I chose to observe the practices at Cuesta College for Track and Field. I primarily
focused on the distance team with Matt Sherman as the coach. When I arrived at the first
practice I observed Coach Sherman talking to the team at the beginning of their practice.
He was going over what they should focus on during their first track meet, which was
coming up. His positive attitude stood out the most. He put his emphasize on having fun.
He stressed the importance that they work as hard as they can to achieve their best
performance but his final words were, “Have fun!” I started to realize what he
stressed most for his team and that was to achieve the goals they set for themselves.
For both practices I attended the athletes started out with a warm-up run. They then met
as a group and had the team captain (Chris Schachter) lead in their stretches. I noticed
strong team cohesion as they stretched talking about their activities from the previous
weekend and the work out that they were going to have. After the stretching Coach Sherman
gathered them together to explain the workout (both days a speed workout). As he explained
he made sure each of the team members understood the exact instructions for the speed
drills. One of the athletes (Karen Maas) had a question and he patiently answered it and
encouraged more questions to make sure the team knew the exact workout. He had the lone
male distance runner do 2 sets of 4x200 meter sprints on the track. He had the
women’s distance team go out to the pond’s to run a 20-minute fartlek in which
they ran a minute hard and a minute easy. I observed the male distance runner and when he
finished his second set of 200’s, Coach Sherman suggested he run one more set of
200’s. Chris was tired and was hesitant to do more but he ran them without
incidence. When I talked to Chris after his workout I asked him if he agreed with Coach
Sherman’s decision to make him run the extra set of 200’s. He said, “I
was tired but I knew it would help me in the long run for the end of my races. Coach
Sherman was my coach in cross-country and I noticed an incredible improvement during the
course of the season. He really knows what he is doing out on the track.”
As far as athlete behavior and interaction with the coach, I noticed nothing but positive
things. Coach Sherman is a young coach (24) and a student at Cal Poly, but despite the
closeness in age he manages to uphold a great deal of respect from the athletes. They not
only respect him as a coach, but also as a runner, and they know he empathizes with them.
They talked to him about their personal lives as well as running and also had questions
about nutrition. I could tell that the athletes felt comfortable asking his advice in
different areas of their lives.
Coach Sherman showed me a training schedule for this season and I could see that he was
very knowledgeable in his skill development. I asked where he got all of his information
for each of the detailed workouts and he talked of numerous books and articles on running.
I could see that he put a lot of time and effort into coaching and that he was very
enthusiastic with his job.
I attended the first track meet at Santa Barbara City College. The women’s
1500-meter run was up first. Coach Sherman was out on the track giving the female runners
advice on their first race of the season and reassuring them that they were physically as
well as mentally prepared to run this race. The girls looked a little more relaxed as they
got to the starting line, but were still very nervous as to be expected. The top runner
from Cuesta got 4th place in a very talented field of runners. Immediately after the race
Coach Sherman was there giving splits, constructive criticism and praise. In the
men’s 1500 meter, Chris Schachter was the lone runner for Cuesta. Coach Sherman gave
Chris some good words of advice before his race. He placed 2nd in a very good race. Again,
Coach Sherman was at the finish line giving Chris his splits, and regurgitating the
details of the race. Overall the Cuesta team did not perform as well as they hoped. But, I
was very impressed with their attitudes and their sportsmanship towards the other teams.
My interview with Coach Sherman consisted of six questions.
1. What were the characteristics of your favorite coach?
Coach Sherman talked about his high school coach, Bob Messina. Some of the characteristics
he listed off were he worked well with the athletes; he showed that he really cared about
them, he was very involved with the races and he was very knowledgeable in the area of
running. He didn’t just concentrate on the number one runner. He pulled you aside
and recognized how you felt on the runs. Coach Sherman said he had had coaches before who
had favorites and that made him feel alienated but this coach did not.