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Training young athletes to lead races (Read 727 times)

    So this is not a question I thought I would need to deal with as a coach, but... among the elementary cross country runners that I coach, it turns out that there are two girls and one boy who have been in the position of leading their XC races at meets (out of about 70 kids) and finishing in the top 3.  At the last --- terribly, horribly, unbelievably badly run -- meet, our lead girl got lost because the course marshals that were supposed to be out there were not and the course was inadequately marked so she missed a turn.  She got so lost, that she ran off in the wrong direction and was not found for a half an hour after the race.  She (and her parents) were pretty upset and angry. 

     

    Our fastest boy did not run in the last meet  because he was afraid (he's 9, so I get it).  In a previous meet when he was leading, he says he was basically tackled from behind and he was pretty badly banged up and did not finish. Now, this kid has a flair for the dramatic, but... I saw one of the kids from the team that he says tackled him (and that  perennially wins these meets) reach out an push back/grab a kid (not on my team) who was cleanly passing him, and when I spoke to the kid's coach he basically seemed OK with that behavior.  If I had been sure I could ID the kid, I would have complained too meet officials, but I wasn't sure which kid it was.

     

    So, my question is --- what to do?  Obviously making sure that course marshals are deployed before the start will help, but any hints of what I can tell these kids about how to figure out where to go when in doubt and you are leading?  Never something I've needed to worry about personally.

     

    Also, what if anything can I do about my kids being fouled on the course?  This REALLY makes me mad because it's elementary school for heaven's sake, but the team that I'm concerned about seems to not get coaching that emphasizes sportsmanship but rather winning at all costs.  Should I try to get our parents out on the course to keep an eye on things?    Should I complain to the athletic association?

     

    Thanks for any ideas.


    Feeling the growl again

      Whenever we did meets, we got there early enough that we went over the course and knew it cold before we ran the race.  There were several times where this did save someone from a wrong turn when another runner went the wrong way, or a course marker fell down/was removed.

       

      As for the fouling, if you saw it once...is it happening pretty frequently?  Do you have a phone with video capability?  Try to capture it.  Confront their coach.  If the coach is an idiot and doesn't have a problem with such behavior, go to the meet director (assuming it isn't that coach's meet) and ask for a DQ.  But without evidence it's going to be harder if the coach is OK with it.

       

      I have permanent scars and likely some permanent wrist damage from being tackled from behind and thrown down during a HM this spring...but an ADULT...so I can fully sympathize.

      "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand

       

        A few things; first, in regards to leading...  Why not teach your kids to sit and wait?  There are different ways to win the race than simply start out fast and lead the whole way.  Sure, it's nice and not-restricted.  But if you feel the course is not well defined and marshalled, it may pay to teach them to run as a group at least for 2/3~3/4 of the way.

         

        In regards to fouling, personally, I would definitely put my foot down and complain to the higher authority.  My daughter played basketball for a while when she was 9, 10, 11...  I saw some horrible behavior out on the court and it was clearly encouraged by the coach.  Some elite athletes may play rough and those coaches actually teach those kids it's okay to play rough here and there simply because "elites are doing it too."  Those former wannabe-athlete coaches apparently really think it's cool to behave that way.  To me, that sort of mentality actually had eventually lead the behavior that we had witnessed in the professional cycling circuit in the past few weeks (and, as a matter of fact, the past few decades). If WE, as an adult, can't teach the proper behavior on and off the arena, who would?  I would being it up to the officials, coaches, parents of those poorly-behaved athletes...  This day and age, you should be easily able to video tape or take some pictures upon witnessing it.  If that happens often, I would definitely keep my eyes open like a hawk.

          Whenever we did meets, we got there early enough that we went over the course and knew it cold before we ran the race.  There were several times where this did save someone from a wrong turn when another runner went the wrong way, or a course marker fell down/was removed.

           

          This...

           

          Sitting and waiting won't help if those they are sitting on don't know the course...

          And you can quote me as saying I was mis-quoted. Groucho Marx

           

          Rob

            I have permanent scars and likely some permanent wrist damage from being tackled from behind and thrown down during a HM this spring...but an ADULT...so I can fully sympathize.

             

            What the hell? This was intentional? 

             

            Mark, I've got noting to say about leading but when I did XC we always walked the course. All teams did it together, it was part of the meet, and it was an enjoyable walk, especially as a teenager on a co-ed team ... but I digress.

             

            If there is reason to believe kids are playing dirty and might get lost why not lead them on a mountain bike and mount a GoPro camera on back of the rider's helmet? I don't think the camera needs to be turned on to keep them honest.

              Whenever we did meets, we got there early enough that we went over the course and knew it cold before we ran the race.  There were several times where this did save someone from a wrong turn when another runner went the wrong way, or a course marker fell down/was removed.

               

              As for the fouling, if you saw it once...is it happening pretty frequently?  Do you have a phone with video capability?  Try to capture it.  Confront their coach.  If the coach is an idiot and doesn't have a problem with such behavior, go to the meet director (assuming it isn't that coach's meet) and ask for a DQ.  But without evidence it's going to be harder if the coach is OK with it.

               

              I have permanent scars and likely some permanent wrist damage from being tackled from behind and thrown down during a HM this spring...but an ADULT...so I can fully sympathize.

               

              WTF? Seriously?!

               

              I know some people are competitive but that's basically assault. Sorry to hear that happened.

