by Tom O'Grady
For the past three years I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Shenendehowa Cross Country and Track and Field programs. Some highlights since joining the program have been winning cross country sectionals in both 2018 and 2019 and finishing fourth and second at the New York State meet in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Sectionals and States take place in November and the training goals during the season are to focus on specific aspects of racing that allow for athletes to be competitive in meets and reach their peak fitness for championship meets. The foundation for this success is built over the summer before the season start. For the Shenendehowa group this is accomplished through the Outliers Running Club.
Because of COVID-19 the fate of the fall season is still undetermined, and the spring season did not occur for many athletes. Because of the uncertainty about the fate of summer programs in relation to COVID-19 it was unclear at first if a summer program could even be held. If a program was held, it was unclear what it would entail. Luckily in New York State (as of this writing in July) numbers have been such that the phased re-opening of many activities has been successful. In accordance with the CDC and NYSDOH guidelines. My public health training came into good use and we went above and beyond to help ensure safety after the green light was given for summer programs to proceed.
One of the most important aspects of the summer program in 2020 is that meeting in person this summer allows kids to socialize in a way they haven’t since March or April. It also allows us to actually see kids during practice and get a real sense for where everyone is in relation to where they were at the end of indoor track. From here our goal has not changed much and we are preparing the team as if there will be a season. The goal for younger kids is to expose them to training, build their confidence, build sound fundamentals, and help them enjoy the sport. For the older kids our goal is similar as with the younger cohort but also to build their training capacity, build team cohesiveness, build leadership qualities, and the workouts, drills, and ancillary training that will maximize their in-season success.
How do we accomplish these goals? Some specifics of how we accomplish this are in the posting we sent out at the end of June when the program started - https://docs.google.com/document/d/1CDrQOs0Xq2BD_cdpDBRO1z_KPuf_KjYtcnQJant8bbI/edit
As a public health professional, I specifically like framing their training in regards to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for youth activity ages 6-17 years. Because there are concerns about children being underactive and athletes overtraining, it’s interesting to see that a lot of training can be accomplished, and an athlete can still be within the guidelines for physical activity. Meaning, if done correctly, a positive training stimulus can be provided, health can be improved, and overtraining can be avoided.
With the setbacks many have faced related to COVID-19 that extend beyond athletes this summer, we are also specifically working on addressing purpose in training and athletics. We sent out a reading list specific to purpose as well - https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Hv8X6nKoQ3EY3uGPH_WtOak4nZZcaVHtsa_kDwe4XD4/edit. The idea of discussing purpose was Mark Thompson’s idea who has been in education and coaching for over 30 years. With uncertainty abounding, the summer program will surely be valuable regardless of what the fall has in store.
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Thomas J. O'Grady, Ph.D., M.P.H. – Tom is a public health professional and researcher who is also a NASM certified personal trainer and a USATF Level 1 and VdotO2 certified run coach. For more information on training or coaching contact OGrady.Strategies@GMail.com or visit www.ogradystrategies.com