In my last post, I re-introduced myself and told you I’m a running coach. And I also mentioned that I’m now the head coach for cross country at my alma mater. That part might have taken you by surprise since as of last season, I was only an assistant and I hadn’t even been blogging at that point. A lot has happened! Anyway — I interviewed for the job late fall and found out I got it during very early winter.
I’ve been working toward the head coach gig for a few years. I’m super jazzed and really excited to get started with the team. After the 2020 season, I know I have my work cut out for me. But my plan is to breathe some fresh life into the team and take the program to the next level. There are days my head is exploding with ideas and it’s hard to contain myself. But before all the fun and excitement can begin, and the new and shiny ideas brought to life, I have fundamental hopes and goals for the upcoming cross country season.
Goals for Building a High School Cross Country Program
My overall goal is to develop an inspiring, inclusive, and challenging environment where runners can grow and thrive — individually and as a team; and socially, emotionally, and physically.
Social and emotional development and well-being is integral to becoming a responsible human as well as becoming a gracious and successful athlete. I want my team to feel confident and comfortable with each other and the coaches to be able to have frank and open discussion, but I want them to recognize when it’s important to be humble and to learn from those with more experience than them. And the same is true for winning and losing. It’s important to be both a gracious winner and a gracious loser.
And to winning — is it important? Yes, of course. But when we succeed as individuals, we will succeed as a team. One of my goals is to foster a culture of camaraderie in order to get there.
Hill? What hill?
I’ve also got some amazing workouts in mind for these guys and gals. We’ll be focusing a lot on perceived areas of weakness. I sent out a pre-season survey to ask the kids where they thought they could improve. Some said long runs. A lot said pacing. The majority have said hills. So guess what we’re doing early and often?
Strength training will be a big part of our workouts. We’ll start with the “little stuff” — lunges, squats, planks. Single leg all the things. Basic movements every runner should be doing anyway.
I’m also taking them to some new locations this season. We have a vast park system in our area with some amazing views and terrain. The purpose of these field trips is for a mental challenge and reset. And to experience new terrain. But above all else, for team building.
Cross Country: One Team, One Goal
One thing we’re going to do a lot of is finding that one thing. What is it? Maybe it’s a good song. Maybe it’s a mantra. Is it running with a friend or opponent and chatting during the race? Whatever it is, we’re going to dial in and find the one thing that helps each individual in a training and racing situation.
As I said, so many ideas = head explosion. And there are days when I question myself and wonder if I’m too idealistic. I’m certain the self-doubt will continue to happen for some time. But for now, I’m going to constantly remind myself of my goals for the team and how overjoyed I was when I found out I was head coach. Those two things will get me through. Plus, the kids are great. They’re hilarious and incredibly hard workers.
We start summer conditioning on Monday and honestly, I can’t wait to get started.
Have you coached high school athletics?
What’s one way you’d implement the goal of camaraderie?