Grosse Pointe South Cross Country~ COMMON QUESTIONS ~Click her for: South Cross Country Introduction (PDF version)Click here for: Attendance Policy - 2019Click here for: Nutrition & Hydration Info
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions by parents and athletes who are new to the sport of Cross Country. The questions and answers are meant to provide some insight and information into this sport of Cross Country and the South Cross Country program.
#1: WHAT IS CROSS COUNTRY ?
Cross Country is a varsity team sport which involves competitive distance running on a variety of terrains over a distance of 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) in high school." Cross Country courses can be found in parks, golf courses, fields, woods or parks ... anywhere a 5,000 meter course can be set up. There are basically three kinds of competitions: dual meets involving just two teams, jamborees involving six or more teams and invitational meets involving as many as thirty teams.
#2: HOW DO YOU KEEP SCORE ?
Cross Country is a bit different than many other sports because in our sport the LOW score wins just like golf. A team's score in a meet is determined by simply adding the places of the first five runners for that team. Therefore, if you are a math wizard, you will quickly determine that a "perfect score" (as low as a team can get) is 15 (1+2+3+4+5). Look at the sample dual meet below and see how the score of the meet was determined.
Team A Team B 1
27Even though Team A had the top runner and 2 of the first 3 places, Team B - because of better team balance and "pack running" - wins the meet 27-28.
#3: HOW LONG IS THE SEASON, PRACTICES, AND HOW LONG DO MEETS LAST ?
Our program begins in July. Schedules are distributed in the spring and also mailed. Our season officially begins with mandatory practice around the second week in August. Our meets usually begin around the first of September, and the final competition of the season is the State Meet, which is always the first Saturday of November.
Once school begins, we will promptly begin our practices at 3:30 pm and they usually last around 1 1/2 hours. A good general time to keep in mind for an "end point" for practice is 5:00 pm. Please have your rides pick you up at that time unless otherwise stated.
The length of competitions vary quite a bit. A dual meet is over fairly quickly - the girls race, the boys race, and everyone goes home! That usually takes around an hour-and-a-half to two hours with warm up and cool down. Invitational meets are longer. On a typical Saturday during the fall we may leave school at 7:30 a.m. and then return around 2:00 in the afternoon. Whenever we travel, a time schedule will be available for when we leave, when we run, and approximately when we will return home.
#4: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO RUN "VARSITY" OR TO RUN "JV" ?
In dual meets the terms "varsity" and "JV" mean nothing. In a dual meet, both teams line up all their runners, the gun goes off, and everyone runs. In invitational meets, there are normally two separate races, a varsity race and a junior varsity race. In the varsity race, each school is allowed to enter its seven top runners. In the JV race each school can enter as many runners as they wish. Our varsity runners for a given invitational meet are determined by the competition(s) previous to the invitational. Unlike picking a "starting 5" in basketball, our seven varsity runners "pick themselves" based on their performances in previous meets. It is not uncommon to have the seven varsity runners vary a great deal during the course of a season as runners improve, injuries occur, etc. The coaches will make the final decision for varsity at the Conference, Regional and State Final competitions based on a variety of factors. These factors include, but are not limited to, attendance, work ethic, attitude, physical and emotional health, foot speed, potential, development over the season, past experience, competitiveness and current varsity status.
#5: IS IT NECESSARY TO SPEND MORE THAN $150 FOR GOOD RUNNING SHOES ?
The good-news answer to this question is NO. Of course, more can be spent, but a good pair of running shoes can be purchased for about $90-$110. Another thing to keep in mind is that a cross country athlete really needs only ONE thing as far as equipment goes - shoes. No bats, gloves, sticks, racquets, pads, etc. Just shoes! When it is time to buy shoes, your best bet is to go to a running store like Hanson's, Tortoise and Hare or Running Fit. Once you're in the store, tell them two things: 1) you need the shoes for high school cross country (that will help them point you in the right direction) and 2) that you are a member of our team (that may mean a discount!). If you do not go to a specialty store like those listed above make sure you get "running" shoes and NOT "trail" or "cross training" shoes. Shoes should have a good amount of support and cushioning for your athlete because imagine the amount of foot strikes there are in the 300 - 500 miles they will put in over a season.
#6: HOW MUCH DO WE RUN IN PRACTICE ?
