Coaches' Corner: Coach Lincoln on Staying Positive

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 Matt Lincoln
Chandler High School

Q: How many years have you been coaching in Arizona? At Chandler?
This is my 7th year coaching in Arizona, all of them at Chandler High School.

Q: What's your brief running/coaching background?
I attended Penn State University where I competed in cross country and track (3x team captain and 3x school record-holder). I ran post collegiately for 7 years with the Canadian national team and Nike. I ran sub 4 for the mile and have finished 3rd, 4th and 5th at the Canadian Olympic Trials and have been a member on a number of international teams. Hold national record in DMR and 4x800m. I was an assistant coach with my club team in Toronto for a couple of years (2008-2010) before switching training groups and moving to Arizona in 2011.

Canadian Turnhout Camp (2009) - See Coach Lincoln interviewed (1:25 mark) when he was competing for Canada.

Coach Lincoln in 2009 competing in the Francophones Games - takes 3rd place.

Q: What has been the level of disruption to athlete training and competition because of COVID-19?
At this point, we aren't even able to access our facilities at the school for them to come individually and workout. It is a pretty significant disruption. For the distance runners, they can at least get some work in, but the jumps/throws/sprints it makes it a lot more challenging to get any specific work in.

Q: What have you been telling your athletes during this time? Are they on some sort of modified training regimen?
I send them daily workouts via mass message system. This is what I sent to my team: I'm sure we are all still trying to process things right now. Seniors, I feel for you. There are a few things I wanted to tell you all... It is completely okay to feel disappointed and frustrated right now. You all have goals for yourselves and work hard to achieve them. It's okay to have a feeling of loss. Something you love and enjoy has been taken away from you; that sucks. Part of being human is acknowledging and dealing with those emotions, even if they aren't positive. Don't dwell on your feelings of frustration and negativity. Take some time and then move on. In the grand scheme of things, this is but a small hurdle you will need to overcome. Control what you can control: Your effort, your attitude, and the way you deal with adversity. All the work you've put in hasn't been for nothing. Whether it shows itself in next year's fitness or in the mental toughness and perseverance that has been instilled in you for the future; you have improved yourself as a person. Set new goals. Keep training. Stay positive. Stay motivated. Continue to be Champions. We are still a team. We will still support each other (albeit from a distance of 6 feet or greater :)). We are still a Wolfpack. Be Grateful for what you do have. I miss being out there every day with all of you. Go Wolves!

Q: How do you keep athletes motivated during this time?
Remain positive and try to keep their hopes up. Focus on the benefits uninterrupted training can get you.

Q: How are your seniors handling this situation?
They are obviously disappointed, but they have handled it well so far. I actually had my senior cross country season canceled due to a teacher strike, so I kind of know how they feel.

Q: What, if anything, is positive that may come from COVID-19, that you have witnessed or heard in regard to your team/athletes?
My hope would be that they don't take the opportunities they have for granted in the future. I think it is helping them develop a better understanding of the importance of being a team, supporting one another, and learning how to deal with adversity.

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?
I think the hope at this point is that we can just get back to meeting as a group again by early summer and if they can get a competitive race at some point to help with motivation and break up the monotony of training, great. 

Q: What's been the biggest challenge for you as a coach during this time?
Not being out there every day. I love being at the track. Interacting with the other coaches, the kids, the competition...I miss it all.