Coaches' Corner: Coach Urbanski on Community

MileSplit AZ reached out to a handful of coaches in Arizona to get their reactions to COVID-19. Note that these interviews were done before the official cancelation of the 2020 high school track and field season.

Coach Mike Urbanski

Salpointe Catholic High School

Q: How many years have you been coaching in Arizona?
30 years in Arizona and at Salpointe Catholic

Q: What's your brief running/coaching background?
Distance runner since high school/ competed in over 40 marathons, still racing. Head Cross country and Track and Field coach at Salpointe Catholic. Also coach adult runners ranging from beginners to Olympic Trials qualifiers.

Q: What has been the level of disruption to athlete training and competition because of COVID-19? Complete disruption to the competition. Our hope is that our athletes are training on their own.

Q: What have you been telling your athletes during this time? Are they on some sort of modified training regimen?
Since the AIA has not completely canceled the season, we are asking our athletes to continue training to be ready if the season resumes. Our event coaches send out weekly plans that include workouts that don't require equipment -- a lot of running, plyos, stretching, bodyweight work.

Q: How do you keep athletes motivated during this time?
We are staying in touch with the team via email, text messages, video "pep talks". We reach out at least three times a week. We keep reminding them that the season is not over yet and there is still the possibility of a state championship. Even if the AIA cancels the season, if we can eventually come back to school, we will hold an intrasquad championship meet with electronic timing, etc. We had some great early season marks that can still be improved upon so we are stressing that with the athletes. We are also telling them how important the exercise is for their mental health. They are not used to online learning or the isolation that we are all experiencing right now so we are stressing the importance of using the workouts to manage stress, relieve anxiety and hold off depression.

Q: How are your seniors handling this situation?
Of course, it is tough on them but our seniors are all great leaders and they are keeping in touch with the younger athletes through social media to keep their spirits up.

Q: What, if anything, is positive that may come from COVID-19, that you have witnessed or heard in regard to your team/athletes?
Hard to come up with anything positive except that we continue to encourage our kids to reach out to others and provide help where they can. We tell them that if they put others first -- like doing yard work or shopping for the elderly or at-risk people -- they will benefit from it too. I guess the only positive is that we are coming together even more as a community to gain some resilience and bounce back from this crisis.

Q: What are your thoughts about a high school season this spring? If there is track by late May/June, are you going to suggest your athletes do club races?
If the AIA resumes the season and our school allows it, we will definitely compete. If the state championship is canceled, but we can return to school by late May, we would consider holding an Invitational to close out the season and celebrate our return as a team. Or, as I said earlier, at least have an intrasquad meet. Worst case scenario is that we don't return to school this semester but by early summer we can begin to meet again as a team and start preparing for the xc season.

Q: What's been the biggest challenge for you as a coach during this time?
Probably like everyone else -- dealing with the loss. We spend so much time with our athletes and all coaches basically live to watch them improve and learn life skills above and beyond just being a good athlete. Not being able to do that and not really seeing an end in sight is difficult. So, staying positive and continuing to project a hopeful outcome for our young people is very important right now. We always talk a lot about resilience and now we are challenging our kids to really dig deep and be resilient as we work through this difficult time.