Building a Championship High School XC Team
On a beautiful Fall Saturday morning I witnessed a group of young men and women compete with dignity and grace en route to their first ever Private School State Varsity Cross Country Championship. It was merely a year ago when we barely had a boy’s team and did not even have a girl’s team to compete, but this year we won the event and dominated the rest of the field.
Our journey this summer did not start as I planned. In my second year as the LCAXC coach along with Tim Woodcock, Associate Pastor at Genesis Church in Bloomington, we planned to have a full summer of base training to prepare ourselves for a successful season. I was disappointed when only a couple of our boys would consistently show up for our morning runs and only had a few girls showing up. I was not even sure we would have a full team.
Luckily, Coach Tim was able to encourage our runners to begin attending practice towards the end of the summer and was able to recruit two athletes that planned to play on the LCA basketball team. Both runners would prove to be critical for our state title run this year.
Coach Tim was able to get our kids in place and motivated to begin the regular season while I was able to develop and implement an effective training plan that focused on high quality workouts that would make up for the lack of base training we missed over the summer.
The season began slowly with some average showings, but we slowly began to move up with higher team finishes as the year progressed. We finally won our first invite later in the year, which gave us the momentum to finish strong at our State Meet with first place team finishes for the girl’s and the boy’s teams!
I believe there were six contributing factors to building our championship team this year:
- We did not give up. It was not looking good in the beginning. We were just not getting the participation we expected, but Coach Tim and I just kept showing up to practice and encouraging the athletes that attended. We had some kids quit because no one else was coming to practice, but over time I believe our kids began to notice that Tim and I were showing up, no matter the circumstances, and they began to follow our lead.
- We had strong leadership from our team captain who emulated our values of accountability, hard work, never quit attitude, and encouragement. J.S., our senior team captain, was the most consistent participant in our summer workouts. Although he was not our fastest runner, that honor was bestowed to freshman Cole Chudy, J.S. remained positive and became an unbelievable encourager to each and every runner. As coaches, we could only go so far in motivating our runners. It took the strong leadership of our team captain to help elevate us to the championship level.
- We crafted a solid vision of what type of team we wanted to be and what our goals were for that year. They were to 1. Run hard and hit our times through the first 2 miles of the 3.1 mile race and go for points that last mile, 2. Run together and support one another, and 3. Win our last invitational, the equivalent to the State Tournament for private schools.
- We had strong support from the parents and the Lighthouse Christian Academy leadership. No matter what age, everyone needs a strong support system. The parents of our young athletes bought into our vision and supported their kids as we worked hard to achieve our goals. The leadership at LCA encouraged our athletes and supported us tremendously throughout the season. It was easy to make the changes needed to reach our goals knowing the parents and the LCA leadership would support us along the way.
- Our runners had a solid foundation that was gleaned from a strong elementary and middle school running program at LCA. We had an 8th grader score on the boy’s team and several 8th graders on the girl’s team that competed well with two young girls finishing in the top 5 at our Sate Meet! To be successful in anything in life, having a strong foundation is critical. The solid elementary and middle school cross-country programs prepares our young atheletes to compete with maturity and at a high level once they reach the high school level.
- We believed we could win. My father once told me “You have to see it before you see it, or you will never see it!” This year we hammered the vision of winning the state title to the point that our kids began to expect it. We practiced like we were already champions and would show up to races with a “swagger” that came with feeling like we could compete with the best.
We met our goal and won our state, but we have bigger goals next year and plan to implement our championship principles so we can make a bigger splash. Go LCAXC!