Getting to the peak!!!

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In Missouri for most high school Cross Country coaches this coming weekend is the most important of the season. The focus on this one weekend is so particularly important because it decides who goes to state and who watches the state cross country meet from the sidelines. Of course a number of ways as a coach you can measure the success of your team. However, how your kids run in the last four weeks (conference, districts, sectionals, and state) is important measure stick for us as coaches to evaluate ourselves. Peaking is not always as easy as reducing the load, increasing the number of days of rest, and ramping up the intensity. Psychology of your athlete, their state of mind, and race strategy play a major role in how well the kids do achieving their peak. I am very critical of myself at this time of the year as I believe the athlete’s performance is a big measurement on how well I prepared them for this very moment. Admittedly, last year I had my kids too pumped up and we didn’t perform well on race day. Even though the numbers in practice would have led you to believe we were ready to surprise a lot of people and get out of the district meet and into sectionals. Unfortunately, the kids did not believe me and felt a lot of pressure because they couldn’t match my expectations. Then a week later the two athletes I did have qualify to sectionals ran over 30seconds faster on the same course and qualified individually to the state championships. My goal through training has always been to get four out of five of my kids to run a PR over the last three meets of the season. For athletes peaking means a number of different things when you consider ability level, work ethic, and level of competition. Often my kids regardless of talent do end up running their best in at least one of the last three races of the year. But, last year was one big glaring exception to the rule. We ran great at conference last year and then blew up districts. I took that performance very hard and put it all on the top of my shoulders. This year I decided to change up a number of things we do in practice to simulate more of what the athletes will face on race day. These changes included and are not limited to rotating weeks where our aerobic work is based around miles and other weeks it is based around minutes. We spent very little time on the track instead choosing more often to use our trails to run our intervals. We have ran a lot more hills than ever before allowing for our kids to get used to covering the difficult part of course with more aggression and confidence. Do these changes mean kids no longer have bad days? Of course not kids still will have bad days. Sometimes no matter how much attention you give potential pitfalls they can still jump up and surprise you. I believe over the course of this season our team is healthier, stronger, and more confident than ever because of these changes. I know they are ready to climb up to the peak. Coaches, good luck and don’t be afraid to reevaluate what you do year to year to keep raising the bar for your kids to succeed.
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