Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Have Kids Set Goals, and You Get…. By Mike Sherwood

Race goals energize runners, give meaning to their participation in cross country, increase interaction with the coach and improve performance. (More on the benefits of goal setting in my last article) and they make great reading. I have just reviewed the pre-race and season goals set by over 200 high school cross country racers. They’re inspiring and they reflect the exuberance, maturity and thoughtfulness of our runners.

The format the runners used asked them to goals without specifying what types. About half specified time goals, either specifying race times or amount of improvement in times. A slightly smaller number discussed race strategy- pacing the race, with whom to run, and how to take the hills. About one-sixth pointed to where they wanted to place, from top to top half of the race. About the same number of runners set goals about not getting injured, maintaining good nutrition and hydration pre-race, and building their physical strength. These were thoughtful, well-set-out goals.

But what really made me smile was reading what these runners wrote about their own optimism, perspective and character-building traits. Let me share some:
"I want to apply myself…be confident…be positive…be a leader to my team…persevere…put in my full effort…be consistent…focus and keep my goal in mind…support my team with everything I have…to run to potential…push thru the pain…prepare well…don't give up too easily…be motivating to my team-mates." Some set sights very high, 'This needs to be my best race…A course record would be nice." The ones whose goals warmed my heart were the ones who struck a balance between hard effort and reasonable expectations. One wrote "Be positive, have fun, don't put added stress on myself, don't worry. I love to run!" Others said, "Don't be overly nervous! Eat normal things, and don't be afraid to go fast…Focus and keep my goal in mind … Enjoy this once in a lifetime opportunity…Push my personal limits…Try my best and have some fun…Improve little by little…I won't be disappointed if I don't hit my target time as long as I race as well as I can … no walking!”

We always knew cross country runners were special. This confirms it.

Mike Sherwood

Mike Sherwood is the creator of XCStats.com, a site designed for high school cross country teams for keeping stats, identifying improvements and managing the process of creating and reviewing goals. XCStats was developed through Mike’s work with his kids’ cross country team at Archbishop Mitty in San Jose and is available to all California high schools.

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