Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Q.  What days of the week do the kids practice and what time do they practice?

A.  Cross Country season lasts from late August to the beginning of November.  The team practices on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  Practices are from 3:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m., except Wednesdays which are a minimum day.  On Wednesdays, practice will be from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Students have four days a week to choose from and this allows time to fit in other after-school activities on the days you don’t attend practice.  You pick which days of the week to attend practice, from as many as four days a week to perhaps just one day.  The coaching recommendation is to attend practice two days a week.  There are no practices Fridays and school holidays.  Parents and students will be notified of any changes to this schedule.


Note:  When you sign up for a team sport there is an expectation that you will attend practice on a regular basis since that is when learning and development take place.  At a minimum, attending practice once a week is required.  This means you must plan accordingly so your other activities and homework allow you to meet this requirement. 


Q.  What time after practice should I pick up my child?

A.  It is up to each parent and child to determine their arrangements for being picked up after practice, or of course walking home.  Unless it is a early release day, practices will end at 4:45.  There will always be a coach present until the last child has left the track to either be picked up or walk home.  If a child needs to contact their parents at the end of practice, there will be a coach with a cell phone that they can use.

Q.  Are there practices on the days there is a cross country meet?

A.  Every child is expected to run in three regular season meets and the league championship, this helps support the team.  

If you are not running in a meet, there will be practice that day, so show up as usual.  If there are any changes to this schedule, you will be notified in advance.


Q.  What are practices like, how far will the kids be running in practices?

A.  Practices follow a script, to ensure the goals for each practice are met.  After checking in with the coaches, the kids do two easy warm-up laps around the track, about ½ mile.  Then we do about 5 minutes of a group stretch, and that is followed by a brief team huddle where the coaches provide any pertinent announcements.  Next, is the workout for that particular day, sometimes we divide the kids into different groups and have them rotate through a series of “stations.”  At one station, they may run up and down hills for 10 minutes.  At another station, they may go for a run around the neighborhood lasting 15 to 20 minutes, and a third station may be different form drills.  So the total time spent in these stations is 40-50 minutes, plus time for water breaks.  
Usually the total distance covered in practice is about 2 to 3 miles, but this is broken up into segments, i.e., the warm-up, the workout, a cool down, etc.  Also, there are breaks for water or using the restroom.  If a child feels the need to walk during a workout that is okay, we just ask that they run as much as they can during the workout.  Finally, incorporated into practice will be active games, that may involve some running but that the kids find fun.  This may be such activities as soccer, frisbee, scavenger hunts, dodge ball, kick ball, etc.  

Q.  Where will the kids run during practice?

A.  We always meet first at the Piedmont High track, Witter Field.  For our “long” runs we may run to Hampton Field, stopping at Crocker Park both on the way out and the way back.  We will also run to Dracena Park and Coaches Field.   We will have one run to Fenton’s for our team party.

Parents will be notified in advance when we go to  Fenton’s.  On all the neighborhood runs, several coaches will accompany the kids and supervise them. 


Q.  What type of clothing should my child wear to practice?

A.  The attire is similar to what they should wear in their PE class.  Running shoes and socks, shorts, and a t-shirt.  For their own comfort, no blue jeans please.  The kids are expected to report to practice in attire suitable for running.  So after the last bell, they will have to change out of their school clothes, into their running attire.  Their clothing should be loose fitting to allow for freedom of movement.  Every child should bring a bottle of water to practice. Also, we strongly recommend that your child apply sun screen (we will provide it) and bring a hat to wear.  Note: No flip-flops, bare foot running is not allowed; your child will be excused from practice if they don't have the correct type of shoe to run in. 


Q.  Is there a place for my child to change into their running attire prior to practice?

A.  Kids can pack their running attire in their backpacks and change right after school.  There are restrooms located at Witter Field where they can change into their running clothes.


