first day of practice

Day of practice in the books, approximately 80 more days of improvement in front of us!  We had our first meeting together, coaches and 165 kids signed up for Monta Vista Track and Field 2018, and we got our first workouts done.  I think there will be a few sore kids walking around school on Tuesday…

Below is a rough transcript of Coach Flatow’s opening remarks (he got his welcome speech done in 10 minutes this season!) and also there is a download of the handout from the meeting for kids that are still in their winter sports and were not able to come to the first day of practice.

We are off to a great start.  You kids look great and it was so fun to see all of you!  It’s a joy to be back on the track with MVTF18!

Coach Flatow:

What your coaches want from you this year is for you to try your best this season. We want you to give your best, focused effort every day. That’s it.

This is different from almost every other team you might have joined in the past. Sure, every coach wants their athletes to try their best. But coaches of team sports have to have an expectation of skill, too. If a random distance runner joined the football team and said, ‘I want to be an offensive lineman’, Coach Herald (MV head football coach, and the coach of our throwers) would probably say…um, I’m sorry, no matter how hard you try and how much you want this I can’t let our quarterback be killed by the Milpitas linebacker you are supposed to be blocking. Other teams are the same way; in field hockey we need to put our best midfielders out there or the forwards will score less. In team sports there is dynamic that if a team does not play the best players, the other players on the team pay some cost.

Track is different.   We have a lot of lanes behind me. If we had 80 hard working kids that wanted to run the 100m, and all 80 kids wanted to work hard to see how fast them could be, we could run 8 heats of the 100 in a track meet, no problem. We don’t have to share out a limited number of game minutes among the team. We don’t have to share a limited amount of playing time. Our slowest kid is not holding back our fastest kid from achieving his or her best in a track meet, not in the way a bad point guard can hurt the performance of other players on his basketball team.

But a kid that is not dedicated, a kid that is not trying his or her best, can hold back the kids that want to make a full, committed, best effort. Lack of effort and dedication brings the whole track and field team down in both tangible and intangible ways, that lack of talent does not.

All of your coaches share this view in track. I’ve seen Coach Herald coach kids that simply are not gifted enough—or big enough, at some level this is physics!—to ever throw a shot very far. I know that Coach McKeeman and I have said to each other that we would rather coach four kids that really want to improve and will never make it to CCS, than coach 20 talented kids that are coasting and goofing off and not caring.   It’s not that we don’t want to win medals and win championships, we do want to win and we want to see you win, but winning medals that is not the first thing that keeps us coaching you kids.

For myself, the reason I have come to love coaching track and cross at Monta Vista, is because I have become more and more convinced over time that by helping us all learnt to be grittier, your lives and our world can be better.   Helping make your life and the world better is more important that any track medal (though I believe do believe that in the process of learning to be grittier our teams will win a lot of medals).  I have a couple different people who I lean on for guidance as I coach. For the technical part of coaching, how fast and how much you should train, I lean a lot on Ben Rosario the coach of Northern Arizona Elite, a couple guys from USATF, and a couple of college coaches I have become close to. For your character development I look for guidance from one particular person. Dr. Angela Duckworth, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, has found that grittiness—the ability to continue to be persistent in the pursuit of a long-term goal—is the biggest indicator of superior performance in any field. Grit is what distinguishes high achievers more than talent. And grit can manifest itself in all different fields. A gritty athlete is different from a gritty scientist or a gritty writer or a gritty baker, but all these people share some common traits. They are passionate about their goals. They are focused in their practice. They are not thrown off the path by setbacks. All of the gritty people have an intentional, focused improvement cycle. Gritty people are never satisfied, they become in a way satisfied with being unsatisfied, so they live their lives trying to be better at one thing after another.

And that is what we are asking from you this track season—is for you to commit yourself, for a season, to get better at a few things. We are asking you to be gritty for a season.


Being gritty is not easy. But there are ways to become grittier. One of the best ways is to join a gritty team. You will find it easier to be gritty, to work hard and be persistent, if you are part of a group with a strong group dynamic and shared values and rituals. If you are a leader—not only the formal leadership of being a captain, but what is more important, the leadership that comes from you wanting to make the group better—each of you can promote a culture that promotes this kind of personal growth. This team dynamic is why your coaches will cut kids that don’t try, kids that avoid the effort or persistence or positive attitudes that promote grit—these kids are making the culture less helpful to all of us that are trying to become more gritty.

I encourage all of you to take a philosophy course in college. Philosophers can be confusing but it is fun to try to figure out what they are getting at. Sort it all out, and most philosophers are writing and thinking about how we can happy lives. Everything else is a means to that end, living good and happy lives. Three thousand years ago, Aristotle wrote about this, and those old Greeks knew a lot. Aristotle said there are two kinds of happiness. There’s eudemonia, a person’s state of excellence characterized by having an objective across a lifetime, brought about through the exercise of moral virtue, practical wisdom, and rationality. Aristotle wrote about a life of character and well being that is achieved through cultivating things that are sometimes hard, like being able to get through difficult times. Angela and I would say Aristotle is talking about a gritty life.

Aristotle contrasted a purposeful life with the hedonic life, the life of pleasure and comfort.  I fear many people today confuse ‘pleasure’ with ‘happiness’.


Gritty, successful, purposeful people are happy, not because they have more pleasure or comfort in their lives. Sometimes gritty people have less comfort because to do gritty things is to do hard things. However, the kind of happiness that’s available to people who are truly passionate about what they do and work hard to achieve their goals, is the feeling of happiness and satisfaction that comes from being proud of the life you have chosen and pride in what you have accomplished. You are making a contribution to the world around you and getting the most out of the talents you have been given.

A gritty life is not always the easiest thing, and it doesn’t mean that you’re going to have the most fun every moment. Just like choosing to join the track team is not the easiest thing you could choose to do this spring. There are going to be days when it might seem like more fun to be home playing video games or just shooting the breeze with your friends. I am 100% sure it is easier to join PE class than it is to join the track team. All I can say is, I think there are easier paths that I could have taken in my life, but I am pleased with the path I have chosen, and I am glad that path has lead me here to this team.

And therefore I am comfortable with asking you to commit to really trying, to commit to being gritty for the next three months, if you choose to be part of this track team. I and convinced that asking for this commitment from every athlete is the best thing for the team and also for you.