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Note: This first appeared on CoachJayJohnson.com in September of 2011.
I’m fortunate to have friends in the high school coaching community like Adam Kedge. Last week I emailed the following questions to Adam and a few other coaches who have made the Nike Cross Nationals. “How many races, from the start of the season until the state meet, do you have your varsity runners race all out? Also, do you have your varsity run certain races as threshold workouts (or some other kind of workout)?” The responses were really helpful and I’ll write a post in the coming days about training, recovery and racing at the high school level.
Adam is the boys and girls coach at Albuquerque Academy where the boys have not only won multiple state championships in cross country and track and field, but they have qualified for the Nike Cross Nationals a number of times as well. More importantly, Adam’s a special coach in my life because he always asks how my family is and in our correspondence you can tell how important his family is to him. He’s not living vicariously through his nationally recognized team.
Adam also took the time to respond to this post on how to build a high school program. His detailed response is a gift and I feel lucky to share it with you. Thanks so much Adam for your time and your willingness to share.
I don’t know it all, however we’ve had a fairly successful program for a number of years and here are a few tips. I view the success of our program in a number of ways, the lasting relationships built with former athletes,the high level of participation,the pride in the program and performance at both the state level and the national level. Some ideas:
1) I’d start by stressing citizenship, academics first, and school involvement. In other words, I’d work on the relationship with the faculty, staff, and administration to a make the team one the school takes ownership of. I’d make sure that the whole school knows I am a “campus person.” Grades, involvement in a variety of areas, and citizenship are important.
2) I’d be as communicative as possible with the families involved. E-mails, web-sites, parent meetings, sharing of ideas, rules and policies. Make the program as transparent as possible. Get the parents behind you and you are golden.
3) I’d place sportsmanship at a premium. Rivalries would be all positive. We, at _____ High School, would be humble champions and gracious when defeated.
4) I’d set the example by being a coach that only speaks positively of all thing relative to XC. I would talk nice about the poorest of teachers on campus, have kind words for the school and administration. I’d support football and soccer, kill the most picky and cranky parent with kindness, tell my kids that the biggest hot dog of a runner or the most showy of teams simply needs to do things their own way.
5) I’d find a way to get alumni involved once we get some. Alumni runs, alumni gear, alumni as asst. coaches.
6) I’d treat all kids equally. My slowest of runner would get the same uniform as my fast guy. The least dedicated could still go first in line at the pre-race meal. One who goes from 27:30 down to 27:00 flat one week would get recognized just like a kid that cuts :30 seconds off of a 17:00 5K. This cannot be understated – I’d treat every kid equally.
7) I’d value youth. My varsity would get attention, but my next year’s varsity would get equal attention, as would my potential varsity 3 years down the road. We’d
have, and we do at my school, Big Dogs and Soon to be Big Dogs.
8) I’d should the kids, without telling them how much I love them and how dedicated I am to them. I’d be first at practice and last to leave. I’d send them an e-mail or a
letter on occasion, I’d remember their hobbies, and their parents’ names. I’d ask to be invited to their graduation, their wedding, and their daughter’s
9) I’d have a philosophy of training. Written out.
10) I’d keep track of every kid’s time, for every meet, every year. I’d try and memorize some of them so the kids knew I cared about their performance.
With the times I’d then compare them from year to year. I’d post it where all could see.
11) I’d wear a smile. When we win, when we lose, my demeanor would be the same.
12) I would not let poor performances get me down. To this day they still sting but I’d get over them quick and not let other know how much it hurts.
13) I’d think long range. I’d plan, endlessly I’d plan. I’d be taking notes for next year’s workouts right now.
I4) I’d work them hard.
15) I’d work them often.
16) I’d keep learning. I’d read, go to clinics, talk to coaches, and watch good programs, good coaches, and good kids.
17) I’d be willing to change. I’d be flexible.
18) I’d be understanding. I’d listen. I’d understand that not everyone want out of athletics the same thing. Not everyone has it in them to set the world on fire.
19) I do social things with them, I’d take them camping, to a camp (Jay’s) or just have Wednesday night bowling.
20) I’d work endlessly, but balance that with my teaching, my family, and my life. I’d never waiver.