NTF Orientation Session - recorded 8/18/21

The NTF Youth Cross Country is open to boys and girls from 8 to 18 years old interested in distance running. It can be a great way to stay active and fit over the fall season regardless your athletic specialization. The program is all-inclusive and welcomes both beginners and experienced athletes. On weekdays we will meet in Tudek Memorial Park; on Sunday afternoons, we go to explore some running routes in other parks and locations around town. There are a number of youth cross country meets that our club participates in. As the season goes, we will build several age-group teams for traveling to the Regional and National Youth Cross Country Championships in November. 

Below are some frequently asked questions and answers that may help you in your decision to sign up for the program.

Q: Would this program be suitable for my children who play sports, but have no experience in distance running?

A: Yes, it would. No prior experience is required to join the team. The kids get that experience step by step as they go through the program, and in the end they really start thinking of themselves as runners. Besides running, this program includes a lot of core fitness and agility training as well as many fun activities.

Q: What activities does a typical practice include?

A: We normally start with ~5 min easy jog for a warmup, some dynamic stretches and agility drills. After that, we either go on a group run or do a workout. In the end, we play running games, do some core exercises, and finish with another set of stretches. The length of runs and intensity of workouts progress gradually through the season.

Q: How long are the runs? Will my child be able to endure them?

A: Coaches gauge the ability of athletes attending and form several groups. The beginner group may use a mix of walking and running and go for 10-15 min at first, gradually increasing the volume as season goes. More advanced group may run for 25-30 min. We include walking breaks and let the kids build their endurance and confidence step by step - nobody has to go over limits. Our regular group runs are done on trail loops within the Tudek Park. We have coaches running in the front and in the back of the pack to make sure no one is left behind.

Q: How big is the group and what ages do usually participate?

A: Usually, the fall program gathers 70-80 kids (approximately equal boys and girls) of various ages, with majority being 4-8 graders. At practice we warm-up together and may split into smaller groups for runs or workouts.

Q: How many days per week do you have practice?

A: During cross country season we typically  hold practice 5 times a week - Monday through Thursday at Tudek and on Sunday afternoons, when we run in local parks around State College. Different coaches may be in charge of practice on different days.

Q: Is attendance on all days mandatory?

A: No. It is quite common that the kids are involved in many different activities in the fall, so feel flexible and choose the days that fit best into your schedule. 

Q: How many days is preferable to be at practice?

A: It depends on your goals. If you want to see progress in endurance, fitness, get faster, or if you have competitive goals, at least 3 practices per week are recommended. Athletes who choose to be on the travel squads for Championship meets should try to commit for 3 practices per week. If you are not there yet -  just want to try it, hang out, and do it just for fun  -  even 1-2 days would be fine.

Q: Can we try it out before deciding to join? 

A: Yes - everyone is allowed to join the practice and check it out during the try-out period (before September 1st). Please fill out the waiver form, but you can hold the fee payment until you are sure that your kids want to stay in the program.

Q: Can parents participate?

A: Yes - parents are welcome to stay for practice (especially if they accompany young kids who are trying it). It would be a good to ask your kids if they like that idea though :) If you plan coming regularly and can help coaching, please inform Coach Mark who coordinates volunteer schedule. 

Q: Is there a deadline for registration? Is it possible to sign up later in the season after the soccer season is over?

A: There is no deadline usually, but if we reach the capacity limits, registration may be closed. So even if you plan joining practice later in the season, we still encourage you to register early. Registering by September 1st also guarantees a T-shirt.

Q: Are there any cross country meets and how do we sign up for those? 

A: There are a few local all-comers meets, which are run in September-October. Those are free and open to athletes of all levels and ages. Then there are travel Championship meets in November. For those, registration should be done in advance through the Club. Information on meets and races will be sent by e-mail to all team members and posted on the NTF website. NTF pays the meet registration fees for all club athletes.

Q: What distances do athletes run at the meets?

A: The athletes in the youngest group (8 and under) run 2k (1.25 mile), 9-10 and 11-12 groups run 3k (1.75 mile), 13-14 athletes run 4 k (2.5 mile), and older athletes run 5k (3.1 mile), the same as high school.

Q: Is participation in meets mandatory?

A: Not at all. Although we always encourage our athletes to try competition, there is no pressure aboutit, especially if this is the first year of them participating in cross country. It is up to parents and athletes themselves to decide when they are ready to race. Every year, there are quite a few competitive kids on the team who train for racing goals and represent NTF at the Regional and National meets. 

Q: What is required for joining the Club's travel teams for the Championships?

A: Each team will include 5 to 8 runners from the same age/gender category. Anyone who is ready to commit to training and travel to the meet can join - it does not depend on your running times or ability. Every runner is valuable. Quite a few first-timers participated in such teams in previous years and got a great experience!

Q: What should athletes wear or bring to practice?

A: Well-fitting running shoes, water bottle, warm-up clothes (pants and hoodie for cool weather). Please do not bring other sport equipment (like footballs, etc.)

Q: Does practice get canceled because of rain (or snow)? 

A: Light rain is usually not a problem. As cross country runners, we dress accordingly and run through it. In case of strong, cold or freezing rain, or thunder, the practice may be cancelled. Then, a notification will be sent to all participants via e-mail before 5 pm. 

Q: What safety measures are implemented at practice to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic? 

A: Our Covid-19 safety plan lists a few measures, such as limited group capacity, physical distancing, symptom screening, and using face clothing when appropriate. As CDC regulations and local ordinances are adjusted through the year, some of those measures may be relaxed. For more specific answer, check our Safety Plan prior to the start of the season.

With more questions: e-mail to ntfxc.club@gmail.com                                                                                                                            REGISTRATION opens in August