There is no simple answer to this question because it varies so much. With 80 to 100+ athletes on our team, it is obvious that there is a wide spectrum of abilities, experience, and even age. With that in mind, our basic approach is to not have our athletes do or run anything that they are not READY for. That means on a given practice day a four-year veteran with perhaps 2000 miles behind her in her high school career might be running an 6-8 mile workout while her teammate who is new to the sport might be running 2-4 miles. Also, it is not always the distance that is the most significant aspect of our training; more often than not it is the intensity of what we run that is the most telling part of a workout rather than simply how far we go. One of the other main goals in our practices is to always be progressing - to hopefully run more (and faster!) than you did in the past. If an athlete ran 2 miles without stopping last week, then she may be able to go 3 miles this week. If an athlete ran 3 repeat miles in 7 minutes last week, then she may be able to do 4 of them this week. We have a summer training program that will get your daughter ready for the fall season and develop her into a quality distance runner.
#7: DOES EVERYONE RUN IN EVERY MEET ?
The simple answer is YES! There is only one exception. The State Finals limit teams to their varsity athletes only (fastest seven runners). ALL team members run in ALL competitions except if an athlete is injured or sick. The coach and parent will decide if it is a smart decision to compete or to take the day off. Everyone participates. Those injured will help out as managers and by cheering on teammates. No one sits on the side. We win as a team or we lose as a team. Together we will compete and support.
A lot of what a spectator will see during a competition is based on what kind of course it is. On some courses you can see virtually every step of the race because of how the it is set up. While on other courses you may be able to see only the start, the finish, and a few segments of the race here and there. By the nature of the sport, even the spectators are "active" during a cross country race. There are no bleachers to sit in, and many spectators literally run (or at least walk briskly!) from one part of the course to another to see as much of the race as possible. It is a great spectator sport, one where you can literally be only a few feet away from the action!
#9: WHAT ABOUT INJURIES ?
Though it is unlikely to have serious injuries in Cross Country (broken bones, etc.), it is not uncommon - particularly for runners new to the sport to encounter some sort of injury problem. By far the most common injuries we experience are related to "stress" or "overuse." Sore muscles, shin problems, aching knees, and hip problems are some of the more common injuries we face. Most of these injuries come from the body trying to do more than it is actually ready for. If injuries do occur, we generally try to follow this procedure: consult with the coach and/or trainer, follow the procedures prescribed by the coach or trainer (icing and extra stretching, for example), and take time off if necessary for the injury to heal. As noted above, the more experience a runner has, the stronger that runner is, the more miles that runner has, then there is less chance of injury. A very high percentage of our injuries come from athletes new to the sport and who have only a minimal running background. Proper stretching, weight training, quality nutrition and sleep habits along with training on softer terrains with appropriate shoes will decrease your risk of getting injured. Sometimes 'like' injuries do occur, but we will do everything in our power as coaches and a program threat is reasonable and prudent to keep all girls safe and running. If an injury occurs please use the "R.I.C.E." method. Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation to start treatment of your injury.
#10: WHAT ABOUT DIET AND SLEEP ?
These are two areas we as a team try to talk about throughout the course of the season. Regarding diet, we talk about and emphasize the importance of "healthy eating" when involved in an endurance sport like Cross Country. Rather than discussing healthy eating in general terms, we distribute lists of specific "good" and "bad" foods; those foods that can actually help one's performance and those foods that are simply empty calories or that may interfere with one's performance. Your body is a high performance machine and if you don't put enough quality fuel in it, the machine will not reach its full potential.
The same goes for getting enough rest. For the first month or so of the season, this isn't much of a problem: school is just starting, everyone seems to be rested, there's a lot of energy. Then as the weeks go by and the homework piles up and the miles pile up and the former eight hours a night turns into six hours a night proper rest becomes more of an issue. If an athlete's performances begin to falter in mid or late October, it often is because she simply is "too tired" to run up to her potential. And once that point is reached, it seems very difficult to turn this situation around. It seems that once a certain point is reached, it is nearly impossible in the relatively brief amount of time we have to restore the rest and energy levels that might have been there on September 1st. A night or two of "catching up" is not enough to recapture the 15 or 30 seconds that have "mysteriously" been added to a runner's time.
#11: I REALLY WANT A LETTER JACKET, SO HOW DO I EARN MY VARSITY LETTER ?
Every team and program is different, but at South we believe hard work and a superior attitude allows for the opportunity to earn a varsity letter. A varsity letter can be earned by any girl on the team by running a sub 23:00 time twice during the season. This allows the opportunity for all girls to train to this quality level and earn a letter regardless of varsity or junior varsity status. We will also award a varsity letter to a senior veteran (minimum of 2 years experience) who has not earned a letter by running the time requirements.