              They say golf is like life, but don't believe them. Golf is more complicated than that. "If I am still standing at the end of the race, hit me with a Board and knock me down, because that means I didn't run hard enough" If a lot of people gripped a knife and fork the way they do a golf club, they'd starve to death. "Don't fear moving slowly forward...fear standing still."


              Feeling the growl again

                WTF? Seriously?!

                 

                I know some people are competitive but that's basically assault. Sorry to hear that happened.

                 

                 

                Ha, yeah, I guess I never brought it up in the general forum at the time.  As amazing as it was that it even happened, the more outrageous part was that there was an independent witness who saw the whole thing and complained to the RD (he was right behind us, his version was even more outrageous than my perspective), the offender admitted to it ("I didn't move out of his way"), yet there was no DQ and the RD indicated that "I probably did something to deserve it".

                "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand

                 

                  Ha, yeah, I guess I never brought it up in the general forum at the time.  As amazing as it was that it even happened, the more outrageous part was that there was an independent witness who saw the whole thing and complained to the RD (he was right behind us, his version was even more outrageous than my perspective), the offender admitted to it ("I didn't move out of his way"), yet there was no DQ and the RD indicated that "I probably did something to deserve it".

                  There are people who push you...there are people who would pick you up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wQLEKw0Nkc  I'd like to think of our sport with the latter.


                  Feeling the growl again

                    There are people who push you...there are people who would pick you up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wQLEKw0Nkc  I'd like to think of our sport with the latter.

                     

                     

                    Then there are those that wrap you in a bear hug from behind and throw you to the pavement at 5:30 pace....  Angry

                     

                    Truly poor sportsmanship does not surprise me in some (other) sports....fortunately I have seen it so infrequently in 20+ years of road racing that it still surprises me.

                    "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand

                     

                      +1 on both the walking the course and the mountain bike comment.  In elementary school we always did the former, and in high school one of the coaches was a triathlete so he would often lead the course on his bike.  

                      'No matter how slow you go, you're still lapping everyone on the couch'

                       

                      "Running is a big question mark that's there each and every day. It asks you, 'Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?'"  - Peter Maher

                       

                      "Running long and hard is an ideal antidepressant, since it's hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time. Also, there are those hours of clearheadedness that follow a long run."  -Monte Davis

                        I have never coached, but my wife did and I went to quite a few meets.

                         

                        I think having parents scattered over the course is a really good thing.  I would tend to always go to a spot that had a tricky turn or a tough hill or something like that and cheer on the runners from her school as they went by.  If you planned it right you could usually cut across and cheer again near the finish as well.

                         

                        I've met some of her students years later that actually still remembered me cheering for them during the races.  If you had a few really good parents that were willing to scatter out over the course and cheer on the runners and be on the lookout for any issues I would jump on it and have them do it every meet.

                        Age: 46 Weight: 205 Height: 6'2" (Goal weight 195)

                        Current PR's:  Mara 3:48:09; HM 1:43:26; 10K 43:59; 5K 21:27

                          I agree with the strategy of not leading until later in the race.  Also, be there with video.  I can't wait to see that if it really happens.  I'll make sure to post it on my YouTube channel so lots of people can see this awful behavior.  That's usually what it takes for a bunch of jerks to stop being jerks.

                           

                          My team in HS took matters into our own hands.  If people elbowed us, we made a point of shoving them off the course when no one was watching.  My brother was awesome at this.  Magically, people stopped elbowing us.  Was this the right thing to do, NO! but it stopped people from elbowing and jostling with us on tight parts of the course.

                            I have thrown many elbows (then again I am 6-3).  Usually during cross country because there were less prying eyes, but always defensive e.g. someone stepped on me or pushed me or cut me off in a narrow portion of the course.  I never initiated because being the biggest guy out there I was sure to be found at fault.  In track any contact was balance reactions to getting clipped or cut off. 

                             

                            DQ's are very rare.  I only saw a DQ happen once and apparently it was between two kids at rival schools who had a pre-race history love triangle thing - tackle and fistfight.  Then again we also couldn't instantly produce HD color video evidence.  It did happen at HS and college level (although usually not tackles, a well placed stiff arm, elbow, or clip).  If someone is teaching the kids to do this at 9 or 10, that person should not be coaching...its a disgrace.  Kids should be focused on learning and having fun at this age, not on that stuff.  If I was coaching and my kid did that at 9 or 10 I would pull him off the course and DQ him myself.

                             

                            The only way to back up claims of dirty play is with the video camera, ultimately.  Until then its just hearsay and will just frustrate you and your runners.  Take the camera to the race official and leave the decision in his/her hands, don't take the decision into your own or you're just as bad.  If its a pattern with that rival someone else will be doing this too.

                             

                            Getting lost is different.  I would think any local sanctioning body like a school assoc would require clear course markings and a reasonable number of marshals at key points.  Then again tired runners with poor eyesight moving at top speed may still miss marks.  I agree the course walk was always useful...and it also got us out of class even earlier.

                              A running buddy I had  a few years back told me this story: 

                               

                              He was a HS sophomore (so, this would have been early 90s) and his older brother was a senior. By the end of CC season, they ran near the same pace but brother was a bit faster over the 5K distance. So, one race, my friend takes off at the start to get some separation. Then, when he gets to an area out of sight in the trees, he grabs a big ole branch and bends it back. When older brother comes around the bend ... WHACK! ... right in the face. My friend takes off while older brother is picking himself up.

                               

                              He tells me that they came to the finish closed-fist-wailing on each other. RD was like, "Normally, runners punching each other during the race would be a DQ, but given they're brothers on the same team we'll let it go."