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Women's Running Coaches Collective

Newsletter #14

Coming up in the January 31 Newsletter, the WRCC is proud to announce an interview with Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic Gold Medalist in the first Women's Marathon in 1984. Joan will talk about coaches and coaching, and her amazing running experiences over the last 40 plus years!  
The Women's Running Coaches Collective Talks Track and Field
@ the Nike NW HS Track and Field Clinic
Nike World Headquarters
January 12, 2019
L to R - Moderator Helene Hutchinson, Coaches Christi Smith-Ryan, Kathy Mills Parker, Christina Whitney, Nikki Rafie, Charlotte Lettis Richardson, Robyn McGillis, Melissa Hill (taking the photo!)
The WOMEN'S RUNNING COACHES COLLECTIVE proudly presented "Women Coaches Talk Track and Field" - a panel of women coaches at the Nike NW HS Track and Field Clinic held at the Nike World Headquarters on January 12th, 2019. This incredible panel of women coaches came from all areas of track and field, and running. They included a former World Record holder, a NCAA Hepthalon Champion, one of the foremost hurdle coaches in the state of Oregon, a coaching veteran of 45 years, a marathon coaching specialist, a young and successful HS XC Coach, and a creator of Runner2Runner. Each shared their experiences, knowledge, and wisdom of being a female coach in a sport that is dominated by male coaches. They shared information about coaching and mentoring young athletes. Below are some of the answers given during the panel discussion at the Nike NW HS Track and Field Clinic. We will continue to share these words of wisdom over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!
Coach Christi Smith-Ryan
On being a former national champion in the heptathlon and how that has helped with coaching - 

"A little background on my story. I was just a long jumper and sprinter in high school, and my coach recognized my athletic ability. So I literally learned 5 additional events in the heptathlon.You learn very quickly that it's really not the work you do. It's about training smarter, not harder, getting control of your emotions when you are out there, and at the end of the day have the confidence in what you do. So my experiences really helped shape how I express, explain to my coaches, parents, my team how to build confidence. They have to self perceive they can do it. I think nothing can happen without a vision and instilling confidence. There are a lot of things we do to instill confidence because if kids don’t perceive they can do it, they won’t." 
- Christi Smith-Ryan, Head Track and Field Coach, Central Catholic High School, Portland, Oregon, Former NCAA Champion in the Heptathlon  
Coach Kathy Mills Parker
On being a successful HS and College runner, how has that helped you in coaching young athletes -

"Just being familiar with the type of competitions they are encountering. Honestly, a competition is a competition. A race is a race. And it doesn’t matter if you are at the top level or the bottom level, it's still the same thing.You have to manage your own energy, your own mind, manage every moment that unfolds, and so I think that has affected the way I coach. Having been there is the probably biggest thing as a coach. Ironically having competed at the highest level I was someone who was very injury prone, I think I had a year and a half of healthy training my entire career. And so that gave me another filter to help with people that are going through struggles. That’s been important in my work as a coach."
Coach Melissa Hill
On what is the "Goldilocks Approach" and how do you know what is "just right" for each athlete - 

"I'm fascinated and a little obsessed on how to best build workouts for each one of my runners. I call this the "Goldilocks Approach". I want to find just the right workout for each athlete because each one of them is unique. So of course we do athlete assessments, we do intake forms when they first arrive as freshman and then each year of high school. We also do pre- and post-race evaluations. I keep these forms for the athletes to read over, and they are hilarious! I've kept them with me for years (and 3 moves) and I still laugh! High schoolers have a great sense of humor!
I found out when I moved from Oregon to Missouri how lifestyles affect our runners. Kids who are more active are not as injury prone as kids who come from more sedentary lifestyles. I realized you had to be on top of this to prevent injury and manage expectations. Runners come from totally different backgrounds and so I had to be hyper focused on what their background was, what they did for fun, and what they did with their parents in their free time. What was their sport background? And I used all that stuff plus other coaching tools to create workouts. And I asked simple things. "Why are you running?", "Why are you out here?" "What motivates you?", "What is your best running experience" and "What is your worst running experience". And that helps me plan their workouts.
I'm all about fun! They still think I'm crazy in Missouri! We did crazy stuff. We turned on the music and did fartleks to music. We built waterslides during heat restricted days, we just had fun and I think that's what kids need. Kids are going to walk away from HS and what is their memory? "I did this workout and I threw up?" (We did do some of that!) I think they are going to walk away and remember they had a good time and we created a team atmosphere. "

- Melissa Hill, Founder of Runner2Runner and Veteran Coach of Youth, High School, Club and Adult Runners