Q.  Will snacks be provided the kids at practice?

A.  The team plans on providing “healthy” snacks as much as possible.  This will usually be sports bars, fruit strips, energy gels, etc. but may also include popsicles.  New this year, Whole Foods - Oakland is donating fresh fruit to the team.  We hope to serve fresh fruit at one practice per week.  If your child has any food allergies, please let us know.  If a parent would like to chip in and provide a healthy snack after one of the practices, that is always welcome. Just e-mail Coach Len and let him know.


Q.  What if my child does not feel well or has an injury?

A.  They should not attend practice if they are too ill or injured to run.  In some cases, this will be a judgment call on the part of the parent, but generally speaking it is best to err on the side of not having them practice in this type situation.  If your child will miss several practices in a row due to illness/injury, let us know.  So please do not send your child to practice if they can’t run due to an injury or are sick, they just become a distraction for the other kids.


Q.  How far do the kids run in the meets?

A.  The 6th graders run approximately one mile, the 7th and 8th graders 1¼ mile.  Please note that the distances are not exact and that the courses are usually run on a dirt path, grassy field, an asphalt road, or some combination of the above.  Most courses will have hills of modest difficulty.
Q.  What type of clothing should my child wear to the meets?

A.  Each child will receive a cross country t-shirt as a memento of the season and they get to keep it.  They can wear it to practices and if they prefer, in meets also.  In addition, every child will receive a "singlet" to wear in the meets, however it has to be returned at the end of the season, as we re-use them from one season to the next.  

Also of course, they should wear running shoes and socks, and shorts.  They may want to wear “sweats” over this clothing while warming up and after they have run.  Its always best to dress in layers, you can always remove clothing if you get too warm, but can't put on what you don't have with you. 


Q.  What type of shoes should my child wear?

A.  Regular running shoes are okay, they do not need to be “trail shoes” since the terrain we run on varies.  If you take your child to a specialty running store to be fitted such as Transports, La Foot, etc. that should be fine.  Make sure the sales clerk watches your child run in the shoes.  Also, shoes need to be replaced about every 6 months, the shoes they wore last year will be too worn to be used this year.

Q.  My child is not into competition but likes to run, can they still be on the team?

A.  The word compete comes from Latin derivation and roughly translates as "strive together."  By competing it makes all of us better and we feel this helps kids understand that it's more about taking part and being with other runners, all striving for the finish line.  Running in meets is part of the cross country experience and helps give meaning to all the time spent training.  Every team member is expected to run in at least three meets.  The coaching staff emphasizes "trying your best" both in practice and the meets.  If they just like to run and not compete, there is both the Winter and Summer Conditioning Programs that a child can take part in. 


Q.  How does the team scoring work in a meet?

A.  In cross country, low score wins and you need at least  five runners of each gender to score as a team.  A perfect score is finishing in the first five places, 1st through 5th place.  The other runners on the team, besides the top five are important because they offset the placing of the other school’s runners.  In my experience, the runners who finish in 4th and 5th places for a team are the most critical from a scoring standpoint.  So that is why we ask that as many kids as possible run in our races, you just never know who might tip the balance in your favor.  Also, the 6th grade boys and girls respectively are scored separately, while the 7th and 8th grade boys and girls respectively are combined for scoring purposes.  Note, regular season meets are not scored, just the league championship meets.  However in every meet, results showing the time and placing for each child are usually provided by the school hosting the meet.

Q.  In some middle school sports there is a "starting line-up" and the rest of the kids are on the bench and get into the game as substitutes for the starters.  Is cross country also like that?

A.  No, cross country at the middle school level is unique in that respect and everyone who shows up for the meets is in the starting line-up and gets equal playing time.  There is no bench in cross country, all runners toe the starting line together.  However, at the end of the season, depending on what the league coaches have agreed to, schools may be limited to how many runners can be entered in the championship meet/race.  A "B" meet/race will be held for runners not entered in the championship meet/race.  Selections for the championship meet/race will be based on performance and the collective judgment of the coaches      

Q.  How do kids get to the meets?

A.  Parents are the key to supporting the team and encouraging each child.  We rely on parent volunteers to drive team members to the meets.  We understand not every parent will be in position to drive to the meets during the season.  However you can still help out by providing a healthy snack for the meets.  Once the season starts and we know the meet schedule, you will be contacted regarding which meets you can drive to or provide snacks.  Please note, the plan is that for several meets this season, a bus will be rented by the Rec Dept. to drive the kids to the meet.  We will still need a few drivers in case there is an overflow that the bus can't handle.

