Track Record of Success: Spotlight on OLMC Coach Dan Clavijo
“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all-time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” ~Vince Lombardi
In Coach Dan Clavijo’s inaugural season as OLMC’s cross country and track coach, he took the three year old team to victory in the North Jersey Catholic School Track Association Championship Meet. He had inherited some naturally fast runners, but success did not come solely through their quick feet; indeed, the team did not have enough talent to win on talent alone. Rather, Coach Clavijo made it an entire team effort from the very beginning of the season. He focused equally on every runner on the roster, mentoring them and encouraging each of them, from the fastest to the slowest, to reach new heights of dedication and swiftness. His strategy paid off: The strong performance of the fourth and fifth runners ultimately earned the team its victory.
Together with Coach Courtney Christopher, Coach Clavijo is applying the same method to the spring track season and meeting with similar success. In fact, for one of the biggest meets of the year, he invited the entire school - runners and non-runners alike - to participate, asking that “we all compete together, and we give all our glory to God.” Once again, the results of the meet revealed the worth of his strategy: Among a number of personal bests and other individual accomplishments, the team earned twenty-five top three finishes in various events, including nine first places and ten second places.
Coach Clavijo’s commitment to form winning habits of heart, mind, and body in every runner not only mirrors the attitude of some of the most successful coaches in history, but also reflects OLMC’s educational approach more generally. Like the rest of the faculty and staff, his highest priority is to create the conditions for children to become more fully themselves - to tap into strengths they never knew they had, and to embrace for themselves the goodness and beauty of each moment, especially those moments in which they are called to push past their perceived limits. Under Coach Clavijo’s leadership, students become accustomed to giving their best to every lap.
Coach Clavijo knows the richness of his approach from experience. When asked about his journey to coaching, he said:
It was eighth grade, and I had nothing to do after school. Some friends were trying out for the track team. ¨Run around in a circle?” I thought. ¨That sounds easy¨.
It was not easy, and I loved it immediately. That was 14 years ago; I´ve been running ever since and every time I do, I thank God. Now I have been given the chance and honor to coach the students at OLMC. It´s been a long time dream of mine; my greatest hope is that our students will come to love competing, being part of a team, and the joy that comes with pushing past your limits; a joy that is hard-fought and well-earned.
It’s no surprise that the team responds so well when he pushes it past the comfort zone. As Bobby Knight once said, “to be as good as it can be, a team has to buy into what you as the coach are doing. They have to feel you’re a part of them and they’re a part of you.” The runners trust Coach Clavijo because they know he’s in it with them; he never runs out of patience, good cheer, or faith in their abilities. Thanks to his leadership, they are truly learning to run the good race.