Coach Nikki Rafie
On dealing with an athlete who has had a disappointing performance - 
"Who has not had this problem, right? I always keep the end with that in mind especially coming from the marathon. There are only so many things you can control and there are many things that are outside of your control. So first, I try to set the right expectation of what that success looks like for them. When I give them a goal for their performance, it's not just a time goal or a range of times, but I'll pick something that makes them feel good about what they are learning about themselves, about their execution, and their performance. So there are always positive and negatives coming from it . . . I'm trying to set us up for success! But seriously, right after the race, it is a good time to reflect and unpack: What happened and why are you feeling disappointed? They may have done fine and they are still feeling disappointed. I look for things that are actionable instead of just being hard on themselves and saying, "I’m not good enough or I'm not fit enough or I am never going to get it." "I'm just not that runner or hurdler or that marathoner" or whatever that may be.  We talk about their race plan, did they stay focused or lose their head somewhere along the way? What they did the day before,  did they rest? "Yup, I rested. I just went for a 90-minute hot yoga!" well, that’s not rest! "Did you hydrate", "no". And so now it's not really about them but about some contributing factor that we can do something with. That gets them past that blame game of being disappointed and back to what they are going to do better. Then, I try and follow that in the next couple of weeks with some good confidence building workouts. A time trial, something that reminds them of who they are, how good they are, and what they can do.  I set them up for success for the next one. I am not shy to remind them no more hot yoga, no more 90-min basketball with your brother if you are tapering/resting. Make it fun for them as well as let them know it is about them, they are in control, and they can go out there and fight for it!" 
- Nikki Rafie, Marathon Coaching Specialist, and Winner of the Portland Marathon
Coach Christina Whitney 
On what traits do you look for in an athlete that might make a successful hurdler - 

"This is a multi-level question. There are beginning level hurdlers, and there are really great hurdlers who are going on to be top level hurdlers. So you are going to have, especially in a high school season, the whole range. I’m not one to take a kid and have them come over and try hurdles and say, “Yes this is going to be for you when it really is not going to be for them.” Because you want them to feel successful, you want them to feel good about track and field and find a place they can feel successful. I am really honest with kids and say this may not be your event, but let's find something that will be your event. There has got to be something out here that you can be really good at . . . so let's find it! For hurdlers you need to have some coordination, you need to be able to skip with some rhythm, you need to have some flexibility, you cannot have a kid who cannot lift his leg high enough to get over the hurdle!"
- Christina Whitney, Top Oregon HS Hurdle Coach and Co Owner of the SGU Track Club
Coach Robyn McGillis
On how do you build a cohesive team - 

"The key pieces are empowerment, building leaders, and conflict resolution. So with empowerment and leadership development I really want the girls to own the team and feel that they are building the team. So it starts for me with the team captains.  When we elect those team captains (this goes back to my HR background) I have a job description that I pass out to the entire team of the expectations of being a team captain. I ask the girls if they are interested to submit an application and answer a few questions to why they want to be team captains. I have the team vote and tell me why they are nominating somebody. At the end of the day it is my decision, but I take all of that information into consideration. I don't want it to be a popularity contest. I truly want it to be someone who is up to the challenge of building a team and creating an environment we are looking for at CC. 

For the accountability piece, the thing I have found over the past 3-4 years is called "I Commit". Once the team captains are in place, we meet and look at last year and the "I commit" papers and the list of tenets they want the team to be about. They want to hold each other accountable through the season such as, "We want to confront things with our team members face to face",
"That we are diligent with training", "We do all the right things", "We are on top of our grades". They change from year to year depending on the leadership that is in place but they help come up with that and they present it to the team."
- Robyn McGillis, Director of Track and Field Operations, Head Girls Cross Country Coach, Girls Distance Coach in Track and Field at Central Catholic High School, Portland, Oregon
Coach Charlotte Lettis Richardson
 On being a long time Head Coach and planning your season - 

"Your job as a Head Coach of a Track and Field Team is to look at the big picture. Many of us go into coaching because we love the sport. But being a Head Coach is so much more than just having a passion for Track and Field or Cross Country. You are a manager of people, your Assistant Coaches, and they in turn manage their events and the athletes. 

You have to start early to plan your season. Months in advance you need to make sure you have all the assistant coaches in place. Staff meetings should begin in early fall, and each meeting needs to cover aspects of the season ahead. Job descriptions and expectations for each coach on the staff, goal setting as individual coaches and as a coaching staff need to be completed. A Mission Statement for the season is so very important. Spend time with your coaches in making sure you are all on the same page in terms of values and goals. Equipment inventory, scheduling of meets, and coaching credentials need to be updated. Every aspect of the team, including athletes, needs to be planned for and anticipated. None of this can be done a week before the season begins. You must start early to be successful.

Finally you need to plan the first day and the first week. Every coach must be cleared by your district and ON the track and field the first day of practice. This first day must run like clockwork. Know what will happen every minute of that first practice. This will set the tone for the entire season. Plan early and end successful!y!"
- Charlotte Lettis Richardson, 45-year coaching veteran and former Lincoln HS Head Coach in Portland, Oregon, for 13 years
Thanks to our Great Moderator - Helene Hutchinson
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