"For a breakthrough to happen, you often need to leave the old comfortable ways of doing things behind. Staying in familiar territory feels safe. It is hard to let go for all of us at times. However, getting to the next level in life requires new and better ways of doing things and leveraging on yourself somehow to make a change for the better. Once you find innovative ways to change, the old ways of doing things become obsolete".

Coach Weber

      Connecting Athletic Skills To Important Life Skills   

One of my primary goals as a coach is to help students and their parents see the connection between skills learned through running and track and field and how these skills will help in life, including the future careers of our student-athletes.

Running and Track and Field lessons are much more significant than winning or setting personal bests in competitions.

Lessons Learned That Lasted A Lifetime

Before retiring, I was in charge of many projects that required innovation, breaking away from how things were currently done. 

Throughout most of my career, my primary job was to change the status quo in ways to serve others more fully in whatever project I was working on at the time.  Many times this meant building brand new systems that made old methods obsolete. The goal was always to serve our customers better in one way or another.

There is a significant distinction between what you are given to maintain in life versus innovating something new. The skill set to innovate is different from the skill set to maintain. We all should learn both skill sets.  However, I focused my career on the innovation side of the house rather than the maintenance side for many personal reasons.

Creating first-ever projects that helped others in new ways was rewarding on many levels.  Challenging the status quo was never dull or easy, but it was meaningful and fired me up most days.

Said another way, trying to find a better way to do various processes and activities provided a strong vision and purpose for my projects during most of my career.

Experiences from my running career were the number one reason why I wanted to break barriers in my profession. Lessons learned from running built the foundation for several barrier-breaking moments for me after my running career was over.

Running taught me very clearly how to break long-standing personal and team barriers, mentally and physically.  Running also taught me how to change the status quo by continually finding ways to take ownership of and improve my performance.

Learning to take an honest look under the hood is the fuel of positive change.

When I was first exposed to formal project management, quality improvement methods, strategic planning, and how to innovate as a young adult, these things made sense at a heart and head level because I learned many of these skills informally through my running career. 

I was the first to volunteer to lead challenging projects as a young adult, primarily due to all my training in the physical and mental aspects of running.

The lessons learned from running prepared me well on many different levels, including the right mindset to take on new challenges and break long-standing barriers in the workplace.

Teaching The Value Of Changing The Status Quo

Innovation and breakthroughs in the workplace and other areas required the same mental tenacity I learned through championship running and track and field.

I stress personal and team barrier-breaking (first-ever breakthroughs) in running and track and field for youth because this mindset and attitude is the first step toward learning innovation and breaking barriers in the workplace.

When you break a significant personal or team barrier of some kind, you change the status quo of what currently exists. In other words, things get better, and you rise to new heights.  The more significant the personal or team barrier you break, the better, I think, most of the time. 

I do my best to set high standards in our cross-country and track and field each year. By going after high standards and goals, you learn by doing, which reinforces the great lessons of excellence in the classroom even more.                                                                          

Going for a significant personal best based on your ability level or going for a championship season teaches skills that are different from taking a recreational approach to the sport.

When you give it your all and leave it on the line personally and with a strong team, you learn more in-depth about yourself and your team mentally, physically, and spiritually. The skills learned by giving it you're all to a big goal carry over to future careers if appropriately taught. 

One Difference Between Leading And Managing

Implementing change and breakthrough innovation is often the main difference between leading and managing.

Leadership demands changes to the status quo to help others in new ways.  Managers generally maintain what is already created.

Both approaches are necessary and equally important. However, learning innovation by changing the status quo is a skill needed more now than ever in our ever-changing workplace and world. 

The pace of change keeps accelerating. Keeping up with and leading the pack is now a must, not a want, for most careers.

Learning to become a barrier breaker of the status quo while you are young is now a mission-critical career skill and gives you a leg up when you move into the workplace.

Buckminster Fuller, one of the geniuses of the 20th Century, said:

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

Fuller's words made sense to me as a young man. Learning to break barriers and innovate by creating new models made sense if I wanted to have a long, meaningful, and prosperous career. 

Innovation is simply just a breakthrough of some kind. Innovation always requires barrier-breaking thinking of some sort. Innovation requires thinking differently from the crowd about how to solve long-standing problems.

