PARENTS GUIDE TO ESPERANZA CROSS COUNTRY
Your son/daughter has joined the Esperanza High School Cross Country team. Cross Country? This fall sport offers a unique experience in the world of running over varied terrain. These pages are specifically for you parents of a son or daughter who is participating on our high school cross country team. Cross country differs from the sport of track and field in that the running is done on a variety of terrain, most often parks and trails, rather than a measured track.
It is the coaches’ hope that you, the parent, will help to accentuate the total cross country program and experience at the school by working with the coaches. In doing so, your runner will be able to reach his/her full potential and enjoy our cross country team to the fullest.
ROUTES TO THE SPORT
As a student progresses through high school, there may be a desire to participate in interscholastic sports on an individual/team level. Cross country provides an opportunity for students to become involved and experience personal success in interscholastic sports. Runners come to us here at Esperanza through many routes. Success in junior high school, perhaps an older brother or sister ran, being recruited out of physical education classes, some success in our track program, or maybe just coming out because a friend is on the team. Whatever the method, we welcome them and hope that they get involved.
As a result of being a participant on an interscholastic team, a student can become more qualified in terms of college acceptance. Team members have the opportunity to come in contact with college coaches or representatives and become familiar with college programs, both academic and athletic. Some colleges and universities offer some form of financial assistance to students who are above average both in their running ability and academics.
THE TWO C’S – COMMITMENT AND COMMUNICATION
Cross country is a sport that takes quite a bit of time and dedication for students. Besides our Wednesday Sunset League Preview meet, we have several Saturday invitational meets available for our teams to participate in. With the addition of daily workouts to this schedule, many of our athletes are busy all the time. As a staff we feel that the above two words are very important for any team member to abide by.
Commitment-Commitment means doing what is expected of you as a team member. Every team member has received and will receive more information with regards to some of our expectations. Ask to see this and it will help you get an idea of what we are trying to do with our team. Practice every weekday and Saturday is one of the commitments we expect. What we are eventually trying to have athletes show is responsibility, consistency, and loyalty. We hope that you as parents understand this commitment and support the coaching staff and program. While we are aware that unplanned family problems come up, please keep in mind that we expect to see your son/daughter at practice Monday through Saturday plus all meets, and, if they are not, we expect that they will let us know why in advance of said absence.
Communication – We expect team members to communicate with their coaches. Problem can be avoided if athletes learn to communicate with their coaches, teachers and parents. If a problem occurs and an athlete must miss practice, we expect them to tell their coach, not relay the information through a friend who might not tell their coach. If a problem comes up regarding a scheduled invitational or meet, let us know when you find out, not minutes before or after the fact. A lot of problems can be solved with good attempts at communication.
YOUR PART BEFORE THE START OF THE SEASON
We as coaches strongly encourage our runners to be on a self-training program out of season, especially during the summer and winter. Summer training is a must for the cross country athlete as it helps to build a training base for later intensive in-season workouts and also helps to prevent injuries. We offer a summer training program and camp opportunities. The camp experience for runners has become an important part of our program’s success.
As your young aspiring athlete is beginning his/her first weeks of training, there are a number of areas that may be of concern to you as a parent. How can you assist them? What should you expect? How should a young athlete prepare and deal with training and competition in terms of eating habits, sleep, and mental attitude?
As a rule, don’t change any aspect of the normal daily routine. Everything should remain the same in terms of home responsibilities, appropriate eating, sleeping, and social habits.
You should also be aware as a parent that a common result of beginning training may be muscle soreness, which will soon go away. If your young athlete does not have much background in running, this soreness may persist for up to two weeks. Hopefully they tell us about this and do not hide it. As coaches we will adjust their workout to help them recover quicker. However, any athlete in intensive training could be subject to injury. All concerns regarding problems such as this can be helped by contacting the coaches or school trainer. Injuries should always be iced with a frozen Dixie cup of ice as frequently as possible (three-four times a day for ten minutes each time). Taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug such as Advil after training will accelerate the healing process.
