XTERRA Ambassador Sydney Ayers is a full-time PR consultant, a full-time mom, and the head cross country coach at Littleton High School in Littleton, Colorado.
She is also a dedicated runner and will be toeing the starting line at the XTERRA Beaver Creek Trail Run on July 16th. We recently caught up with Sydney to talk about balance, running, and how to bring out the best in kids.
Q. How did you get into coaching?
A. Like all great love stories, my journey into coaching isn't what you would imagine. What happened was, I was injured, and didn’t like the doctors I was seeing because they didn’t seem focused on getting me back into running competitively. I called a friend of mine who was on my high school cross country team and now was a doctor in the area. He fixed me right up and got me running again.
A few months later, this same friend said, "A local high school is looking for an assistant coach."
I said, "Let me think about it." I'd never done anything like that before and the prospect was exciting and scary.
I called my old high school coach and started telling him my doubts. Before I got too far, he looked at me like I had three heads and said, "Why wouldn't you coach?"
I ended up working as the assistant coach for that school for six years before I moved to Littleton.
Q. What do you like best about coaching?
A.Well, now I'm the head coach at Littleton High School, which I never would have believed. And I'm all in. I want to build lifelong runners - that's what I care about. I want the kids to connect with each other and support each other. That's what I see now and I love it: the upperclassmen are supporting the lowerclassmen, and the JV team is supporting the varsity team. The kids are understanding that their "try hard" might be different than someone else's "try hard." Where we are now - we either do it together or not at all. We are all one team.
Q. What are the high school kids you coach like?
A. I have a great group of kids. They are hysterical. I am on the bus with them, going to meets, and I just laugh at what they say. When one of the kids has a breakthrough, or learns how to race, or meets a goal, it makes my day. To be part of that is so rewarding for me.
Q. How do you balance work, coaching and your own training?
A. My training program is based on coaches running with the kids. So I get a workout in with them. However, I don't pick out their running routes based on what I need. Their workouts are based on what they need.
Q. Tell us about your own running.
A. I just enjoy it so much. It feeds my soul. My favorite races are the ones where you just run, and it isn't about the tee-shirt and there aren't 70,000 sponsors. I just like to run with my tribe. It's the best thing.
I'm so excited for XTERRA Beaver Creek this weekend because the trails are amazing and the people are even better.
Q. What are your running goals?
A. Hmm. Last year, I struggled and I was injured. I put all my eggs in one basket and wanted to do well at the Nashville Half Marathon. The day of the race was 80 degrees and 80 percent humidity and it was only April. Needless to say, it wasn't my best race.
On the positive side, at mile two, there was a kid I had coached in high school who was now going to college in Nashville. He ended up running with me for the next nine miles.
That's what it's all about.