How to build a high school track and field program in ten steps


This list enclosed below is just a sample. I will dive deeper into these subjects in future blogs.

Step number 1: Recruit in your building

The most important asset to a high school track and field team besides a good coach is talented kids.

Step number 2: Build an offseason conditioning program

Too many high school track and field programs just begin when the season starts. In Missouri where I coach this is seriously not enough time. Unless you are blessed with a number of talented kids their season will be over in two and half months. At that point the kids are just barely rounding into shape.

Step number 3: Plan out your season

You must plan out your season. This includes planning for early release days, prom, graduation, band performances, musicals, etc. Doing so will greatly limit your headaches in the future. No matter what anyone tells you workouts, training, and meets must be planned. Failing to plan will limit your team’s development.

Step number 4: Higher staff within in your building and within the middle school

In this day and age people are pulled in a thousand different directions. Having coaches in the building will help you maximize recruitment, keeping you up on the inside info, and manage your team’s academic progress. A coach in the middle school can do all of the aforementioned activities and build that relationship with the kids early so they are more willing to consider your sport when they get into high school.

Step number 5: Figure out what event(s) will be your program’s specialty

Coaching what you know is great but it’s important to know that the best teams are those that do a little bit of everything and completely own a particular discipline. In the world of high school track and field I have decided after much deliberation that the 400 dash has to be our specialty. In future blogs I will discuss reasons I came to this decision and the benefits of the 400 dash event focus.

Step number 6: Coaching tree

To be a successful coach you must have mentors and you must mentor others. It never fails to amaze me how different the sport of track and field is in respect to sharing knowledge between peers. I have learned from coaches at the youth, college, and the professional ranks. The more you are willing to share the more your coaching tree will grow. Your enrichment from these relationships is limitless.

Step number 7: Promoting your program during the season

A high school track and field team must be seen as one of the cool things to do in school. Any time a kid wins an event the school should know about it. This means contacting your school newspaper editor, putting the results in the daily announcements, and inviting others out to see your kids for big events. You should have fun days built into your schedule like scavenger hunts, ultimate Frisbee tournaments, and BBQs hosted by your team. These activities are fun and increase the number of potential future members of your track and field team.

Step number 8: Summer track

I am a passionate believer in the power of summer track. Know that the results of these programs can vary in productivity, organization, and commitment. No matter what, it would be wise to go and observe a number of local programs. Settle on one or two you feel meet the needs of your program then nudge your kids into those programs. Better yet, become a coach on one of those teams or start your own! Summer track has made the biggest difference for my program.

Step number 9: USATF and USTFCCCA

A coach’s education is immensely important. There are a number of options we can choose for this education. I would suggest starting out by getting your first coach’s education in event groups you feel comfortable in. Then the next round of this education should be in the events you are the least knowledgeable. If you do this I think it becomes much easier to bridge the gap between all the other disciplines in track and field.

Step number 10: Build a database

After your first season it is important that you keep good records of performances, development, climate, attendance, testing, and records. This information if well kept will guide your activities the following season and refine your coaching at all levels.

Discuss entry

Ryan Banta

Ryan Banta

Ryan is a successful high school coach. His athletes have achieved 76 school records, 2 top four finishes at the state championships, 3 district championships, 107 state semi-finalist (sectionals), 63 state qualifiers, 2 state records (3200 and 4x800), 14 national ranked events, 34 all state performances, 8 state champions, 7 runner up performances, and 2 Gatorade athletes of the year. Ryan is a USATF level II coach in the sprints, hurdles, relays, and endurance and recently earned a USTFCCCA track and field technical coaching certification.
Ryan Banta


Dad, Husband, Teacher, & Track & Field Coach. Author of Sprinter's Compendium Contributor @speedendurance @simplifaster
Little oscillation from side to side. Leading to Gill creating blocks that width. @StuartMcMillan1 @ALTIS @PfaffSC - 59 mins ago
Ryan Banta
Ryan Banta

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