This guest post is by Doug Petrick, a member of HSRC, and the boys and girls track and cross country coach at Upper St. Clair High School, in Pennsylvania.
Albuquerque Academy has won 23 New Mexico High School State Championships in cross country and track and field. To have that level of consistency and success in High School Sports is a major achievement. By having a membership to High School Running Coach, I am able to learn about the culture and training that Coach Adam Kedge has used at the helm of Albuquerque Academy. Through the site, a podcast, training calendar, Q&A forum, and key workouts are available for members. These are all ways I’ve been able to learn from Coach Kedge, one of the premier high school running coaches in the US.
Coach Adam Kedge of Albuquerque Academy has a gift for creating a culture that breeds success. Kids in his program love running and the atmosphere around the team. One reason for this is his approach; Coach Kedge always makes decisions based upon the best interest of the kid as a person first, then as an athlete second. As a result, the Chargers of Albuquerque Academy strive to perform for Coach Kedge.
Small incentives are another way he uses to keep things fun at practice and races- whether it’s a shirt for hitting a milestone or a verbal acknowledgement in front of the group. Being singled out in a front of your peers for a positive achievement is a powerful tool to build an athlete’s self-esteem and build your program. Little things like this keep the Charger culture alive and thriving. Everyone has a place on the team, regardless of ability level.
Coach Kedge is humble in his approach and always gives credit to his staff of assistant coaches. Everyone has the same vision on the team. Having his staff value the same things he values allows everyone on the team to get the same message and aim for the same target. This, in turn, this trickles down to his athletes. Because of this approach, the entire staff and current Charger athletes are the best promoters for the program.
Some of the keys to Coach Kedge’s success at Albuquerque Academy are unique among other high achieving teams. Adam Kedge makes sure each kid in his program feels valued. He understands that creating a positive culture around running will draw kids into your program- regardless of ability level. Making every kid feel valued and a part of the success is a simple concept that has dramatic effects at Albuquerque. Coach Kedge values his youth and is constantly building for the future, and this is one way he achieves it.
Coach Kedge understands that his best athletes may not be the ones that need the bulk of his attention at practice. This is very different from other highly successful teams, where the “better kids” get the the lion’s share of the coach’s time and attention. One benefit to his approach is those better athletes are learning to become more independent and acting as leaders. Additionally, you are setting up an environment where the kids that are still developing feel engaged and valued. Once again, feeding the positive culture.
One of the things we’ve incorporated into the program at Upper St. Clair is Coach Kedge’s approach to racing. We firmly believe if you lace up your spikes and put the uniform on, not giving 100% in a race is unsportsmanlike. We race to compete at any competition, big or small. This is taken directly from the Chargers of Albuquerque Academy. Using that approach has allowed our kids to easily transition into competition mode, no matter the magnitude or implications of the race that day. Having a championship racing mentality is something that needs practiced over time.
At the end of summer, there is always a transition from summer training to the start of classes and practice at the end of the school day. As a program, we have evolved to shape practice during that first week back to better mesh with the stress that week brings upon students. Don’t get confused, we still practice and practice hard. But some of the more intense workouts during week one don’t require much mental engagement. What I mean is kids are still running hard, but doing it to the cue of a whistle. We may structure efforts based upon time increments and pacing cues, instead of distances or laps. Coach Kedge discussed how he takes special care to account for this shift in his athlete’s lives on the podcast. Additionally, he considers academics, family, social, and sleep when he plans training for Albuquerque Academy.
It’s tricky to get relevant information as a high school distance running coach that you can incorporate immediately. A lot of Coach Adam Kedge’s philosophy on building team culture via High School Running Coach has allowed us to move things forward relatively quickly. Once the culture is being set-up, we’ve found that kids buy into the program much more easily. Coach Kedge of Albuquerque Academy, a leader in high school distance running, is one of the coaches showcased on HighSchoolRunningCoach.