As our team has been meeting for summer training and the cross country season comes nearer, I am reminded of how important the team aspect of cross country truly is. While it is usually seen as more of an individual sport, the team is often more successful than the individual as our own team has experienced. But what exactly is it that makes a team a team? If you stand at the start line of any cross country meet, you are likely to observe a wide variety of teams. You may see some wearing matching hair ribbons and face paint, others with elaborate chants (or not so elaborate chants) others giving each other some last minute motivation and going over race strategies, and many other unique pre race rituals. I recall at one particular race a team doing a strider towards the start line while making some kind of vocalization, perhaps trying to relieve some pre race stress in doing so. But, regardless of the different rituals or shared experiences a team might have, there is one thing that all successful teams have: a common goal. Whether it’s to shorten the team’s spread, win an important meet or qualify for states, goals are what make a successful team. While a team will improve if its members are driven to reach their own individual goals, having team goals not only encourages improvement, but also creates accountability. At some point, no matter how driven and hardworking you may be, your own goals, will not be enough to push you through a hard workout or race. You’re going to give up that one place in a race or save that extra ounce of effort for another time. But, if you decided with your teammates from the start that you were all going to do your part to accomplish something as a team, it’s much easier to make the decision to give it your all during a race. This is the kind of accountability that holds a team together and makes it more than just a group of friends who run together. So whatever this upcoming season looks like, I challenge everyone to make an effort to encourage your teammates to improve both as individuals and a team.
Training update: I’ve been running five days out of the week slowly increasing mileage throughout the summer.