Why it's hard to pull a cross country program up from the bottom.
09/13/2018 8:38:03 AM
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I've been with my school's cross country program now for 10 years, first as a parent, then as an unofficial asst coach, then as an official asst coach, and for the last five years as the head coach. The team has grown from a total of 6 kids in 2008 (boys and girls) to 35 in 2018. I still am asked to coach boys and girls (which I don't mind, I love both teams) and get by with one assistant. Still, we finally achieved a goal last week of making the cross country poll in our local newspaper for the first time. Yesterday we had our first meet (a district 4-way) since that achievement. How'd we do? We had to forfeit. Why? They moved all the other sports games to our date (originally we were the only team with a contest yesterday) due to the hurricane, and then told us we didn't have a bus. However the football team (and cheerleaders), golf team, volleyball team (varsity and jv), and field hockey team (varsity and jv)all got their buses and drivers. It probably sounds like I passively accepted this, that's definitely not the case but I am too embarrassed to detail all of my histrionics here. My school has been without a track which we could host a meet on for at least 6 years now. After ten years of trying we might actually have a new track by spring. It's really tough getting your program respectable in a community where almost no one runs.
I've been with my school's cross country program now for 10 years, first as a parent, then as an unofficial asst coach, then as an official asst coach, and for the last five years as the head coach. The team has grown from a total of 6 kids in 2008 (boys and girls) to 35 in 2018. I still am asked to coach boys and girls (which I don't mind, I love both teams) and get by with one assistant. Still, we finally achieved a goal last week of making the cross country poll in our local newspaper for the first time. Yesterday we had our first meet (a district 4-way) since that achievement. How'd we do? We had to forfeit. Why? They moved all the other sports games to our date (originally we were the only team with a contest yesterday) due to the hurricane, and then told us we didn't have a bus. However the football team (and cheerleaders), golf team, volleyball team (varsity and jv), and field hockey team (varsity and jv)all got their buses and drivers. It probably sounds like I passively accepted this, that's definitely not the case but I am too embarrassed to detail all of my histrionics here.

My school has been without a track which we could host a meet on for at least 6 years now. After ten years of trying we might actually have a new track by spring. It's really tough getting your program respectable in a community where almost no one runs.
09/13/2018 8:54:54 AM
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@mattymath Stick with it. Someone would need to answer how the busses were designated. In my opinion, you are not the person for this. Phone calls from parents hold much more power. IT is a shame that someone in your district decided to exclude a team..... That being said, success will eventually solve this problem. Your program seems to be headed the right direction and given more time, hopefully this will change. Look at what you've gotten accomplished....Team size have grown six fold, you have a new track...... You are definitely headed the right direction!
@mattymath Stick with it. Someone would need to answer how the busses were designated. In my opinion, you are not the person for this. Phone calls from parents hold much more power. IT is a shame that someone in your district decided to exclude a team.....

That being said, success will eventually solve this problem. Your program seems to be headed the right direction and given more time, hopefully this will change. Look at what you've gotten accomplished....Team size have grown six fold, you have a new track......

You are definitely headed the right direction!
09/13/2018 10:18:45 PM
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@mattymath, that is absolutely pathetic and inexcusable what your AD did to you and your kids, and I am sorry to hear of it. I know you have worked hard to build that program and you do have it going the right way. Rest assured you are not alone as Cross-Country and track tend to be the forgotten sports at many schools. We have a track that has been unusable for meets for several years now. Other athletic teams practice on the turf infield everyday during the school year, placing benches and equipment in lane 1 even when we are trying to practice. There is no longer an inside lane line there and most of the surface is gone. We lost our cross-country course this year as well. This is coming a year after winning two state titles in cross-country and two more in indoor track, so success has not helped our cause. Our county even told us we were not allowed to have summer runs unless a trainer was on sight! Don't even get me started on trying to get the weight room! It is frustrating when you are working with the best kids at the school (I taught here for 33 years and have always known this to be the case) yet they don't get the support they deserve. We will go on doing what we do though because we love these kids and this sport. Hang in there!
@mattymath, that is absolutely pathetic and inexcusable what your AD did to you and your kids, and I am sorry to hear of it. I know you have worked hard to build that program and you do have it going the right way. Rest assured you are not alone as Cross-Country and track tend to be the forgotten sports at many schools. We have a track that has been unusable for meets for several years now. Other athletic teams practice on the turf infield everyday during the school year, placing benches and equipment in lane 1 even when we are trying to practice. There is no longer an inside lane line there and most of the surface is gone. We lost our cross-country course this year as well. This is coming a year after winning two state titles in cross-country and two more in indoor track, so success has not helped our cause. Our county even told us we were not allowed to have summer runs unless a trainer was on sight! Don't even get me started on trying to get the weight room! It is frustrating when you are working with the best kids at the school (I taught here for 33 years and have always known this to be the case) yet they don't get the support they deserve. We will go on doing what we do though because we love these kids and this sport. Hang in there!
09/14/2018 12:41:04 PM
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Keep fighting the good fight! Sometimes having a chip on your shoulders or the athletes' shoulders can propel the program forward even more! Look at Western Branch and where they came from to where they are now. Seems like you're going in the right direction so just keep at it and soon enough you'll be racing at Great Meadow in November! - Nolan
Keep fighting the good fight! Sometimes having a chip on your shoulders or the athletes' shoulders can propel the program forward even more! Look at Western Branch and where they came from to where they are now.