#12: WHAT DOES MY DAUGHTER NEED FOR THE FIRST DAY OF CROSS COUNTRY PRACTICE ?
Your daughter will need all of the permission slip paperwork signed and turned in to the coaches. You will need to have a completed, signed physical administered by your doctor before the first day. Each athlete will also need the medical emergency "gold" card. These two cards must be turned in to the South athletic office. They will stamp the "gold" card. Once this card is given to the coach, the athlete becomes eligible. Each athlete will need appropriate running apparel including high quality running shoes. Please also bring a positive attitude that is ready to work hard toward team and individual goals.
#13: MY DAUGHTER REALLY WANTS TO JOIN CROSS COUNTRY BUT CAN NOT ATTEND ALL SUMMER PRACTICES. WILL SHE STILL BE ALLOWED TO COME OUT FOR THE TEAM ?
The emphatic answer is YES! If you have a family vacation planned, notify Mr. Zaranek with the dates. All girls are asked to work out summer job hours around practices.
#14: BETWEEN PAY TO PLAY, TRAINING SHOES, CLOTHING ORDER, THERE SEEMS TO BE A FAIR AMOUNT OF MONEY INVOLVED IN BEING A MEMBER OF THIS TEAM. WHAT IS REQUIRED ?
Pay to play is an unfortunate reality. If the amount is beyond your means, contact the Athletic Director for a waiver form. If you do not believe in "pay to play", contact the school board members and voice your opinion. Training shoes are the one piece of equipment the sport requires. Quality shoes will enhance performance and help prevent injuries. Good shoes will last one season. Competition "spikes" are also encouraged, especially for those looking to maximize race performance. All on the team will also have the opportunity to order optional team wear (t-shirts, sweats, etc.). Again, team wear is not required.
#15: WHAT IS THE TEAMS POLICY ON PARTICIPATING IN CLUB, A.A.U, O.D.P. OR RECREATIONAL SPORTS TEAMS DURING THE CROSS COUNTRY SEASON ?
This is an important question. We as coaches at South feel that it is important to be involved with activities year round in order to be a well rounded individual. We encourage athletes to participate in other sports when not involved with the South Cross Country team. We understand that today's young women (and men) have participated in a variety of sports and in many cases have grown up with various sports and have spent lots of money for camps and instruction in sports other than cross country. The bottom line policy that we have is that from mid-August until early November the South Cross Country team comes first. Training and competing for your high school has to be a higher priority. Fatigue and injury are likely if participating in two sports during the cross country season. No athlete will be allowed to miss Cross Country practice to attend a club or AAU practice. With that being said, if an athlete chooses to be involved in another sport at the same time as South Cross Country, that is a personal family decision. Please understand that South Cross Country practices and competitions will come first and will not be missed for outsider sports functions. We expect AAU, travel and club coaches to understand the importance of competing for your high school. We also expect the same courtesy from those coaches and teams that we will give them during their high school sports season. The risk of injury and major fatigue skyrockets for athletes competing in multiple sports at the same time. Very few athletes can pull off two sports at one time, some find it very difficult to participate at 100% for both sports while other athletes have been plagued with injuries and been unable to participate for either team. This is a decision that each individual athlete and their family needs to make. We as a coaching staff and program recommend against participating in two or more sports during the South Cross Country season due to the injury and fatigue factors. We are willing to work with other programs but we do recommend against the 2+ sport scenario.
#16: DOES SOUTH GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY HAVE TRYOUTS, A TEAM STANDARD, OR DOES EVERYONE AUTOMATICALLY MAKE THE TEAM ?
The South Girls Cross Country team is considered a "no cut" program. Everyone is accepted and encouraged to fully commit to the team. We do, however, believe it is very important to have a team standards and hold potential athletes accountable for off season training. Incoming freshmen are not expected to have had any pre-season training. We progress at a very gradual pace designed for our new girls. Our veterans are expected to have trained in the off season (summer months) and should be in good running shape at our first practices. All girls are expected to run the full 5k race by early September.
#17: IF SOMEONE IS INJURED, DO THEY STILL NEED TO COME TO PRACTICE AND COMPETITIONS?
The answer is yes. If you make a commitment to be a part of this program, then you have an obligation to your teammates and coaches to be present at practices and competitions. There is plenty of work that can be done to help out at both practice and competitions. There is also important information discussed and many team functions that take place at the daily team meetings. All need to be present for these meetings. The coach will give the athlete an approved alternative workout (walking, biking, etc.). If an injured athlete does not show for practice, the team and coaching staff will assume the athlete has made the choice to quit the team.