Innovation is a mindset of believing all things are possible, there is a better way, and you will find a new way with the help of your team.

Teaching young people that all things are possible and then going out and breaking a long-standing personal or team barrier cement belief in God-given ability in stone, sometimes for a lifetime.

If you are the first to accomplish something or break a long-standing barrier, much confidence, skills, and personal satisfaction "are gained," as long as humility and a desire to continually improve are maintained

One Young Man's Perspective Of Life Lessons Learned

Placing yourself in demanding and challenging situations when you are young teaches valuable lessons for life. Perhaps one of my former athletes and Air Force Academy student, Joe Oczkewicz, said it best:                                     

“My favorite memory in both cross-country and track and field is spending time with my teammates at state getting ready to compete. This is the highest level. I feel like this is where I learn the most about myself and how to succeed. I have been lucky to run with great athletes that are committed to exceeding expectations. You learn valuable running and life skills from state championships”.

So, the next time you are challenged to break a significant personal or team barrier, think about the greater long-term purpose of breaking the barrier.  You are developing skills that will last a lifetime. 

Learning how to break barriers in your races and events while you are young helps give you the right mindset for innovation and barrier-breaking in the workplace of tomorrow. Become a barrier-breaker.  Your life and others' lives will never be the same.

Some specific examples of how we approach breaking barriers in our programs are below.


Coach Weber

Philippians 4:13



Breaking a long-standing barrier begins with an"all things are possible"mindset. Once you break a barrier like winning a state championship, your mind is open to even greater possibilities and improvements.

After breaking  a barrier, even more importantly, the people around you are more apt to believe they can achieve more. 

Life Lesson: As outlined above,  you benefit in multiple ways by breaking long-standing personal and team barriers. However, more importantly, you will help those around you believe in their God-given abilities and do things they never thought possible.

See how barrier-breaking performances impact those around you in more detail in my post below. 


Breaking a challenging barrier is the fuel of change for you and others. As the Bible says, "without a vision, the people perish."

When you go after the vision of a significant personal best or something like a state championship, you not only learn how to work hard, you are inspired to try new things and innovate along the journey. Better ways of doing things are discovered.

Having a solid vision is the first step of making a breakthrough and going where other teams have never gone before.

Life Lesson: Create a strong vision, a strong "why" behind your project or activity. A solid and worthwhile vision keeps you going when things get tough and bond your team together as you pursue a common goal.                                                                         

In an extremely good example of what I am talking about, think moon mission here. The first moon mission was the most remarkable project in U.S. history where people self-reported  their top performance and work satisfaction of their lifetime. A strong and compelling mission and vision are essential to breakthroughs and innovation. Said another way, a strong vision wins the race, whether it's a running race or something much more significant like landing someone on the moon.

One simple thing we do after a significant race is gather in a circle to review what happened that day.

Each person, including the coach, starts by stating what went right. After everyone has a turn to speak, we go around the circle and note one improvement we can make for our next race.

Each person suggests a way to improve team performance or individual performance. Everyone is heard, everyone has a voice, and no one is blamed for mistakes. We simply learn from our mistakes and do better next time.                                                     

I credit this simple strategy for helping our girl's team win the state championship in their second year as a team. This one meeting after a challenging race helped turn our season around. We went from losing to the defending state champions by 99 points early in the season to winning the state championship by a few points.

If you are interested, read the lady eagles story here: 


Life Lesson: Breakthroughs happen if you actively listen to your team, the actual people doing the workday in and day out. Fix the problem, don't blame is the thinking you need for a breakthrough. Talk with your team openly about how to improve without blaming others.

Systematically ask your team how they can improve, one person at a time and in facilitated group situations. Everyone generally needs a voice in the "how can we get better" process. In other words, be intentional about making improvements, and a breakthrough is likely to happen if you have input and buy-in from your team.

Photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina

Every Great Barrier-Breaking Moment  Starts With  A  Simple Idea To Improve Some Aspect Of Life. 

Don't kill ideas before they have a chance to start. Actively listen and discuss ideas before dismissing them from your team.

Sometimes, a combination of team ideas creates the breakthrough you are looking for. If you stop an idea too soon in the process, you may not have the best variety of ideas to reach your vision and goals.