So I took on the job of the middle school track coach at the school where I teach. I ran throughout high school and for a couple years in college. So I took the job and now I'm starting to feel a little bit of pressure with the first day approaching and I'm not really sure how I should approach training with middle school girls. Also, I've always been a distance runner and have never really gotten into sprints. I'm basically looking for some advice from people that have been there and done it before. Thanks for any suggestions.
Keep it fun! This is a good way to find out which kids should be sprinters,distance etc. Check out the link from Josh Cox(the school teacher)
Middle school is a tough age range. There is such a huge variability in talent, maturity, desire, etc. This is especially true if your middle school track team is 7th, 8th, and 9th grade like mine was. I don't know why this was the case because middle school included 6th, 7th, and 8th grade and 9th was part of high school, but this seems like a common age breakdown for middle school track. Ninth grade seems to be the year when a lot of kids start to run varsity type times, so having 7th and 9th graders on the same team creates a bit of a challenge. My middle school team had 400 runners running everywhere between 52 flat and 80+, for example.
You'll probably want to split the team into groups based on ability and give them somewhat different workouts. You want everyone to be challenged, but not overly so. Your older guys who are starting to become serious about running will be frustrated if they're just playing games all the time and your younger guys will lose interest if they're being pushed too hard. Depending on the size of the team, I'd probably do two or three groups. I'd try to have them doing basically the same things so that it doesn't get too confusing, but scale back for the younger groups.
Basically, the goal is to create a program in which everyone is challenged, but no one is overwhelmed.
In general, concentrate on providing a solid foundation for the athletes to build on rather than trying to go for immediate results. For distance guys, do mostly (or all) aerobic type stuff. I'd do more threshold type stuff for track workouts. The older guys can probably do a little bit of quality speed stuff, but remember that your goal is to help these guys to be the best runners that they can be in the long run, not just to make them fast middle schoolers.
Will you have any assistants to help you out, or is it just you? If it's just you, I'd try to find some volunteers to help with the sprints and other events that you aren't as familiar with. If there's a college around, I'm sure that you can find some gym teachers in training who would love to have experience working with the track team on their resumes.
Have the kids run 400m as hard as they can. Those at the front or who go out very crazy fast are sprinters. Those at the back are distance runners. Make it fun and simple:
Sprinters: Sprint, rest, repeat. Coach on running form and using blocks. Some sprinters this young will actually be slower
Girls, boys, doesn't matter at this point. Girls will actually be more mature at this point. For distance runners focus on the actual time spent, not the distance. So a guy running 8:00 pace will cover 4 miles in 32 minutes while a girl running 10:00 pace will only cover 3 miles. Time...not distance.
Make the workouts a game, something they can compete in:
Paired 400s: pair a male and a female. Run a 400, jog around a circle until teammate gets back to you. Repeat for a mile each.
3-pair 200s: 3 person relay. 200m, jog around until partner gets around the track. Each person completes 8 200s.
5-pair 100s: 5 person relay. Good for all-out sprints. 100m, jog/walk around until partner catches up.
3-pair shuttle relays. Good sprint workout. 100m back and forth. 10 reps each.
For distance road work, try an Indian Run. Runners go single file. Every so often you signal for runner at the back to take lead, that runner controls pace no matter how fast or slow. Mix it up so runners go various speeds or distances. You can even mark each runner with a purpose (sprint, harder run, slow, etc)
I assume you're actually going to coaching track and field.
Very useful: Assume that every person on the squad is a field-eventer, until/unless she proves otherwise. The training for field events will necessarily include a lot of the stuff that will also get kids ready for races. The reverse is not true.
This can be key, because the shot put and high jump, etc., score just as many points for a first place as the 100, mile, etc.; yet there are typically three to five times as many kids in the running events as in the field. Pile up a lot of field points and the kids think a) their team is great and b) their coach is great, because they're winning meets (or at least being competitive). This is a lot of fun, which gets more girls to come out next year (or stick through the season this year).
If you can get hold of Dick Collins's book, do so. Great ideas on how to start the season.
But yeah, the previous suggestions are very sound. Keep it simple; do as many team/group/relay-oriented training activities as you can; let the girls (and yourself) have fun.
This is really good information. I wish I would have found this site at the beginning of my season. My middle school girls had their 2nd meet today and did awesome. My relay teams are pretty much set but my open events are shaky. I wish I could run some of my girls in more than 3 events but they would die. I do the Indian Run everyday at the start of practice. Everyone has to participate. Can anyone give me any tips on running the 800m. My girl ran it today in 3:56 but it was 6:00 at the last meet. She improved so thats good.
|got it right|
The advice about the field events is spot on. Get everyone to try them, and you will find some gems in there. As best you can, get them to do as many events as possible, you will have some kids that will only try one event, and you need to coax them to do more. MS track is about learning the sport and getting them ready to compete in high school. It is about being part of a team, and being accepting of all of the different types of kids that compete in track and field. How many kids came up to you and told you they were the fastest kid in their sixth grade class? Or how many told you that their dad or mom said they should run a specific event? That happens all the time.
I hope you have assistants? When I coached MS track, I ran REALLY organized practices to keep them all very busy and moving. We warmed up together, had a quick meeting to let them know what they were doing, everyone went off to their predetermined area, they maybe went somewhere else for a bit, we all gathered again for a cool down, and while they stretched I talked about the practice, their goals and what was on tap for the next few days. And then they were done. Sometimes, we did something fun and goofy at the end, a relay or a game.....
MS track can be a blast....keep your sense of humor and pick your battles.