Year Two. And like a sophomore reflecting back on his freshman year, I’m absolutely blown away by what a year has done for me. This weekend’s Purple Valley Classic was eye-opening for me. After a full year, I now feel comfortable admitting that last year’s PVC was tough for me emotionally. Not only were my former athletes there competing, but it was my first ever instance cheering for the Purple & Gold.
I’d been on the other side of the aisle from Williams for nearly two decades and for my entire adult life. In hindsight, it does seem somewhat understandable that I might struggle to immediately cheer for the uniform. I’d been conditioned to have a vastly different emotional response to that singlet. They’d been my competition since I was 18-years-old. But I expected more from myself.
And so, when the “Go Ephs!” chant didn’t instinctually roll off my tongue, I felt like a bad person. In that moment, it hurt. I felt like I wasn’t up to my job, like I was disappointing the guys. I felt disingenuous.
Honestly, I didn’t “enjoy” the 2015 PVC. I wanted it to be this cathartic, liberating experience. A fresh start for me and my family. Instead it was simply incredibly draining.
I forced myself to focus on faces. I told myself that it wasn’t about the uniform. It was about the person wearing it. I’d already made connections with the team. I’d been impressed watching the squad summit Mt. Greylock. I knew them and what they wanted to accomplish. I wanted it for them. I wanted to help them get there. They were a great group of guys and I wanted to be a great coach for them.
By the end of race, I was much closer to where I needed to be. I was doing all I could to help propel Bijan to the finish line against an Amherst runner. Then Noah, Ben, Griffin, Kyle…my voice did what it could.
And now, just one year later, the chants come easy. Because we’ve strived together. I’ve worn the colors. I’ve been brought into the fold. 2016 PVC was fantastic. My kids knew the teams. They got hugs from Williams coaches. They remembered the course and where to run. I met some Williamstown parents because our kids already knew each other. I wasn’t the outsider anymore.
Although it came a year later than I hoped, I finally got that catharsis I needed. And I feel like I now have a new home course to defend. And a new home.