A well-balanced diet is an asset for any individual and especially an athlete. Any nutritional changes should occur gradually. On meet days, high fat and fried food, eggs, and both carbonated and acidic beverages should be avoided. Take advantage of easily digestible food in low quantities. Water intake should not be limited. Generally the last time a runner eats should be 2 to 3 hours prior to the start of a race. Gradually you will see your young athlete progress toward a diet that is high in carbohydrates as this is an extremely good source of fuel for their body. While we recognize that each individual has different nutritional needs, it is usually better to go into a race on the hungry side (the opposite can be detrimental).
Also, be aware that high school sports teams practice every day after school. Our workouts usually start at 2:00 p.m. and conclude around 4:00 p.m. Many days workout is completed by 3:30 p.m. Each athlete will receive a monthly workout sheet that outlines our workouts for the month. Deviation from this schedule will sometimes occur based on the coaches’ observations. It is easy to see if a particular day will be short of long in nature. On mid-week meet days, the competition begins at 3:00 p.m. and concludes around 6:00 p.m. On travel days, we can expect to be back to school after 7:00 p.m.
If you son/daughter is involved in a club sport outside school you will probably have quite a few conflicts with overlapping times. If a conflict occurs it should be worked out with the coach prior to the season or in some cases several days in advance. If your son/daughter is a varsity level competitor, they will be expected to make every practice and race to maintain their position on this squad.
HOW TO GREET YOUR FIRST MEET
Pre-Race – Get acquainted with the race course and look for strategic spectator points, as well as the start and finish points. It is also helpful to identify the Esperanza team uniforms. We wear cardinal and gold.
Be aware that numerous races will be run during the course of the meet. A cross country meet may last anywhere from two hours to a full day. Races will be organized by either the numbers of school entered, grade levels of runners, or school sizes. You can find out beforehand what time your son/daughter is racing and in which particular race. Check our website for important meet information.
You should not expect the attention of your son/daughter once they have joined their team at the race site. They need time to jog the course beforehand, and to mentally and physically prepare for the race with the coach and the rest of the team.
During the race – Cross country is not a sport that is observed from a stationary point (i.e. bleachers). There are many ways for a spectator to enjoy watching a race. While good areas to watch are always the start and finish, you may move from point to point along the course to cheer on the runners as they pass by. However, spectators should always be aware that it is against the rules of the sport to run alongside a runner and pace them while encouraging them on. It is against the rules to give water to individuals during any race. The only exception would be when the host school provides water equally to all athletes.
Post-race – After a runner comes through the finish chute and receives a place card, it is their responsibility to report directly to the coach and turn in the place card so that team results my be figured out.
Be aware that runners have certain responsibilities after they finish a race. We require runners to warm down as a team for at least 15 minutes after the race as well as actively support teammate who are still running or who have not yet to raced.
It is important to note: After a race, a runner will possibly be more spent than you would anticipate. Symptoms usually pass quickly. A mistake parents often make at a race is to take their son/daughter off by themselves and try to take care of them. Please do not do this. All of our coaches are trained in first aid, are aware of these physical reactions, and have both the responsibility and ability to help take care of them.
It is also important to note that immediately after a race (0-15 minutes) it is best to let the athlete drink water. Note: Many parents are surprised at the seriousness that their son/daughter shows when racing. The intensity of the race can bring about parts of a young athlete’s personality that parents have never seen and are many times surprised by.
Additionally, parents must understand that by state law the coach is responsible for your son/daughter after the meet. Please do not just take your son/daughter home after a meet without checking with the coach. The coach can release them as soon as your athlete has fulfilled his/her individual/team responsibilities and then only to you.
SETTING SIGHTS AND REACHING NEW HEIGHTS
The setting and assessment of goals is very much an individual decision in cross country. Some particular goals may include:
PR’s: personal record on a timed course.
(Note: a PR can only be relevant if an athlete has previously run that particular course.)
Race Pace: Maintaining a particular speed throughout a race.
Place: Place of finish relative to the entire field of runners.
Team Position: A place of finish related to other members of the team. Finish in front of a specific runner from another team.
Highs: Finishing a course successfully and/or improving upon any of the goals mentioned above can be considered a “high” for a runner.
Lows: Expect the possibility of disappointment after a race by the athlete. Although one goal set by the individual may have been achieved, a runner may have fallen short of others and may not be satisfied with his/her total result.
Athletes may need some emotional space after a race by both the coach and parent. Later on, they will need your verbal support rather than your criticism.
