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Cross Country at Southwest

ZHAO’S PHILOSOPHY

Winning is not the most important goal. It will always be a by-product of the foundation built by combining the individual/personal growth of each athlete with the development of team unity. Each individual must learn to balance building strength with strengthening weaknesses. All team members must work on building relationships and bonds with others—everyone from faster to slower, older to younger, male to female.

Maturity shows in the way students eat, sleep, study, and make friends. The basic building blocks of academic, social, and emotional growth must be in place before young runners are ready to race hard and fast. Racing for fun should come before racing for time. High school running programs should provide the foundation for lifetime goals of fitness, love of running, and a balanced lifestyle.

While these issues are important for all runners, they are especially important for girls and women. Sleep, eating habits, and body image are significant obstacles for women in our culture today. Putting girls and women on the same time line as boys, and asking them to race hard while they are adapting to a new body, is not the best thing for them. It takes between two and four years for this adjustment to occur. Raising expectations when girls are not ready feeds the egos of those who coach, but exacts a terrible price on the female athletes. The high school running program for girls and women should emphasize long-term goals and prepare young women to race well in college and beyond.