The other day I tweeted a famous line from Teddy Roosevelt: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." It is of course all about attitude and having a vision to see beyond boundaries. It was something that then LSU Athletic Director Skip Bertman constantly preached to us as coaches. He and his administration would work hard to give us all the tools we needed to succeed (and they did) but a lack of anything would not be acceptable as an excuse for not being successful. And Skip walked the walk. As baseball coach of the Tigers, Skip won five National Championships on arguably the worst baseball field in the Southeastern Conference.
You can moan and groan and whine about what you don't have or you can go to work with what you do have -- just like the track team that Paul Daugherty wrote about for SI.com. Here is an excerpt:
Winning a state high school track title when your team doesn't have a track isn't as strange as it may seem. Training on an access road is underrated, particularly once you know where all of the oil spots are. After you realize the sewer grate is in Lane 6 and the manhole cover is in Lane 5 -- or is it the other way around? -- the rest is a breeze.
Except when the occasional vehicle makes a wrong turn. Or when the city bus arrives, to pick up students. Or when the school bus does the same. How many running tracks make the afternoon traffic report?
"As you can see, it is not smooth,'' said coach Gerald Warmack, unintentionally metaphorical.
Maybe your high school football team shared its field with a herd of cows. Maybe your centerfielder dodged used cars on the warning track, or your basketball team played a 2-3 zone in between the first- and second-chair violins in the symphony. Slide your feet. Don't hit the tuba.
Everyone has played a sport in less-than-ideal surroundings. A slightly bent rim, base paths rutted by rain. If you haven't taken a bad-hop, must-of-hit-a-rock grounder to the face, you haven't played hardball.
This is different.
This isn't just an inconvenience, though everyone involved at Shroder calls it that. This is running as fast as you can while wondering: That school bus that was there a minute ago ... did it leak any grease on my lane?
This is making a baton exchange through a dip in the asphalt. The runner with the baton is sprinting downhill; the runner receiving it is trying to do the opposite. There is some science to passing a baton efficiently. The rest is purely physical. Unless, you know, there's a car in your lane.
It might be easy to forget the pain of running on asphalt, when you're gliding on rubber. The motivation was never forgotten, however. "We do wonder what we could do if we had a real track,'' said Bishop.
No better than what they did. No better than first place. The Jaguars went from fourth to tied for first in the third leg, then brought the title home in the anchor leg. Their winning time was 1.1 seconds faster than the second-place team. That was pounding some serious pavement. "Ran their hearts out,'' Warmack said.
There are no plans for Shroder to build a track, not unless Fifth Third Bank or Coca-Cola cede some of their extensive parking-lot acreage. The best Warmack and his athletes can do is what they've been doing. Negotiate the peaks and valleys and watch out for the oil slicks.
"The kids don't complain,'' said Warmack. "They just run.''
If you can, please take the time to read the entire article (and check out the photos), it's well-written and well worth it: http://bit.ly/NNHBSv