Team Goal Setting
If your team isn’t routinely setting goals as a group, this is something you should add in right away. At the bookends of each season should be goal setting—and sharing goals with each other increases accountability. When setting goals, focus not only on outcome, but also input goals. How will you benefit the morale of the team? What will you do to be a positive leader? If you don’t discern these goals before the season gets underway, it is even harder to accomplish them. It’s also important to set collective team goals for each season—goals you can refer to frequently. Write them down and hang them up. Do what it takes to keep them on the forefront of everyone’s mind. That’s the first step to reaching them.
Ice Cream Runs
There is a right way to do an ice cream run and there is an incorrect way. For starters, don’t do it during the season and don’t use it as a substitute for a workout. Training takes precedent. But if you’ve got a short run—or can stomach a long run while full of ice cream—then a pit stop for a small treat is a must! It’s also an incentive to add mileage, because: Who’s not motivated by a frozen treat? Doing it as a team also give you the opportunity to socialize with new teammates or those you don’t know as well. Seriously: It’s a blast. So schedule an ice cream run (or a few) with your team this summer. If you choose to run at a slower pace, it’s up to you whether or not you count it as mileage, but you’ll enjoy it nonetheless!
Watch Elite Runners Compete
If you live in a distance running mecca—like Eugene, Ore.—you’re in luck. You get a front row seat to some of the best athletes in both cross country and track and field. For the rest of us though, there’s the internet. Granted, it doesn’t provide the same atmosphere, but it’s a great asset to a cross-country runner. Beyond sheer inspiration, watching an elite athlete race provides an education opportunity as well. That’s why I encourage you to gather with your team and watch races. Look at how the runners attack the hills and how they execute race strategies. Analyze their tactics and see how you might apply similar strategies to your next race. We are very fortunate to live in an age when a massive amount of race footage is available online, so utilize it. Become a student of a sport, and encourage your teammates to participate with you. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn.
Pre-Race Pasta Dinners
Perhaps you are inclined to skip over this section because your team—like many—already does pasta dinners. In that case, I encourage you to continue. If your team doesn’t already gather to eat a pre-race meal together, you really should. Whether its pasta or some other main course doesn’t really matter—so long as you’re not chowing down on something you’ll be regretting at the starting line. What matters is that you are gathering as a group before the race, acknowledging and preparing for it. These dinners are also a great time to review and share goals that have been set. As you share goals and eat together, you are also fostering a healthy approach to food and nutrition. Both are vital components in the quest for athletic success, and you can help your teammates by promoting healthy habits as individuals (Also see number two. You don’t need to eliminate ice cream to be a good runner. Eaten in moderation, it can be a great snack or dessert for runners—especially when teammates are involved!)
Encourage Each Other
I love writing uplifting notes to people, including teammates! I realize, however, that not everyone enjoys that. That’s fine, but you can still be an encouraging presence on your team. You don’t have to write out a lengthy piece of prose to do so. Send a text message to a teammate and ask how they are. Write a quick post-it note with an inspirational quote or a short positive note. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes, but can make a big difference. I even have a teammate who loves baking, and she frequently bakes cookies for us. It’s a delicious form of encouragement and kindness! So I encourage you to find a way to encourage your teammates each week and connect on an individual level. Life is very stressful and when you add in the rigor of running cross country, it can be downright hectic. But when we bear each other’s burdens, the team is fortified and goals are met.