Seems like you're going in the right direction so just keep at it and soon enough you'll be racing at Great Meadow in November!

* Nolan
09/14/2018 6:42:55 PM
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What was the AD’s reasoning? Do you think he was considering that XC’s regular season doesn’t have much meaning or bearing on a post-season, whereas other sports’ seasons do(at least FB and VB)?
What was the AD's reasoning? Do you think he was considering that XC's regular season doesn't have much meaning or bearing on a post-season, whereas other sports' seasons do(at least FB and VB)?
09/21/2018 12:15:30 PM
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@mattymath A lot of sage advice already and a lot of what I have to say is reiterating, or piling-on, to what has already been said. 1) Yes, "Hang in their"...for the integrity of the sport. We need dedicated coaches who are willing to standup for their sport. 2) Fight for your sport...the Squeaky-wheel adage does work; be a pain in the butt to your AD. Cross Country is viewed as a minor-minor sport at most schools. Where it is not consider a minor-minor sport, the coach and parents have continued to advocate for athletic equity. Speaking of equity, the whole bus issue comes down to one inequity that you need to be "squeaky" about; the AD chose to leave 35 kids home vs. providing a bus for sports that had less competitors (golf, field hockey and cheerleaders). That is not right and let the AD know that, and that you do not expect this to happen again. If the AD is apathetical, the Principal would be very interested in making sure 35 kids are treated right. 3) Get your parents involved...this works! 4) Make a concerted effort to grow your program. The fight is easier when you can show more bodies (both kids and parents). A caveat here is that you still want the kid-to-coach ratio to be doable. Most good athletic departments will allow you another coach if you can claim that the safety of kids is an issue because you are short of coaches. The AD might come back and say that to keep the coach-to-athlete ratio where you want it, you need to cut kids. The comeback is, Cross Country has no JV or Freshman team to develop kids as other sports have so that would put you at a disadvantage. 5) Show the AD you are here to stay and committed to the program. Let him know you want coaching education and ask if their is a budget for this (most schools have a coaches education budget that goes unclaimed because the AD's don't advertise so at the end of the year they can sweep that $$ up and spend it on some pet project). Talk to him/her about the goals of the program. If you have some success, do a "Here is where we were, here is where we are, and here is what I see us accomplishing in the future." Then ask if they are OK with that (If the AD says, "Yes", they are self-committing themselves to the success of your program!) Hope that helps and is not too much to digest! Marc Hunter Loudoun Valley HS
@mattymath

A lot of sage advice already and a lot of what I have to say is reiterating, or piling-on, to what has already been said.
1) Yes, "Hang in their"...for the integrity of the sport. We need dedicated coaches who are willing to standup for their sport.
2) Fight for your sport...the Squeaky-wheel adage does work; be a pain in the butt to your AD. Cross Country is viewed as a minor-minor sport at most schools. Where it is not consider a minor-minor sport, the coach and parents have continued to advocate for athletic equity. Speaking of equity, the whole bus issue comes down to one inequity that you need to be "squeaky" about; the AD chose to leave 35 kids home vs. providing a bus for sports that had less competitors (golf, field hockey and cheerleaders). That is not right and let the AD know that, and that you do not expect this to happen again. If the AD is apathetical, the Principal would be very interested in making sure 35 kids are treated right.
3) Get your parents involved...this works!
4) Make a concerted effort to grow your program. The fight is easier when you can show more bodies (both kids and parents). A caveat here is that you still want the kid-to-coach ratio to be doable. Most good athletic departments will allow you another coach if you can claim that the safety of kids is an issue because you are short of coaches. The AD might come back and say that to keep the coach-to-athlete ratio where you want it, you need to cut kids. The comeback is, Cross Country has no JV or Freshman team to develop kids as other sports have so that would put you at a disadvantage.
5) Show the AD you are here to stay and committed to the program. Let him know you want coaching education and ask if their is a budget for this (most schools have a coaches education budget that goes unclaimed because the AD's don't advertise so at the end of the year they can sweep that $$ up and spend it on some pet project). Talk to him/her about the goals of the program. If you have some success, do a "Here is where we were, here is where we are, and here is what I see us accomplishing in the future." Then ask if they are OK with that (If the AD says, "Yes", they are self-committing themselves to the success of your program!)

