Running in the 'Meda: High school cross-country

Running in the 'Meda: High school cross-country

Marty Beene

Two years ago, I wrote a guest blog post for Len Saunders' fine blog covering children's health. My post was about what a great sport cross-country is for teenagers. As we approach the start of the new school year (and cross-country season) once again, I thought it would be a good time to revisit some of those themes.

One of the most important things for teens is to find a way to get them to be engaged in something during high school. Sports are one thing that can accomplish this, and there are great teamwork lessons involved. Plus, it gets them exercising, which is critical for good health. But many high school sports require a significant amount of skill just to make the team. The kids who make the baseball, basketball, or soccer teams are usually the ones who have been playing those sports consistently and at a relatively high level throughout much of their childhood.

Cross-country, on the other hand, doesn't really require "skill" per se, but mostly just diligence in training. Every high school program I know of welcomes anyone willing to commit to the practices (which are quite challenging). High schools generally hold summer practices so that the runners can be in shape when the "real" practices start in mid-to-late August (August 18 for schools in the North Coast Section). Many even take several days to get away for a running camp where some serious training and team bonding occurs.

One of the things I like the most about cross-country is that good sportsmanship and mutual support among the runners seems to happen naturally. We, as coaches, don't seem to have to teach the kids to act this way. They somehow just know that it's a good idea to shake their competitors' hands after the race ends. One meet last year was on a course where runners getting ready to start could see the last few stragglers struggling to the finish of the previous race. So of course they broke into applause and genuinely supportive cheering to encourage these other runners.

If you're the parent of a teenager (or if you know someone who is) and are trying to find an activity for them to be engaged in high school, now is the time to act. Contact the coach of the team where they will be attending high school to find out what they need to do. The head coaches at Alameda, Encinal, and St. Joe's are Nino Hernandez, Don Porteous, and Tony Fong. I can connect you with any of them - just e-mail me.

Finally, if you've never seen a high school cross-country meet (whether you are the parent of a future harrier or not), mark your calendar for Thursday, October 2. Alameda and Encinal will be hosting a meet at Crab Cove that starts at 3:30 p.m. You will not be disappointed!

Marty Beene, a USA Track & Field certified coach, is owner of Be The Runner; he coaches adults from beginners to veterans individually and in groups. An assistant coach for the Alameda High School cross-country and track teams, he can be reached at marty@BeTheRunner.com.