Parent’s Beginner Guide to High School Cross Country

So you have a child that wants to go out for Cross Country? Good for you! Cross Country (XC) is a wonderful sport of a lifetime that encourages both individual and team participation and a love for running. If you are a ‘newbie’ parent and have a ‘newbie’ son or daughter that wants to try Cross Country, here are a few things to help you get started:

What is the Sport of Cross Country?

The Sport of Cross Country  is a competitive team sport offered in the fall of the year for both girls and boys [usually] in grades 7 through 12. Teams consist of five or more runners who all race together at the same time against the other teams. The top five finishers from each team are used for scoring and their finishing places are totaled to see which team wins.The lowest score wins. High school races are usually 3.1 miles long, and  junior high races are usually 2 miles long. The courses oftentimes take place at public parks or golf courses and parents are allowed to attend and cheer them on from anywhere on the course. The great thing about cross country at this level is that everyone who tries out for the sport generally gets to compete.
Even though the first 7 runners to finish are considered the “scoring team”, everyone still gets to run and try to contribute to the team’s scoring. In most school districts, there are no cuts, and
no bench to sit on and watch while others play!

The philosophy is simple:
Have fun, train hard, and race well.

How Can I Help?

Your first question as a parent might be “How can I help my son or daughter get started?

We strongly encourage our runners to start a summer training regimen.  As in any sport, it’s very difficult to come out for the team at the start of school with little or no pre-training. Pre-season summer training is essential to building a fitness base for intensive workouts and races during the season. You can help your son or daughter by seeking out programs that are provided to get runners of all ages started. Many of these programs are available through running stores or local running clubs. Additionally, ask the school coaches and/or friends where/how they can get started.

Food intake and proper nutrition are essential for any athlete and particularly so for a runner. You can assist by having the proper foods available in the house and planning a proper meal for race day. Avoid fatty and fried foods, and carbonated (soda)or acidic drinks. Encourage small portions of easily digested food eaten about 3 hours before racing. A lot of these foods will be in the form of carbohydrates. Make sure plenty of water is made available. It can actually be fun learning about foods and how food affect performance together!

Equipment

The best thing you can do for your son or daughter is to take them to a running store that specializes in running and the equipment needed for getting started. You do not necessarily need to go “all in” from the start but proper equipment to get started is important.

This includes (most importantly) the proper running shoe with the proper fit. Running stores have training sales persons to assist you with this.

For warm weather running or cold weather running, proper attire can also be extremely helpful. This would include shirt, shorts and even socks that aide in wisking away moisture during very warm weather and proper cold weather running gear as well.

Running at night? The running store will also be able to assist you with this. It’s very important to have proper nighttime gear if your son or daughter will be running after dark.

How Can I Watch the Race?

When you arrive at the meet, ask to see a chart of the race. First, locate the start and finish,
then try to scout central points where you can see as much of the race with as little moving around as possible.  Maybe follow along with some of the other parents, as well. During the race, you can move from point to point along the course to cheer the runners as they pass.  
Be careful, however, to stay off the runners’ path and out of their way. Rules also forbid running alongside a competitor to pace or encourage him or her. Suggestion: wear soft soled shoes to do this!

At the finish of the race, the runners file through the finish chute.  At this time, it’s OK to greet them but they will need to walk around a bit/recover before engaging in a lot of conversation.

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