GOALS OF THE PROGRAM
There are many methods that can be chosen to reach the above goals. The coaching staff has chosen a philosophy that will maximize the individual and team goals. Questions can arise about workouts. Feel free to inquire about any aspect of the training regime. Parent(s) are advised not to supplement the athlete’s training schedule as long as they desire their athlete to compete on this team.
THE COST OF THE RIGHT STYLE SHOE
If possible, go to a store that deals with running equipment or to a specific salesperson who is an experienced runner. A knowledgeable salesperson can help you make a good decision based on size, width, running style, and type of running (training vs. racing). For a beginning runner, there are shoes that can serve both for training and racing. Be sure that the shoe can be used for daily training.
Three good things on purchasing a new shoe:
Don’t wear your running shoes as PE
shoes or casual wear shoes. This is one of the quickest ways to wear them out. A pair of training shoes should last only 3-4 months and will then need to be replaced.
Racing shoes will be made available for
purchase at a good ($30-$40) price at the start of the season. If used only for racing, the shoe should last about 2 years.
Clothing: On meet days, only school issued uniforms and sweats will be allowed. It is not necessary to purchase specific running clothing. Uniforms will be checked out for meets. Loose fitting t-shirts and shorts are adequate for daily practice. Clean, dry socks for each practice will help prevent blisters, fungus, and other foot problems. Comfortable running shorts should be worn at practice. Cut-off shorts and/or jeans are unacceptable. They can restrict one’s stride and create chafing of the legs.
CROSS COUNTRY TERMS TO KNOW
Dual Meet: A meet between two teams.
Tri Meet: A meet between three teams.
False Start: Runners leave the starting line early.
Finish Chute: The roped off area at the finish line, through which runners are directed in order to establish their final place in the race.
Invitational: A meet involving more than five teams and offering multiple numbers of races.
Pace: Rate of speed maintained over a prolonged distance.
Pack: A group of athletes running in close proximity.
Personal Record: Best performance time on a specific course – usually mentioned as a “PR”.
Strides: Usually done during warm-ups or at the end of a workout; these are short distance sprints to assist in the warm-up or warm-down process.
Course: The route of the runners in cross country.
Racing Flats: A light weight shoe designed primarily for racing; not meant for everyday training.
Surge: A gradual increase in speed in a race as a tactical move.
Trainers: Shoes designed for daily practice.
Warm-up: Exercise through which the body is physically prepared for more intense running.
Cool Down: Exercise through which the body is physically returned to the pre-running state.
Top Seven: The first 7 runners on the competing team.
Workout: The everyday training session held to condition the athlete for better performances.
GIVE US A HAND – BE A PARENT BOOSTER
An organized parent group can be a great asset to any cross country program. In addition to being at meets as spectators, an active involvement with the team can increase the feeling of unit and support among parents.
The goals of the parent group in cross country are as a morale group, as well as a supplemental financial support group to the team. This group can also assist in the publicity and promotion of the sport. It is essential that the organization work in conjunction with the coaching staff, athletic director, and the school.
Due to our current financial conditions, we are not even able to provide for all the basic needs of our program. Here are some of the reasons for our fundraising:
OUR COMMITMENT TO YOU
We work to make sure that your son/daughter is a credit to you, our school, and our program. If you need assistance or information regarding how your son/daughter is doing, feel free to give us a call. A coach in today’s high school wears many hats with young people, and every one of them is worn with the hope that maybe we can bring out the best in them and teach them valuable lessons that they may use in later life.
WHO WE COMPETE AGAINST
We are in the CIF Southern Section –Century Conference. The teams in the Century Conference include:
Low Score Wins: As in golf, the object in cross country is to compete for the lowest score possible. In other words, a team that scores 35 points places ahead of a team that scores 40 points. This means that when two or more teams are competing, the first place team has the lowest score, the second place teams has the next lowest score, and so on.
Scores are based on the team’s top five finishers. Although seven to ten athletes from each team compete at the varsity level and as many athletes as a team has compete at lower levels, e.g. girls’ junior varsity, boys’ junior varsity, only the first five finishers are counted in determining a team’s score. The following illustration will show two points: (A) low score wins, and (B) what is called displacement. Let’s say Esperanza’s first five finishers place 1, 3, 4, 5, and 8 in a meet against Canyon. Canyonfirst five finishers, in turn, place 2, 6, 7, 9, and 11. This is how it works:
A. Low score wins:
Esperanza wins 21-35!
