A Grateful Coach

Anthony Belber, 3rd Grade Teacher and Coach for High School Track, Indoor Track, Cross-Country
I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity, year after year, to teach and coach at GDS and to be entrusted with the care and education of these wonderful student athletes. Unlike a teacher, who may encounter a student for a year or two during high school, I often get to work with a student in the fall, winter, and spring (and sometimes even during the summer) for part or all of their high school career. I am with those student athletes when they are experiencing emotional highs and lows, challenging themselves in unfamiliar situations, dealing with physical and mental stress, and soaring to unexpected heights with their teammates. I, and our dedicated assistant coaches, bear witness to the journeys of self-discovery and maturation which shape these GDS students for years to come. It is a tremendous privilege and responsibility none of us take lightly.

Words can’t express how gratifying it is to see former runners (and often former 3rd grade students of mine!) return to give back to the program by coaching, chaperoning, joining a run, or even sending notes of encouragement. First, I see the nervous, gangly, timid 9th grader mature over four years into a senior leader, runner, and confident athlete. And then, I have the opportunity to watch those same people return, as adults, with wisdom, perspective, and a passion for coaching. For me, coaching is about guiding others to enjoy the many aspects of the sport of running as I do. For many students, high school running is the first time they explore their city on foot, the first time they take control over their own daily exercise, the first time they find themselves facing head-to-head competition and persevering. Nothing makes me happier than watching those I’ve coached fall in love with cross-country and track, internalize its life lessons, and return to transfer that passion on to a new generation.

I have long said that this program only needed a push from me at the start, and that since those first few seasons it has been the older runners who have been teaching the younger runners what it means to be inclusive, supportive, and dedicated. Now, as more and more alumni have returned to coach, it is clearer than ever that this is a program that sustains itself. These alumni coaches are realizing the dream I had when I first came to this school, hoping to build not just a successful team, but a program that would stand for something beyond scores and times.

I am grateful to the hundreds of student athletes who have invested their time and energy into this team and to the dozens of alumni who have found their way back here for workouts, motivational speeches, and even employment. It has been a privilege—and continues to be a joy—to work with you all.
 
For years, the team has called out “Run good!” before competing. That grammatically incorrect (slightly tongue-in-cheek) phrase is the vocalization of all that these alumni have been addressing in their eloquent reflections, acknowledging the history of the program, the life lessons it teaches, and the community it fosters. Inspired by all those who have been a part of GDS running, we will continue, as best we can, to simply “Run Good!”
 
We hope you have enjoyed the Run Good and Keep Going series. Please let us know your thoughts about future alumni series by sending email to dstock@gds.org. There are many more stories to tell, and we want to hear yours!

If you missed any posts, you can find them all below:
A Nice Long Warm-up for What Follows features an 18-mile warm-up, a side-by-side victory, and alum coach Mark Berenson ’00
Keep Calm and Run Good features a falling tent, mind reading, and alum coach Leah Snider ’12.
Running, Racing, and Balance features skateboarding convert and alum coach Peter Silverman ’03.
The Long-Distance, Long-Distance Coach features postcards from Bosnia, shrubbery, and alum coach Matt Simonson ’04.
Putting in the Work features 900 tons of concrete, record-breaking throws, and alum coach Maya Braxton ’10.
Inner Strength features broken everything, grit, and alum coach Lauren Silberman ’08.
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