Welcome back to another one of my blog posts! I hope everyone has been enjoying the onslaught of tempo runs, speed work, and many miles that come with every XC season, and that it's paying off on the course! This looks to be a very competitive year for Maine XC, and as the championship season getting closer every day, you may be feeling amped up to get out there and throw down with some good competition on a fast course.
You may have some individual goals in mind but a good amount of you may also have some team goals. Maybe you're trying to get your team to states for the first time in a while, or you're trying to win your regional or conference championship. Then there's the teams who are looking to qualify for New Englands or even win states.
Cross country is a unique sport, in that you can have individual success as well as team success. To succeed as an individual you really just need to put in the work in order to be the best that you can be, but having a good team isn't as simple. The strategy seems obvious, just make everybody put in all the miles and then you'll all be good and thus have a good team, easy peasy lemon squeezy. But it's really more like difficult difficult lemon difficult.
Not everyone has that drive to succeed naturally, and if they're not in the right environment, that isn't going to change. That's when it becomes very important for everyone to have team spirit, and as mentioned in my last blog, a positive attitude.
I find running with 7 or 8 of my team members much more enjoyable than running alone, and when you're all there to push each other and carry on a conversation the miles just fly by. Perhaps you don't have the luxury of having that many runners that can train at the same pace, but there are many other ways to motivate each other. Compliment your teammates in workouts and after races to make them feel like what they're doing is appreciated. Hold team dinners and play fun games to bond with your teammates. It's a whole different experience when you're racing not just for yourself but for your team as well, which is a great motivator.
If you're super close to your teammates you want to avoid letting them down at all costs, which will push you to run harder and enhance your own individual performance. I'll take this opportunity to speak about my team to cite a specific example. I'll admit that last season there was a serious lack of enthusiasm. Not many people on our boys team were super passionate about succeeding as a team and as a result we saw a lack of improvement over the course of the season, injuries in a few of our varsity runners, and to top it all off, a last place finish at states.
But then something clicked in our minds. We realized the potential we have as a team and thanks to some great senior leadership(shoutout to Cam Ashby specifically) and a complete attitude change we've all been able to put in some quality work and improve greatly from last year. We have fun together in practice every day but still stay focused and do what needs to be done. There's a certain camaraderie among us that I think allows us to grow as a team and improve as a whole, as well as individually.
I truly believe we can rise from the ashes of our last place finish and contend for a state title this year. It just goes to show what can happen if you focus, have a positive attitude, and work together to excel.