It is early April and you have been hired or selected to coach your Junior High Track Team. Where do you start? How do you know what events the children can participate in? Who will run on the relays?
Most State associations will only let an athlete participate in so many events. Usually this is 3 or 4. Some allow for two Field events and two Track events. The first thing you do is have the athletes sign up for the events they want to participate in. Have them let you know if they have experience in any of the events.
The next thing that you do is hold time trials in each event. Find out who are your best runners and in what event. Keep track of their times and places. If someone beats an individual they move into that persons spot. This will increase competition. Do the same thing with the Field events. Tell your athletes it is open season on each event. At most meets that involve 2 or 3 schools, they will usually let you run as many as you want. However, at the big meets with more schools, you are only allowed to enter two per event and only one relay team. Always have alternates ready in each event. Many times athletes get tired or injured and you need a back up. Sometimes an athlete might just decide to let another person run in an event for other reasons.
Don’t be too worried about winning the meet. Concentrate on performances first. The points and wins will come with time.
Study your athletes carefully. If you aren’t getting 100% from them, switch them. You are the coach and you have others waiting their chance to participate.
Never let an athlete go to an event by themselves. Always send one or two team members with them. They can hold their sweats while they run or jump. If someone gets hurt, you got someone there with them. If you are coaching by yourself, you will find this very helpful. On events that go one lap or farther, station athletes around the track or field area to cheer them on. Athletes that are cheered will put out more effort. Also, have an area where you will set up your teams camp. Here they will keep their equipment, books, shoes, sweats and valuables. Always have someone stay there. Be sure it is never left unattended. If an athlete uses a piece of equipment, they are responsible for it getting back to the camp area. Hold them accountable.
Never scorn an athlete for their performance in public. Talk to them alone. Always be cheerful of their effort and consoling in defeat. Encourage good sportsmanship with other athletes from other teams.
Be sure that the athletes warm up together as a team. Some athletes will need more warm up than others. Each person is different.
On relays, keep time of each athletes splits. This is very important in helping improve their times in that event. Also, you will find out who your slower runners are. Never be afraid to make changes. Even if the person you move in fails to do as well. You have to try to put the best four relay runners together. If you don’t, it will destroy the other three runners.
If you don’t know how to execute a certain skill, read up on it or talk to other coaches. Find out what works best and encourage your athletes to try it. I never could pole vault myself, but I turned out some outstanding vaulters in my coaching career. If you know for sure that you have an athlete that can’t do something, don’t let them until they prove it to you in practice. The last thing you want is an injury or embarrassment for that person.
The good thing about coaching track is that it doesn’t take a lot of strategy and know how. The athletes usually make and break themselves. All you can do is guide and encourage them. Regardless of how good or bad your team is, have fun. Cherish the small victories you do get. There is an old saying,” Success breeds Success.” If the athletes enjoy it , it will help you build for the future. Athletes usually don’t remember what happens during the season the following year but, they do remember if they had fun or not.