September 12, 2022

Three Weeks Into Cross Country

I'm feeling much better after writing yesterday's post! Usually I don't like to write things when I'm very emotional at the time--whether it's angry or sad or annoyed, etc--because I usually regret it later. But I wasn't bashing Panera, and I just described the experience (the one that made me angry). I sent them the link, and I doubt anyone will read it, but I feel okay with it being out there.

I had a MUCH NEEDED good night's sleep last night. I was so sleep deprived last week that I thought I was completely losing my mind. It wasn't from being too busy to sleep, but just chronic insomnia that gets really bad sometimes. My body gets so tired but my mind stays wide awake. It's frustrating.

I've been so busy lately that it feels hard to even stop and catch my breath for a minute (figuratively). Thankfully, even though cross country adds a lot to my plate, it's something that I really enjoy. It's a nice respite a few days a week. Usually, I feel stressed about getting everything done and then having to go to cross country, but once I'm at practice, there isn't a single moment to stress or worry about anything. And I have so much fun at practices!

This was just a few moments after starting a six-legged race. We had to start over, haha.

I keep meaning to take a team photo of the kids with some of the goodies they've earned at practice and I never remember until practice is done and the kids have left. But they have loved the incentives! I don't have a structure in place as far as how they can earn the rewards--I did that before and it was way too complicated (tallying points for doing this and that, then spending points like money for awards).

Instead, Renee and I have just been making it up as we go along. We received a lot of items (thank you so much!!!) so we've been generous with them. Some ways we've used them as incentives:

-Leading the warm-up stretches
-Winning whatever game we play after practice
-If we notice kids who are working really hard to do what we ask
-If they complete the workout we set for them
-Going above and beyond in certain situations

Thursday was our long run day, so I looked at each kid's progress so far and set a personalized distance goal for them to hit on long run day. They run laps around the park, which is 0.33 miles around. I have rubber bands that I use to set goals for them--each rubber band represents one lap. So if I want someone to run two miles, I'll give them six rubber bands to start (they wear them around their wrists). Then each time they finish one lap, they drop a rubber band in a bucket as they pass by.

These girls saw me taking a picture and they stopped to pose--I yelled, "No, keep running!"

I always make sure keep their goals reasonable, but also push them out of their comfort zones. If their runs always feel comfortable, they're not going to become better runners. (Unless it's an easy run day, then they should be running comfortably.)

This girl is really sweet, and when I was walking back to the pavilion, I saw her showing her little sister how to run with her. It was so cute!

The absolute hardest part about this is that kids don't know how to pace themselves. They feel like they are racing the other kids (even during the warm-up) and after one lap, they complain that it's too hard and they start walking whenever they think I'm not looking, hahaha. Well, they don't know that I totally have eyes in the back of my head!

Coming around this bend is where the kids can see me watching, so they pick up the pace. The girl in back is impressive to me--she's very quiet and usually runs solo, but she always follows instructions and I never hear her complain.

There is one small blindspot where the path goes around a hill, and the kids are notorious for walking as soon as they are out of sight. So at Thursday's practice, I went to the hill to yell at them to keep running. (When I say I yell, I'm not yelling in a mean way--just a tough way.) If they're walking during a long run day, then they aren't running slowly enough, so I tell them to slow down.

Each time I saw them start to walk, I jogged next to them and told them to keep pace with me--not pass me--and get a feel for a very slow pace. If they do that the entire time, there is no reason they should have to take breaks.

So I had the idea today that for their next long run, we could possibly meet at the state park and split the team in two. The faster kids can run with Renee, and the slower kids can run with me. I will make them stay at a slow pace with the goal being not having to take any walk breaks.

I am 100% sure they are all capable of doing that, if they learn to pace themselves. It's a hard thing to teach, and usually comes with experience. (I'm sure they'll learn this at their first race a week from tomorrow!) In a race, pacing is EVERYTHING.

I remember a practice at cross country in 2019 where I told the kids that anyone who could run longer than I did would get an award. I was slow and pretty out of shape at the time, but I knew that if I ran slowly enough, I could run for the whole practice without stopping or walking. And I was determined to show them that it's possible.

The kids were so determined to run longer than me! It was funny. Eventually, the whole team was running with me (I felt like Forrest Gump) and if I remember correctly, they all made it--because I was going slowly.

This was a GREAT group of kids. I miss them!

I think that was an "aha!" moment for a lot of them. They realized that they were definitely capable of running much farther than they thought if they just slowed down.

When I showed the kids the awards they could earn this season, I had just one tutu and one of the boys wanted it SO BADLY. It was all he talked about. At each practice, he asked if he could earn it that day. Since I only had one, I told him no, that it'll be something that will take more effort to earn (reaching a particular cumulative mileage, for example).

I hadn't planned to give it out yet, but on Thursday, he was the only kid I saw that didn't take a single walk break. Every time he passed by me, he was in high spirits and kept pushing along. I was so proud of him! On his last lap, I asked him if he was going to stop when he hit his goal (2 miles) or if he was going aim for a little more. He said he was definitely going to stop. Then I said, "I *might* have a tutu in my car--" and he cut me off mid-sentence with, "I'm going to run extra!" and he went on to run two extra laps.

When each kid finished their laps (having no rubber bands left on their wrists), they got to choose something from the "award bag" (items that I have a lot of). I announced that there was one person who really worked harder than anyone else so I was going to give them something special. I grabbed the tutu from the car and I can't even tell you how excited he was to wear it! He said he's going to wear it to every practice. He definitely earned it :)

And as I finish this post, I've got to get ready to head out the door for cross country. Today is a short easy run followed by some "games" on the hill. I put that in quotes because the hill games are much more for building leg strength than play ;)  They will be WIPED after today's practice!

1 comment:

  1. You're such a tremendous coach! So good for them and YOU.


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