I admit it - I'm excited that the Asotin cross country season is nearly here. This will be the first year that I don't have any children of my own on the team but I'll be helping out with the junior high squad again. Coaching the kids keeps me a touch younger and, at the junior high level, most of them run because they enjoy it - they haven't gotten to the stage where each race counts in some standing. They do still care, passionately, about how they do. My job, even part-time, is to help them reach for their limits.
The other job is to keep them injury-free. The Asotin cross country teams have been remarkable blessed to have some fine runners among the fine people and we hate to see one of them hurting. At the junior high level, we work to teach them how to run with as little harm to their joints and tissues, focusing on form and listening to their bodies.
This year, I think I'll introduce them to Emil Zatopek, the great post WWII Czech runner - who had perhaps the worst form ever for a world record holder. Every picture I've seen of Zatopek makes him look as though he's just been kicked by a mule but, oh my, could the man run. At his peak, he held nine separate World Records.
Zatopek was a master of listening.
The message to the Asotin cross country kids is to not freak about form - you have to be true to your body. If you run best flopping an elbow, don't tuck it in. Listen. Your body will let you know when you have it right.
And when you have it right, you'll be faster and you'll be far less likely to be injured.