Hope that helps and is not too much to digest!

Marc Hunter
Loudoun Valley HS
09/21/2018 5:29:28 PM
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I don't usually get on discussion boards but my lawn tractor wouldn't start and that always frustrates me so I'll throw my 2 cents worth into a subject I battled for 40 years. 1. Focus on Saturday invitationals when other sports don't "PLAY" and find meets that you can take your whole team to. 2. Don't just talk to the parents...make they part of your war plan. If they respect you they will be upset that THEIR kids are being treated unfairly.Don't just have them get upset AD, but with Principal and school board. 3. When they won't give you a bus, have the parents drive. You have to push the envelope. 4. Create a course close to your school, close enough that they could run there as a warm-up and don't even schedule away mid-week meets. 5. Make sure you are doing your part to attract the smartest and most clean living and disciplined students in your school but make sure your community and school board recognizes this. 6. If you have to go to the extreme to raise extra $ for transportation do it. When you don't get a bus, hire one and make sure the community and school knows this. Nothing like a little embarrassment to get some decisions to be changed. 7. Be determined to have one of the most successful programs in the school both in competition but just as importantly as a place where 9th graders look up to upperclassmen/women who are focused on healthy and wholesome activities and are great role models, not party animals. 8. Have volunteer activities in the community. If you are coaching a sport like xc, sometimes you really have to DO More. We had a Christmas party for the disadvantaged young kids (5-6 year olds) 9. I bought a VW van in 1990 and drove kids up and down the East Coast when I was denied transportation. Did I ruffle some feathers?? YES. Do I have any regrets? NO !! and I still have that VAN. 10.I know and feel your frudtration but the harder it is to achieve something....the greater it feels to overcome these obstacles. Best wishes from a coach who loved to fight for all we are talking about. Never,never,never, never Give up. Winston Churchill. He won the big one.
I don't usually get on discussion boards but my lawn tractor wouldn't start and that always frustrates me so I'll throw my 2 cents worth into a subject I battled for 40 years.
1. Focus on Saturday invitationals when other sports don't "PLAY" and find meets that you can take your whole team to.
2. Don't just talk to the parents...make they part of your war plan. If they respect you they will be upset that THEIR kids are being treated unfairly.Don't just have them get upset AD, but with Principal and school board.
3. When they won't give you a bus, have the parents drive. You have to push the envelope.
4. Create a course close to your school, close enough that they could run there as a warm-up and don't even schedule away mid-week meets.
5. Make sure you are doing your part to attract the smartest and most clean living and disciplined students in your school but make sure your community and school board recognizes this.
6. If you have to go to the extreme to raise extra $ for transportation do it. When you don't get a bus, hire one and make sure the community and school knows this. Nothing like a little embarrassment to get some decisions to be changed.
7. Be determined to have one of the most successful programs in the school both in competition but just as importantly as a place where 9th graders look up to upperclassmen/women who are focused on healthy and wholesome activities and are great role models, not party animals.
8. Have volunteer activities in the community. If you are coaching a sport like xc, sometimes you really have to DO More. We had a Christmas party for the disadvantaged young kids (5-6 year olds)
9. I bought a VW van in 1990 and drove kids up and down the East Coast when I was denied transportation. Did I ruffle some feathers?? YES. Do I have any regrets? NO !! and I still have that VAN.
10.I know and feel your frudtration but the harder it is to achieve something....the greater it feels to overcome these obstacles.
Best wishes from a coach who loved to fight for all we are talking about.
Never,never,never, never Give up. Winston Churchill. He won the big one.
09/23/2018 6:12:07 PM
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Thanks, everybody. Nice to have some people on my side, especially from some of the legendary coaches and programs who responded. I think I do a lot of what has been posted here. I will remember the other stuff. Heck, I don't even know how I ended up as the coach. I think I was just the only adult in the school who cared at all (my daughter was on the team). I would never quit. I love the kids too much. I do get frustrated, though. Sad, that even the great programs have to put up with so much junk.
Thanks, everybody. Nice to have some people on my side, especially from some of the legendary coaches and programs who responded.

I think I do a lot of what has been posted here. I will remember the other stuff.

Heck, I don't even know how I ended up as the coach. I think I was just the only adult in the school who cared at all (my daughter was on the team).

I would never quit. I love the kids too much. I do get frustrated, though. Sad, that even the great programs have to put up with so much junk.

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