Cross-country coaching -- like all sports coaching -- is an occupation that is closely related to teaching, exercise physiology and physical education. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education has identified eight basic competencies needed by all coaches. They include injury prevention, care and management; child growth, development and learning; training, conditioning and nutrition; social psychology; skills, tactics and strategies; teaching and administration; and professional preparation and development. To acquire these competencies, a high school student hoping to advance to a coaching career should focus on courses in education, psychology, science, health and physical education.
Education and Psychology
Many of the high school classes needed to start on the way down the path toward coaching cross-country track are similar to those needed for degrees in teaching or counseling. These include basic education courses in teaching theory and curriculum design. Mathematics and statistics courses are applicable for mastering evaluation methods used to determine the most effective coaching methods. Since coaching involves interaction with young people from various backgrounds at different stages of emotional development, psychology, human development and counseling courses are essential.
Since cross-country running is among the most physically demanding of any sport, it is important for aspiring cross-country coaches to understand how the human body behaves under extreme physical duress. While some high schools offer more specialized science courses than others, topics relevant to coaching cross-country are covered in most high school biology, chemistry and physics courses. Detailed information about the human body is typically provided under the subtopic of physiology. Because cross-country running is so stressful on an athlete’s legs, feet and back, the subtopics of kinesiology, the study of human movement; anthropometry the study of physical variations in humans; and kinanthropometry, the study of human body measurement, are also useful.
High school health courses are closely related to and are often “cross-listed” with physical education, science, and family and consumer science courses. Most health curricula include study areas that are important to coaching cross-country and include mental health, personal health, safety and accident prevention, emergency cardiovascular care and first aid, interpersonal relationships, chemical usage, nutrition, healthy decision-making skills, human behavior, human sexuality, reproduction and gender differences.
Cross-country running is both a team and an individual sport. It is also a competitive and lifetime leisure sport. Physical education courses in track and field sports, individual and dual sports, lifetime sports, and team sports are important. These courses will provide the background necessary to work in all aspects of cross-country coaching, including team cross-country, personal fitness through cross-country running, and cross-country running beyond the collegiate and scholastic levels of competition. Other physical education courses that an aspiring cross-country coach could benefit from include athletic guidance and training, fitness, weight/strength training and conditioning, yoga and stretching.