Q.  For the parents providing the snacks, what kind of snacks, for how many kids and how do we deliver the snacks?

A.  The snack should be enough for 8-10 kids.  No nuts please.  Of course we want a healthy snack, and over the years it has been things like fresh fruit, fruit rolls, rice crispy bars, energy bars, etc.  If you are a snack provider, please work with the team parent(s) for getting the snack to the meet.  

This can include dropping it off at the place where the kids meet the drivers (Piedmont Community Hall) or getting it to one of the parent drivers the day of the meet.

The kids eat the snack after they run.  Obviously if a child needs an energy boost before they run, we would give them the snack before hand, but usually the kids get it afterwards when the digestion may be a bit easier.


Q.  Where do the kids meet the drivers for the meet?

A.  Immediately after the last bell, the kids are to walk up Magnolia Ave., to the Piedmont Community Hall, 711 Highland Avenue.  It is the building that is part of Piedmont Park.  The parent drivers are to park in the diagonal parking area in front of the Hall and should be there by 3:05 p.m.  A representative from the Rec Department will check off the kids as they arrive and help put the kids into the cars.  Our objective is to leave for the meets by 3:20 p.m.


Q.  How do the kids get home from meets?

A.  The parents who drive to the meets will also bring the kids back to Piedmont unless the parent of a child comes to watch the meet and pick up their child.  We ask that the carpool parents who drive any child back to Piedmont drop them at the child's home.  If you meet your child at the meet and then take them home, please let the parent who drove your child to the meet know.  This is very important, otherwise it may cause the driver to wait around needlessly not knowing what happened to the children they drove to the meet.  


Q.  How long are the meets and what time should I be there to pick up my child?

A.  The meets start at 4:15 p.m. and the 6th graders run first.  The 7th and 8th graders run next, usually separate races for the boys and girls.  The meets are over by 5:30 to 5:45 p.m., so if you are picking your child up, you need to be there before 5:30 p.m.  Earlier if your child is a 6th grader. 
Please note, to the extent possible we encourage team members and parents to get the "whole meet experience."  If you can stay and watch some of the other races, that helps support the team too.  On meet days, the kids usually will be home no later than about 6:00 p.m.  

Q.  When are the meets and where are they?

A.  A schedule is issued at the beginning of the season, around Week 2 or 3.  Each school is responsible for selecting the sites of the meets.  Very rarely do they take place at the school hosting a meet, but are often at a nearby park.  Directions for each meet will be provided.


Q.  Are the kids on the team excused from running the mile in PE class?

A.  I understand that the mile is part of the P.E. program at school and I am supportive of it.  If the mile run occurs during the day of one of our regular practices, the child will just get a little extra mileage that day.  The PMS PE teachers understand the need for cross country team members to do a "light" running of the mile on a meet day - not walk - but take it easy and use the mile that day as a warm-up.  The P.E. teachers will be informed of our meet schedule, so that they know that on those days the kids are probably going to take it little easier in the mile run.


Q.  What if it rains during the days practice or a meet is scheduled?

A.  Practices are held rain or shine.  However, if it is a severe rain storm at the time a practice is scheduled you should assume no practice.  Coaches will be at the track regardless, just in case anyone does show up in such a situation. 
If a meet is scheduled and it rains that day, it is up to the school hosting the meet to let us know.  In the past 5 years, only one or two meets have been cancelled due to rain.  It is possible some meets may take place in the rain, again it depends on the conditions and the race director.  For example, several years ago the 6th Grade Championship meet was held in a heavy rain storm and several parents "assumed" the meet was canceled.  It took place and despite the conditions, the kids ran in it, sometimes you just have to go with the flow.  Unless the Rec Department contacts you that the meet is canceled, assume that it will take place and try to have your child there. 

