Monday, June 24, 2013

Vol. 3 No. 38 Another Chronicle of a Team and Coaching Career

A few weeks ago we made mention of the work Darryl Taylor of Rancho Alamitos, CA  did for many years chronicling the performances of the distance runners he coached.   Today we are honoring another long  history of the University of Cincinnati track and field program as seen through the eyes of Coach Bill Schnier who began there in 1980 and retired this month in 2013.    The last issue of Bill's  Beartracks  is presented for you to read.  I think you will find it interesting and enlightening from a very honest perspective of a an old school coach in modern times.     Any person who has coached track and field or particpated as an athlete will find this a great read.   At Bill's retirement dinner last month in Cincinnati, over three hundred of his former athletes attended indicating the respect his people have for him.  Any newer coaches who may read this should take notes and add them to their coaching toolbox.      Enough said.  ed. 

VOL. 33   NO. 22                                                                                                                                                               June 21, 2013

                The Cincinnati Beartracks has been a labor of love, written following each cross country / track and field meet of the Cincinnati Bearcats from 1980 through 2013 to tell our story in both statistical and narrative form.  There was no primary purpose but rather many equal reasons to write this journal:  to speak to the athletes in writing about their performances, to provide a history of the team, to create data for record keeping, to serve as our weekly contact with recruits, to inform parents of their children’s accomplishments at a time when many did not write home, to serve as our main vehicle of publicity before the internet, to settle disputes among alumni much like the Guiness Book of World Records does for everything else and finally to satisfy my desire to write.  It was named by my first assistant, Pieter Elmendorf, during our first year.  Many women’s additions have been written by other people, notably Susan Seaton and Chris Wineberg, but my contribution has been to write 964 Beartracks, 732 describing men’s meets and 232 in behalf of our women.  In most of my years I would write stories for each team but in recent years that would only be true during the cross country season.  This is only the second Beartracks not describing a specific meet and it will also be my final edition.  Despite taking two to three hours for each edition, generally done on Sunday afternoons, it has been a joy to write this newsletter and I wish to thank you for reading them.

                Because early copy machines were small and slow but especially since we were charged five to ten cents for each copy and had no budget for this project, the first 13 years, from 1980 to 1993, were typed using a manual typewriter on a stencil and run off on a mimeograph machine using liquid ink which penetrated through the typed gaps in the stencil.  This made for an often-messy experience, especially when that mimeo machine was not working very well.  Ink stains on hands and clothes were frequent yet it mimicked a process somewhat similar to how newspapers were being printed at that time.  Advance planning was critical because mistakes could only be corrected with a brush and filler fluid, then typed over to make it right.  It was not until 1993 that our athletic director, Rick Taylor, insisted that we switch to a regular copy machine, making life much easier for both writer and reader.  I switched from a typewriter to a computer in 1994 which improved the quality of the print as well as the ease of processing.    The final 20 years of the Beartracks have been much more professional in appearance and often in content as well.

                Distribution of the Beartracks varied over the years depending on technology and rules of the post office.  The athletes always received their “hard copy” at practice time each Monday.  Everyone else got a copy via United States mail.  For years we sent them out bulk rate, which meant the cost was about one-fourth of first class provided we pre-sorted the copies in zip code order before sending them for distribution.  Bulk-rate mail did not require immediate delivery so the gap between the meet and the arrival of the Beartracks varied dependent upon the whim of the letter carrier.  I sorted each edition on my dining room table before dropping them off the next day at the UC post office located in the old Sears building on Reading Road.  Many times my little daughter, Lorraine, would assist in the sorting process, giving us an opportunity to work together.  To this day her very nature is to help others, nurtured by the cumbersome process of getting the Beartracks to their customers.  Our mailing list varied immensely but eventually it reached about 600 in bulk-rate form.  Each Beartracks was wrapped in a cover sheet which allowed for address labels to be affixed as well as a return address to be printed.  This sheet was sponsored by Bob Roncker’s Running Spot and gave us an opportunity to show pictures of the Armory-Fieldhouse as well as lists of team records, captains and our schedule.  The mailing list has varied greatly from year to year but in general it included the following:  current team members, interested people in our department, recruits, alumni, officials and friends of UC Track and Field.  With the advent of the internet, most people now receive their copy electronically making life much easier for me.  When I send these editions out on the internet I have no idea if they are read, but I am always surprised how many people comment on their content, even quoting passages from time to time.  More than anything else that has motivated me to continue writing the Beartracks, working to improve the writing and the reverse-side data.

                The content has been somewhat different over the years, in large part due to the age and the intensity of the writer.  During my early years I had a fight-to-the-finish approach to coaching.  The Beartracks reflected that demeanor, augmenting our team meetings but tending to be more critical than encouraging.  I was known to be brutally honest, both orally and in the written word, but looking back I think it was often not very helpful and frequently unkind.  I wince when I think about parents and recruits reading some of these issues.  VOL. 6  NO. 18 stated:  “In almost every case we were no good on Saturday.  We were flat, listless and poor competitors.  Time and again Marshall outfought us in close situations and they very much deserved to win the meet.”  Ironically we won that meet by one point thanks to a third-place late entry in the triple jump by Lewis Johnson.  There were times when the emotion of the moment caused me to misevaluate our efforts, only to reflect more favorably at a later date.  In VOL. 4  NO. 1 I said:  “As I recollect the 64 Beartracks written in the three previous years, I cannot recall one time where we were worse than the preceding year, but we were on Friday.  We ran as if the meet had been held on a cold, rainy day in North Dakota.”  Following a disappointing Early Bird Relays in Huntington, VOL. 4  NO. 14 noted:  “Since we were poor as a team one can only conclude we were collectively poor as individuals.”

