for the weather, remembering that the College Park stadium is exposed, and always feels a few degrees colder than the rest of the county. Sweat pants or running pants, sweat shirts, even hats -- think warm! Label every piece of clothing that could possibly be left behind. Chances are they will be. Athletes do not need to wear uniform t-shirts to practice. Those are required only at meets. Our team sweatshirts are both cozy and fashionable if athletes want to show team spirit.
Bring water, preferably in a reusable sport bottle of some kind with the athlete's name on it. Don't leave litter behind: it makes our team look bad and makes the coaches and coordinator grumpy when we have pick up afterward.


All athletes must practice in running shoes. Athletes do not need track shoes ("spikes") at practice. It's fine if they have a pair, but they won't need them for while.

Shoes should fit well, and provide good cushioning and support. Athletes in inappropriate shoes may have to sit in the stands with me and be bored. I'm sure I'll have paperwork that needs to be alphabetized.

I highly recommend going to one of the local running shoe stores to have your athletes fitted. Fleet Feet in Pleasant Hill, Road Runner in Concord, and Athletic Outpost in Walnut Creek are all good choices, and historically each have given discounts if you mention you're running in the CYO track program.

Good shoes aren't cheap, but they are necessary to help prevent injury.

What to expect at practice

Every practice starts with at least one warm-up lap. This is not a race. Athletes should take this at a easy pace and conserve energy for the rest of the practice.

After the warm-ups, we usually break into groups by grade, and coaches for each group will lead a workout of some stretching and some aerobic movement. We'll then do whatever activity is scheduled for the day. Sometimes athletes will stay in their groups, sometimes they'll do an activity as a team.

Near the end of practice I'll blow a whistle to signal the final cool-down lap. After that, athletes meet with their coaches for final stretching and parting words of wisdom. If you're huddling for warmth in your car, this is a good time to come down to the track for pickup.

Adults may always arrive early and wait trackside by the water fountain, or come around the fence to the stands. We can't let any child wander off unattended; we need to see an adult come for the kids. We love training them, but we also love sending them home afterward. Please be on time at pickup!

Practices will be chaotic for the first week or two. I'll advise patience from both you and your athletes. Usually most of the kids find a buddy or two in their group and get used to the routine quickly. Stick it out for a few weeks and see how it goes.

Questions or comments?

Something I missed? Got a question that's nagging at you? Email is the best way to get in touch with me, especially during the day: I'll try to get an answer back to you quickly.

The team web site also has a wealth of information. Coach contacts and details about practice groups will be posted as soon as signups settle a bit.

That's more than enough for this week. Looking forward to practice and the start of the 2014 season!