When I started running track my sophomore year of high school I never won a race. I never got second or third. In fact I never beat anyone. I would step up to the line every race knowing I was going to cross the finish line in last place. The only thing that kept me from not quitting was my coach. He told me not to worry about the other runners on the track and only race against the clock. Every time I would step up to the line it didn’t matter if there were four guys on the line with me or 14 other guys, the only person I was racing against was Mr. Clock.
During the race I would hear my coach yelling out my times, letting me know if I was running as fast as I needed to be or if I needed to pick up my pace. And after ever race my coach would com up to me and tell me how great I did, even if I hadn’t met my expectations. At the beginning of the season, nearly every opponent would lap me before the race was over, but as the season went on my coach started informing me that less and less people were lapping me each race. This was another measure of how I was improving throughout the season.
I can vividly remember hearing my best friend’s dad, Fred, yelling out my name every time I was on his side of the track. Above the roar of the crowd, the cheering for the other competitors, the music playing pumping up the runners, I would hear “GO KEVIN KWOKA!!” For all three years of my career as a track star (in my mind) Fred was yelling this every lap of every race.
I was never a great athlete in high school; in fact I got cut from three sports. It took a lot of courage for me to go out for track because I was afraid of failure. What made me stay was the interest that my coach put into my improvement as a runner. Knowing that he cared about my success on a team of more that 80 means a great deal to me today and is the reason I strive to make everything I do my best.
I firmly believe that what I learned and went through on the track has made me who I am today. Knowing that even before you step up to the line you are going to come in last place is a hard thing to do, especially when it is every race. The positive reinforcement that I got after every race gave me more pride than if I had won. It made me try harder and never give up because if I did I wouldn’t be letting just myself down, but my coach, parents, Fred, and everyone who believed in me as well.
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