In looking at the scoring above, it may have occurred to you that the 10th finisher does not show up in the scoring. What happened to him/her? First, it is clear that he/she was an Esperanza runner because if he/she ran for Canyon, he/she would have been their 5th finisher and earned them 10 points instead of 11. Secondly, it logically follows that although he/she does not figure directly in the scoring, he/she does figure indirectly in that he/she caused Canyon to lose by 1 point more than it would have without him/her having displaced a Canyon runner.
Obviously, in close meets displacing can make the difference between winning and losing; hence, the 6th and 7th athletes on the same team are just as important as the 1st. While it is exciting and helpful to have a star or two on a cross country team, cross country is still a team sport.
A LOCK, OR 3 IN THE BOX AND 4 IN THE BUSH
If you think about it, you probably recognize that as runners are crossing the finish line in a cross country meet between two schools (not in an invitational), there is a point at which one team will clearly win if it has a number of its runners cross the finish line before the other school’s runners have finished. The magic number is 3. In any dual meet, a team that takes the first three places has a lock on winning the race because even if it’s 4th and 5th finishers are at the very worst, 11th and 12th (remember, each team has seven runners who can score or displace) in the race, the opposing team cannot possibly score lower. Take a look:
Esperanza wins by one point!
BUT LOWER DIVISION RACES HAVE MORE THAN ONE TEAM:
Up to this point we have looked at the scoring of varsity races in which only the top seven runners on each team compete in the competition. In other words, a varsity dual meet has a total of 14 runners and a triangular meet has 21 runners. What happens at the lower levels, such as the girls’ junior varsity in which any number of runners can compete?
Scoring is essentially the same as at the varsity level. Low score wins and the first five finishers are counted in the score while the 6th and 7th runners may displace. In fact, the only difference at the lower levels is that once the 7th runner from a given team crosses the finish line, no more runners from that team may displace runners from the opposing team(s), and thereby affect the score of the opposing team. Let’s try another example with Canyon.
Let’s say that the Esperanza girls’ junior varsity takes the first 11 places in the race. Canyon takes 12, 13, 14, 17, and 18, Esperanza takes 15 and 16. (Remember, once five runners from each team have finished, the scoring is completed.) On first inspection, it would appear that Canyon score is 74: the sum of 12, 13, 14, 17, and 18. But once Esperanza’s 7th girl crossed the finish line, no more Esperanza finishers can displace Canyon girls. In short, so long as Canyon has a minimum of 5 girls, each of those girls is automatically awarded the next five places after the 7th Esperanza girl. This is called a sweep, in this case for Esperanza, and in terms of scoring can occur at the varsity level as well as at lower levels. The actual scoring in this example is as follows:
Esperanza wins by the lowest cross country score possible and Canyon loses by the highest cross country score possible.
WHAT ABOUT INVITATIONALS?
In invitational and similar cross country competitions, e.g. CIF Finals, a great many teams run against each other in a given race. Once again, however, it is still low score that wins, and only the first five finishers for a given team count in the scoring. Further, at the varsity level, each team may still enter only its top seven runners in a varsity race. Therefore, at the varsity level, scoring in an invitational is exactly like scoring in a dual or triangular meet. Some individuals run their races on a grade level format – seniors v. seniors, juniors v. juniors, etc.
CENTURY LEAGUE PREVIEW MEET
Esperanza competes in the Century League. Our league has two scoring meets, the Century League Preview meet and a Century League Finals meet. There are 3 levels for both the girls and boys, Frosh/Soph, JV and Varsity.
Race results take time to compile. Most of the races are timed using a computer and results are posted quickly. Please avoid disturbing the crew in charge of timing. These results are made available as soon as possible after each race at each meet or check the internet on our website at www.esperanzacrosscountry.com
No awards are given at the preview meet, only invitational meets and the league finals. At invitational meets awards are usually given for individual and team performances. Individual awards may be given in a finish chute, after each race is completed, or at the end of the meet.