                In writing the Beartracks I was still much more prone to praise our efforts and spirit, but not at the expense of accuracy.  Never was that more true than the Metro Conference Championship effort by my first team in 1980.  The fifth-place finish seems paltry when compared with teams in the future, but their efforts were second to none.  VOL. 1  NO. 21 stated “But the real thrill was the spirit our team showed the entire weekend.  Never before have I been associated with a group that demonstrated more care and concern for each other and even love for their fellow teammates than this one.  The entire occasion was a peak experience and because we all gave of ourselves, we all received much more in return.”  That same Bearcat spirit was in full bloom at the Southern Ohio Cup of 2002 when VOL. 22  NO. 21 described our winning team:  “We set up our success by committing ourselves to the UC tradition of team spirit, immersing ourselves in support for each other and having fun in the process.”   When sprint-rich TCU and ECU entered Conference USA in 2002, we knew we were in for a fight.  VOL. 22  NO. 23 described our nine-point loss to TCU by saying:  “This was the finest day in the 110-year history of UC Track and Field, yet it was tempered somewhat by the fact that we did not win a meet we so very much wanted to win.  TCU in particular posed problems as they were NCAA runners-up.  Armed with Caribbean sprinters and Kenyan distance runners, the Horned Frogs breezed through the WAC then nearly won the nationals as well.  Rather than wilt, our team vowed to a man to improve to their level.  That goal did wonders for our training.”  Two years later we enjoyed our finest hour, a rousing C-USA victory on a rainy day in Louisville.  VOL. 24  NO. 21 said it all:  “UNDEFEATED!  Not just in Conference USA but for the entire season.  Forty teams tried their best but none was able to better the Bearcats.  Never before in our history have we gone undefeated but we surely did so this year.  In fact, all were blowouts including the Conference USA Championships.  We won this meet because we had spirit and determination and perseverance and joy.” 

                The Beartracks began in September, 1980 following my first meet at UC.  VOL. 1  NO. 1 got my tenure off to a good start when it reported:  “I have greatly underestimated the abilities of the present crop of athletes and have really been excited about the enthusiasm and morale shown thus far.”  That continued through the years despite many obstacles and setbacks.  Cross country camps were always a highlight, none more so that the 2011 camp in West Virginia.  VOL. 32  NO. 1 described that camp:  The running at camp was our best ever.  Mornings found us on the Greenbrier River Trail, a 72-mile cinder track next to camp.  In the afternoons we headed for country roads nearby, two of them an uphill challenge.  The team responded with energy and without complaint.  What a joy it was to watch all of that from the sidelines.  The extra activities were fun, educational and always memorable.  Dancing to a 10-piece country and bluegrass band at the American Heritage Music Hall, augmented by our own Bearcat Boogeymen and the talented Steve Price on the keyboard enabled us to make a contribution there as well.  We visited The Greenbrier, toured Washington & Lee and VMI universities, had a scavenger hunt in Lewisburg, the Coolest Small Town in America, and finally performed our talent at our 7th Annual Talent Show.  What a week we had at the picturesque Greenbrier County Youth Camp.”  The final Beartracks describing a meet was VOL. 33  NO. 21 documenting the NCAA Championships this year.  Josh Dangel earned first-team All-American honors in the pole vault so his accomplishment was described as follows:  “Finally, he upped his confidence and simply decided to be good.  If anyone has ever had an All-American spirit, it is Josh.  If anyone has done all the extras to put himself in position, it is Josh.  This native Cincinnatian has earned this honor and deserves it.”  This edition also had to report disappointment by Terrence Somerville:  “Even though he beat the Olympic silver medalist’s college time, he never got what he deserved.  Terrence told me not to feel bad for him because ‘it’s just what it is.’  Although it never happened, in my mind he is still an NCAA champion and some day might prove it during his professional career.”

                All good things must end but it has really been an honor to write the Cincinnati Beartracks for 33 years.  I must cite my parents for instilling in me a sense of history, a willingness to tell a story and a commitment to writing excellence.  My wife, Kathy, has edited many of these to insure good grammar and proper style.  But mainly I wish to thank those many Bearcats, male and female, who created the stories I simply recorded.  To anticipate a meet, then experience it, and finally to relive it makes for lasting memories of many of my favorite people.  This final Beartracks has ended much like the first one began, with happiness and an anticipation of the future.

I can appreciate this, having kept a personal daily log for 32 years page per day. Nobody will ever read it, but it has proved useful to “jogging” my memory countless times. There is a certain discipline involved and in the case of a track coach a very useful tool for looking back and sensing what it would take to get better results.

Good for Coach Schnier to do such a thing and good for the blog to recognize him.

Pete Brown

From: ernie cunliffe 

This is what coaching is all about.   Over 30 yrs of putting out a weekly track bulletin.   I tried at AF Academy with XC to do this and I think I lasted barely 2 yrs with it before I stopped doing it.

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