Chris Mosley, Moulton Middle School, Shelbyville Illinois.
Flotrack has a recurring series called “The Program” featuring different schools, coaches, and running groups from all over the country. I always enjoy this series, and my all time favorite is ironically the Florida Gators season. (I was born in Tallahassee and Legendary Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden held me at the hospital.) Over the past 10 years of coaching track in Shelbyville I have thought about “The Program” almost daily. It’s message of communication and cooperation has new meaning for me, and has shaped the success we have had at Shelbyville.
I started out as an volunteer assistant high school boys coach to Kevin Kramer in 2009 and in the spring of 2012 I moved down to take over the middle school team. I had done 3 years as the distance coach while at the high school level, learning about and how to apply the Jack Daniels Running Formula. I had nothing to do with our 2010 3:20 State Runner-Up 4×400 relay team, and even less to do with 2009 All-State High Jumper Austin Smith. I say that to make it clear, while I got pretty good at one specific group, my general knowledge of track was still very low when I took over as head coach of Moulton Middle School.
This is when “The Program” first entered my head. It wasn’t a complete picture, but my thoughts were in order to develop a great middle school team I needed to carry over the concepts and structure of our high school team. Coach Kramer and I sat down after an early season high school practice and talked for almost two hours about how to run a team. He explained sprint training, lineup structure, and field event philosophy.
I think this helped us avoid some of the pitfalls I have seen in my time coaching at both levels. I have talked to a lot of junior high coaches who have no relationship with, or worse a confrontational one with their high school coaches. They don’t care what the high school program is doing, or think they have it all figured out. I’ve also seen plenty of high school coaches who make no effort to connect with their feeder programs. They don’t ask athletes what they ran in junior high, or worse dismiss success by saying “This ain’t junior high!” Would those coaches rather have uncoordinated, slow, and apathetic freshman?
During this meeting we also talked about goals and expectations, both for high school and junior high. We developed a warm-up that applies to both levels, standardized start mechanics and handoffs, and set practice times. Coach Kramer was very clear what he expected of me and I was clear about what help I wanted from him. We both checked our egos at the door and came together to help the kids.
We had a great deal of success my first year. The boys won both the 7th and 8th grade division of the conference championships, and I even had a 4×400 relay team finish 4th at the 2A state track meet! Not bad considering we lost our heat to Cahokia and a Bloomington team with Cary Lockart on the anchor.
The next year Coach K and I worked even closer together. We began to plan workouts together and implemented Tony Holler’s Feed the Cats system at both levels. The results? Both high school and junior high teams qualified one of their largest groups ever. The Program was on the rise.
Fast forward and where are we now? Last spring our 8th grade boys won their first sectional title, and our high school team repeated as sectional champs. Our high school team competes tomorrow at the Charleston Indoor Meet with eleven former junior high state qualifiers going. Every member of our high school team competed in junior high track, and we have 54 boys out for junior high (7th and 8th grade combined school enrollment of 153.)
I meet our junior high athletes at the middle school located next to the high school and send them out to the track. They start their warm up and I meet the high school sprint crew on the track. The high school will begin their workout and with the help of our high school girls Coach Jason Palmer, we record their times or distances depending on what we are doing. My junior high team does nearly the same workouts, but on different days of the week depending on meets. My distance runners will warm-up and then all meet Coach Kramer at the school for him to handout the workouts for the day. This bleed over in workouts is amazingly helpful; as I have junior and senior boys whose progression I can track from 6th and 7th grade.
After that’s all done depending on the day we will do field event work; this is one of my favorite parts of The Program. As they all work together the high schoolers will often have to demonstrate and teach technique to the junior high athletes. This both makes it easier for me as a coach, and also re-enforces ideas to our high school athletes. Our junior hurdler isn’t afraid to teach proper trail leg mechanics to our 6th graders. Our senior state finalist shot putter can demonstrate proper release points to our young shot putters in a way I never could. The high schoolers also love the big brother nature of the relationship (and in some cases they ARE the big brothers).
Communication has been the key throughout all of this. Coach Kramer is one of my best friends and a fantastic mentor. I speak with him daily, and he answers any questions I may have. Conversely I’ve received training in Reflexive Performance Reset and run the weight room for his high school team. It is a give and take relationship, with both of us coming out winners. I attend most high school meets, performing RPR and helping where I can. Coach Kramer is the meet director at all of our junior high home meets.
I encourage you if you’re reading this to work on your inter-coaching communication. This can apply if your a head coach, assistant, or junior high coach. There are programs that have it figured out. I know 2A Tolono Unity is a very close program. I’ve never spoken to the Edwardsville coaching staff, but from the outside that looks like a program doing it right.
I want to take this last bit to thank ITCCCA for allowing me this platform to speak and for bringing coaches together. I have gotten/stolen so many ideas from the ITCCCA blogs I feel I have to pay it forward. It’s easy to feel like you’re on an island as a track coach sometimes, but ITCCCA has allowed us to come together and encourage, teach, and help one another.