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  • Writer's pictureCora Lonning


A Life Lesson From A High School Track Coach

Coach Cora 042022

My high school track coach gave me the gift of a lifetime. She gave me powerful feedback; and courageously walked through the emotional experience of it. In so doing, she made a difference.

It was difficult to receive her input. More challenging was the frustration of not being able to execute on my talent; and not knowing why.

Why Do We Resist Feedback?

Some perceive feedback as painful. To give. To receive. Often it does not feel good to give; and there is a fear of damaging the relationship.

This perception equates to many managers withholding important information. The very thing needed to grow, improve, and perform at a higher level.

Withholding feedback – information- minimizes people.

While Feedback empowers people through knowledge.

Feedback IS the breakfast of champions.

A Natural Runner

Early on I had a love for running… and proved to be fast. My first competitive race was the annual Turkey Rama Run. Here, Gary Squire and I break the county record together. The local paper listing us as the “fastest boys in the county” in the 9-11 age group. Girls may not have their own ranking yet, but I love to run. So, I run with the boys.

From Practice to Competition

By the time I am a high school freshman I have a passion for competitive running. More, this was the first year as a young athlete I had a coach. A real coach.

Every day I show up for practice and run hard. Loving it! A competitor’s heart fulfilled in the thrill of getting on the track and moving right to the front of the pack! Track practice becomes the highlight of each day!

Then comes competitive meets.

At meets, I fail to bring home the win. I can win my heat, but never the race.

The frustration of unpaid hours of practice. Of working so hard, being in the front of every practice run, even making my way to the front of the pack in my heat. Why does the win elude me? WHY?

Going from feeling like a rock star at practice to being crushed like a pebble at meets.

The anger I experience toward myself, the frustration of not knowing how to do better. My inability to change the outcomes. Overwhelmingly frustrating for a high performer. For one who loves to win!


My coach sees what I do not. My coach has feedback. I don’t listen. I don’t see the problem.

But she is a coach. So… she has ways to help me hear.

She isolates me during practice. Pushing me and timing me in runs against myself.

Over, and over, and over.

Errrggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. My anger and frustration build!

“I want to run my way; and against others. Why is she making me run by myself? Doesn’t she know I run much FASTER against others? Why can’t I have another coach? Why is she making me work harder than everyone else? It’s not FAIR!”

Maybe you have experienced similar feelings? Frustration at not being able to meet your goals? Or, rise up to the challenges presented to you? Have you experienced not understanding the actions of those you rely on for guidance? Or, not being clear on what others are trying to tell you? For me, I went right to defending my own opinions and actions! Have you?

Resistance ran deep in my young self. I had so much natural talent. Yet, I did not know how to use it, to manage it. Nor, accomplish the goals I set for myself. Each meet I felt like I was letting down the team- the entire school! I carried failure on my shoulders and the burden of not knowing what was I doing wrong- or how to change.

Why does my coach not understand this? As much as I needed the feedback, I did not know what I needed!


The worst part? What put me over the edge? The day before our state meet, coach informs me I will not run as a varsity runner, but as a JV, in the 440 sprint. She explains I will still run as varsity in the 50- and 100-yard dash, and in the 440 relay. Not the 440.

I am fuming. I worked so hard the last two weeks; and she pushed me super hard. Now, my reward is demotion? To run as JV? She is taking away MY race! This is MY place to shine! I am a rock star in the 440. How can she do this to me?

Have you ever felt this way? Frustration with those trying to help you? Sometimes we run to another supervisor, a higher up, or even HR! Yes?

I know I am not appreciating her feedback- nor the course of action!

So…I storm home and tell my father. I declare to him that I am going to quit track. I am done! She cannot do this to me!

My father’s response- a coaching moment- is wise. One that I treasure still today.

He, in his calm voice, asks questions.

“What is the reason your coach gave you for having you run by yourself?”

“I don’t know, something about I do not run at my full speed. I get in front and stay there- whatever that means.”

“Mmmmm, what did she tell you about your placement on the JV team?”

“She doesn’t make sense. I am supposed to run against the clock, not others. In the JV heat I will have no idea what the varsity runners are running. She keeps talking about me running against the clock, not others. How does that even make sense? This is so stupid.”

Then it comes…