I used to be an athlete, back in the day when Bruno Mars made his debut and UGG boots were still in style. I loved high school sports, and I dedicated all of my after-school time to preserving my muscle mass and dreaming of a six-pack. I even went through a phase of downing protein drinks after every practice and before each meet — never again.
My track career started in seventh grade and ended in the spring of my junior year of high school. I thought I was a pretty fast runner, especially for having nubs as legs. I ran a few sprints per meet, usually the 100-meter, 200-meter and occasionally the 400-meter when Coach Rob asked me to.
Of the several different track coaches I had, Coach Rob was by far my favorite, and I think some of my teammates would agree.
Coach Rob was young and enthusiastic. He enjoyed lifting weights alongside the students and pushing us until runners began to vomit, and sometimes even after that.
He was understanding yet tough, encouraging yet strict. One practice, he made our team run a lap for every person who had failed a class. I was very sore the next day.
Whenever we were close to giving up during a workout, he would chant, “Every rep makes you better” and have us repeat this over and over — and over. It was the concept of endurance — continuance despite the challenge. Needless to say, those words have been ingrained in my mind ever since, even eight years later.
Even though Coach Rob trained us very diligently, he was also very aware of our everyday stressors outside of track. One year, he sat us down before or after every practice to preach to us about a new life value, like faith or integrity. He was very passionate about our well-being and attitudes.
I think it is safe to say that we all admired him and were shocked upon hearing of his death by suicide on the last day of my sophomore year in 2012.
Our school was devastated by the unexpected loss. We held a candle lighting ceremony as a community to celebrate his life and find comfort in each other.
We also grew from it as individuals and as a community. I think I realized that you never know what’s under the surface. I was shocked and sad, but mostly I was confused. I think it made me realize how precious life was while I was so young.
The following year, our track team adjusted to a new coach and training style, but we persisted in following our favorite motto, “Every rep makes you better.”
Though Coach Rob may no longer be with us physically, his spirit and inspiration continues to influence and carry on through my life as well as those whose lives have been affected by his.
I think God gives each of us a unique trait that allows us to keep each other’s memory alive after we leave this earth. Perhaps that is why he gives us the ability to inspire greatly and love deeply.
I am usually not one for New Years resolutions, but this year I have found myself naturally striving to keep alive the spark of those who have been part of my life in years prior. Whether I am attempting to relive my glory days as an athlete or am chasing a hard-hitting story, I can practice the art of continuing one step at a time.
After all, every rep makes you better.