Coaches balance sports, home lifeMay 2, 2013
By JOHN PATISHNOCK
Herald Sports Writer
Karl and Rachel (Dittmer) Hinson talk excitedly about the progress of their two favorite athletes. The kids are eager to learn and always active at practice. They’re improving all the time.
Still, somebody feels the need to interject themself into the conversation, as their 5-year-old daughter, Riley, walks up to mom in mid-interview, wanting her attention.
“This tells the tale right here,” says Rachel, the 35-year-old Forest Park track and field girls coach who’s in her second season though she’s been a volunteer coach since the late 1990s. Rachel graduated from Forest Park in 1996, while Karl, the Ranger boys track coach, is a South Spencer alum, graduating in 1992. They also have a 7-year-old son, Carter.
As expected, the two share a busy life. But it’s also rewarding, especially when they’re able to blend their family life with their athletic passions.
Before Tuesday’s practice, Carter begins removing the tarp from the high jump landing pad while Karl talks with the guys nearby, and Riley mills around Rachel as she relays information about an upcoming meet to the girls team. Both love practicing with running blocks, while Riley also is apt to hang around the pole vault area and Carter is continuing to work on his personal-best mark of 3 feet, 1 inches in the high jump. He even has a piece of tape on the track, helping him remember where to start his jump.
“He finally got his step down and now he’s working on the over-the-bar part,” Karl, 38, says.
“They might know as much as some of our athletes, in some of these events,” Rachel adds, “because they hear it here at practice, they hear it at home.”
Karl also notes it’s common for Carter to start the discussion, giving an example that Carter could say: “'So, what do you think about (Travis) Schnell’s throw, or what about that performance today?'
“He’s trying to engage in the track conversation."
Evident by Carter practicing along with the sprinters as he straps a parachute on for a drill when runners work on their burst, the varsity athletes don’t mind them hanging around. As Rachel says, “It’s like having 60 baby sitters.” That helps offset a busy week for Rachel and Karl, who are used to juggling their many responsibilities.
This week, they have three varsity meets and two practices and also need to help out when Forest Park will host the junior high Pocket Athletic Conference meet on Saturday.
Additionally, Carter has two Little League games and Riley has gymnastics practice early in the week. It’s not easy, but Rachel’s mom and two sisters live in the area and help out, though Rachel and Karl have proven resourceful: They pay a high school student to take Carter for his weekly allergy shot.
“The biggest thing is where do the kids go?” Karl says of trying to find a balance. “Potentially, we could have five different baby sitters throughout the week or we’re taking them with us.”
“It’s crazy but it doesn’t seem as whirlwindish as it probably could be,” Rachel adds.
Both Rachel and Karl come from an athletic background, as Rachel was a three-sport athlete who excelled in track, placing seventh in the 1,600 relay in the state finals in 1995 and Karl ran track and played tennis at South Spencer. He came to Forest Park and coached the junior high track team for two years before taking over the varsity squad. He and Rachel knew one another from track practices, but it wasn’t until a girls basketball game when former girls track coach Vicki Beach set them up, pointing out Karl, who was keeping the scorebook.
“She said, ”˜How about that guy?’” Rachel says, laughing a bit.
“We hit it off from the first date,” she continues, “it all links back to track.”
The two celebrated their 10-year anniversary in March and stay busy in the offseason, running 5Ks, 10Ks and half-marathons together and also competing in duathlons; this last event was Rachel’s specific goal after having two kids. Karl’s also completed a few triathalons, an event Rachel has avoided because of her aversion to swimming. Finding time to prepare can sometimes be difficult, as Rachel and Karl often have to decide whether they want to stay after practice to run or spend time at home. Rachel ran three times a week up until the middle of March before taking a break, though she and Karl also hike and bike with Carter and Riley.
Finding a balance can be tricky, but there’s also positives about the track-consuming life Karl and Rachel share.
“We can talk about where we think certain people should be or what we should try,” Karl says. “You just bounce ideas off each other and during track season, that’s probably what dominates most of the conversation, because that’s what you’re thinking about all the time. I would say that’s the biggest thing that helps out.”
“Yeah, that’s a huge advantage, I think,” Rachel adds, finishing the thought.
Rachel and Karl don’t seem overwhelmed, and there’s hardly a moment when they’re on the track that they don’t seem to be enjoying themselves. This is fun stuff for them. Karl has led the boys team to three sectional championships and Rachel calls track her sports “love.” Best of all? They get to share everything with each other.
“It is awesome coaching with him just because we both are on the same page, we both have the same goals, as far as our teams,” Rachel says. “We not only want the kids to excel on the track but we also try to work a lot on life skills so they see how a family is and there’s got to be love and there’s got to be understanding. There’s got to be communication just in everyday life with relationships so we try to be good role models for the kids, as best we can, and just knowing that we can do that together as well is pretty gratifying.”
Contact John Patishnock at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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