My story begins as a first year coach and teacher.
At my first teaching job, I was asked to create a track team for one of the poorest school districts in my state. The school didn’t even have a track. But with unbounded faith and optimism, I said yes.
The kids and I gave 110%. But in spite of our hard work, our first year was anything but positive.
To be blunt, our first season was a failure. As the school year ended, I knew that I had to come up with a solution to turn things around. But how? I couldn’t do it alone. I needed guidance from a proven mentor.
The best mentor I could think of was University of Kansas track coach Bob Timmons, the coach of Jim Ryun. Jim Ryun was the Kansas kid who — at 17 years of age — ran the mile under 4 minutes and broke every world record in his age category. I figured if Timmons could take Ryun to the next level, he could surely mentor me.
Would Timmons be willing to take my call? I wasn’t sure, but it was worth a try.
The first time I called Timmons, there was no answer. I left a message and hoped he would return my call. Finally, one day, my phone rang.
“Harvey Dean?” the voice on the other end said. “This is Bob Timmons.”
Timmons turned out to be a great mentor for a younger coach like me. He listened to my story, took me seriously, and offered his best advice. He suggested I pick up a copy of his favorite track-training book, claiming it held the keys to success. I bought the book and used it to develop a new training program for my team. The new method moved the locus of responsibility for practices out of the coach’s hands and into the hands of the runners.
The team’s turnaround was nearly immediate. Soon, the boys were winning medals and our track practices began to buzz with excitement. Within three years, my team of inexperienced athletes became runners-up for the State Championship, winning many medals and other track meets along the way.
Hot Tip #1: Seeking advice from proven mentors is a shortcut to success.
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