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Preparing For Your First Youth Season

If you are considering a plan to have your child embark on their first season of running, I strongly suggest that you target the fall cross country template. Autumn seasons offer a wonderful opportunity to participate in the sport of Cross Country where children can train and race in parks, trails, hills, and fields. It is also a wonderful time of year for weather. Cross country is an amazing place to start youth runners with preset distances that are offered as part of several national organizations, such as USATF and AAU.

Here are a few important points to help guide your planning:

Fall cross country season typically kicks off during the first few weeks of September, depending on your regional schedule. A preparation phase should always be implemented to ensure that your child is ready and able to follow an in-season training program designed for success. Most cross country runners begin their pre-season preparation by starting a slow and gradual volume (total weekly mileage) build up in early July through early September. A simple way to understand the preparation phase is to start and increase runs from low mileage beginning the Monday after Independence Day till the Sunday before Labor Day (8 weeks). Youth athletes should start easy and increment no more than 3-5 total miles per week. Here is a sample beginner program for summer prep which will ensure a successful first season.

Beginning Runner Preparation Phase

8 Weeks BEFORE Season Begins

Note: Athletes who are able to complete this preparation phase will be prepared to follow the 15 Week WRU Junior Training Program for the specificity phase (in-season plan) under our Youth Section. See full plan, here

Once you have started the training, you can become an unattached member of USATF/AAU. This will enable you to enter meets. Here are the membership links for both organizations:

Once you become a member of the national organization, you will receive emails about upcoming competitions in your area. You can search for youth events for your child by date or location.

If your child will compete as an unattached athlete (not part of a competitive team), you will be able to create free accounts and find competitions in your area. Registration is open to all athletes who are members of USATF and/or AAU.

Most USATF youth events can be found on, here:

Most AAU youth events can be found on, here:

Now that you have a little more information about what your child’s first fall season can look like, I encourage you to consider implementing our Preparation Phase plan using our 15 Week WRU Junior Training Program to ensure that your child can find tremendous success during their first fall cross country season. This will also prepare your child for the more rigorous Indoor Winter and Outdoor Spring Track and Field seasons and beyond. The 15 Week program can also effectively prepare your child for their first calendar of road races and adventure events in running.

You can check out my video about getting your child started by clicking here.

Also ,check out Coach Rick’s article on youth running here.

As always, if you have any questions about proper training for beginner or elite youth athletes, let us know in the Ask The Coaches section under the Coaching tab.

Happy Training,

Coach Sean

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