The word “practice” always sounded like a dreadful term to me as well to others who have played numerous types of sports. Although, after visiting with Brian Patton, head men’s and women’s cross country and track and field coach at Greenville University since 1994, but the ease of the term “practice” to my mind. Patton’s distinguished and easy character flowed through his conversation with me explaining what practice goals he expects out of his track athletes. Patton expresses, “We will tell our athletes that practice is the easiest time of the day and it is the other 22 hours a day that complicate life.” Sounds simple, be there and get done what the coaches are asking to get done in a safe environment. All the other complicated problems of life and activities happen at the other time of the day. Patton stresses to his team, “Come and enjoy yourselves and get some work done.”
Greenville University’s track and field athletes practice five days a week with a track meet on the weekend. The usual practice routine has been a little different this year. Practice changes have been made due to the coronavirus stipulations at Greenville University. The changes have affected team practice meetings by not allowing everyone in a room at the same time. The practice meetings lasting less than 15 minutes are a disadvantage because the team does not have everyone in the room at the same time. Patton does not use zoom meetings and wants to see his athletes in person. Coach sadly states, “you just don’t get done in a meeting what you would like to get done.” The track coaching staff has consciously arranged to break the athletes into smaller groups of throwers, sprinters, and distance runners for everyone’s safety in practice too. Team meetings and practices are the only two places the track and field athletes are together in one place. This scenario has set a little frustration for everyone. Patton emphasizes, “if someone would go down in one group, that doesn’t necessarily knock out the whole team, but could potentially compromise that one event group.”
No doubt, the concern of practice changes can affect any team of being competitive in their season. Greenville University’s competitiveness can be affected by their athletes not being able to practice in the fall season. Track athletes would have normally been running four to five days a week in preparing for their spring track season. The athletes were running two days a week and lifting the other three days of the week in the fall. The track and field athletes are not going to run as much as they have had in the past. However, the practice changes are going to affect the other teams as well. As a result, Patton’s greatest concern has been the discomfort of the athlete’s lack of interest during these trying times.
Indeed, Patton and his coaching staff enthusiastically prepare our fine athletes for their upcoming Greenville University track schedule. Patton optimistically expresses, “we try to build relationships with the kids on our team.” Certainly, all good practices in life are relational and that is the true success of our Greenville University coaching staff and track team.
Media by Seth Isringhausen.