Cross-Country Running: Fun-Runners Can Develop 
Your X-C Program

Cross-Country Running: Fun-Runners Can Develop Your X-C Program

Dick Moss, Editor, PE

It can be difficult to develop a cross-country team because it's a “satisfaction” sport, versus a fun sport. Let's face it, it takes time to develop an enjoyment for racing through mud, rain and cold and for the physical discomfort that long distance running involves.

Since it's an acquired taste, your best chance for developing a strong program is to give a large number of students a gradual, non-threatening exposure to the sport.

Two-Tiered Team
So why not establish a second tier within your cross-country team: fun-runners, in addition to your regular competitive athletes.

At the start of the year, advertise for students who enjoy jogging and would like to jog with others. Instruct them to come out to your first cross-country running meeting.

In this meeting, explain that everyone will start the year as a recreational jogger, and that those who wish to compete must declare their intentions to you. Recreational runners will also receive coaching, but their running will be strictly for fun and fitness.  If and when they decide they'd like to become competitive, they are welcome to join the varsity group.

This strategy has several advantages.

  1. First, it can attract a large number of students, whose first priority is fun, but who will be getting fit at the same time. This can become a great talent pool for you—and the more students you can attract, the more likely it is that you'll find some who are really talented.
  2. It's a non-threatening way to get students involved in running. After a while, they may find that they want to test themselves and step up to the competitive group. Or their confidence might improve as they realize that the varsity runners aren't much faster than they are.
  3. This strategy may keep students involved who can't currently commit to your competitive program because of jobs, other sports, etc. Somewhere down the road, they may find their circumstances changed, however, and decide to compete in your program.
  4. Finally, the greater numbers will help you in garnering support from school administration and potential sponsors.


A coach at a school in Orange County, California tried this strategy after suffering from low numbers in his XC team. After only two years his program grew to more than 70 boys and 80 girls, the largest team in the school, and  they became strong divisional contenders both years.

1. Idea from Edward Derse and Skip Stolley, AAF/CIF Cross Country Coaching Manual, Amateur Athletic Foundation, 1994.
2. Jeff Galloway, Cross-Country Running anbd Racing, Meyer & Meyer Fachverlag und Buchhandel GmbH; Original edition, 2010.

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© 2011, Physical Education,

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