Q.  My child has other after-school commitments and will not be able to attend every practice, can they still sign up for cross country?

A.  Yes, we can work around their schedule as long as we know about it and what days they will not be at practice.  We may suggest that the child do some running on their own for the days they miss.  Like any sport, practices are critical to the child’s ability to become competent at it.  Running in particular requires consistency and patience.  The adaptations do not take place overnight, but rather over weeks and months, hence the need to attend practices on a “regular” basis.  The expectation is that every child will attend one to two practices a week.


Q.  The demands of middle school homework are much more than in elementary school and my child needs more time than anticipated to study?

A.  I understand that the requirements at PMS may initially be more than expected, however a child needs some fun/active time and that is one of our goals.  As mentioned, the team is somewhat flexible on attendance at practice and if need be its okay for a child to attend most of the practice and leave a little early.  Certainly if there is a big exam or they need to finish a special project, than they may need to miss practice.  I expect this to be the exception rather than the norm and both the child and parent need to plan in advance study time needs.


Q.  Is it okay for my child to do some running on their own?

A.  We understand that some parents enjoy running with their kids on weekends.  We encourage and endorse this type of activity and we have an “extra credit” form when they do run on their own.  We ask that the parent sign off on the form.  Extra “credit” is awarded for this, we recommend that a child run with their parent or other adult and that they not run by themselves.


Q.  How will I be kept informed of news about the team and what is happening?

A.  Every week of the season, an e-mail bulletin will be sent to parents.  That's why we need the e-mail addresses of parents.  The bulletin will summarize what we did the past week, plans for the upcoming week and any other pertinent information.  At the beginning of the season, the bulletins will include some forms that need to be completed and returned.  These help us in managing the team.  If you want your child to receive these bulletins, just provide us their e-mail address also or you can forward it to them. 


Q.  What is the runner reward program?

A.  The purpose of the program is to reward team members for attending practice and participating in meets.  This program is unique to cross country.  Every child on the team has an equal chance to "earn" rewards based on "points" earned.  Extra credit can be earned for those who want to run on the weekend or holidays.  Point benchmarks have been established that with a reasonable effort are very attainable.  Pus bonus points can are awarded for participating in meets and running once on the weekend for extra credit.  As goals are met, the child will be rewarded with various prizes.  Last year's team earned a free Icee from Mulberry's, Jamba Juice gift card, Fenton's gift card, etc.  The runner reward program will be explained to the kids during the first week or two of practice by the coaches and a handout describing the program will be provided.  


Q.  How do I sign up my child for the meets?

A.  Once the season is under way a meet schedule is published.  Every team member is required to run in a minimum of three meets and parents complete a show of interest form indicating which meets their child wants to run in.  Usually there will be from 7 to 9 meets to choose from during the season, so running in three meets should not be a problem.  To avoid over-racing, a child should not compete in more than 6 regular season meets, unless it has been cleared with a coach. Please note if you commit your child to run in a meet, the coaches and other team members are counting on them to be there.  When someone does not show up, it creates a burden on the drivers who are expecting them.  So only cancel if your child is sick, injured or some other unexpected situation arises.

Q.  How is the coaching staff selected?

A.  The #1 criteria is that a coach enjoys working with kids and understands that they have a lot of energy.  Second, they have a background in running and are knowledgeable of training techniques and concepts.  Third, they must be able to work in a team coaching environment, where collaboration and cooperation among coaches is critical.  All of the coaches on the staff are known personally to either myself or Christine Chapon, the 7&8th grade head coach.  Every coach must undergo a background check prior to working with the kids.  Coaches always work in teams during the training sessions and it is understood the safety of the children is paramount to anything we do.  A first aid kit is available at all practices and meets, plus one or more coaches carry a cell phone at all times.  Many of the coaches have current certification in Basic First Aid and CPR.  Also, most of the coaches have certification as a running coach or personal trainer.  Previous experience working with children in some capacity is also an important consideration in selecting coaches.