can e-mail Scott at:
track & cross
Pioneer girls track
U of Michigan
wow!! this guy
you're a parent and wondering when you might get your child involved
in organized, competitive running, I have an answer for you: they
shouldn't start before middle school and allow only 3 out-of-school
competitions per year. My timeline has been distilled after over
25 years of watching, talking with and tracking the 'careers' of
school-age runners, parents and coaches.
cite in getting kids started prior to middle school are health,
discipline, self-esteem, sportsmanship, values of competition and
such. These parents are, or appear to be, full of good intentions.
They're guided, maybe influenced is a better word, by programs developed
for older kids and perhaps by their own experiences. Trouble is,
fun is typically squeezed out of these programs and the kids are
asked to live up to expectations designed for an older, more mature
group. This is where things get murky and I draw the line.
Oh, I know pre-middle
schoolers, age-groupers, are capable of daily runs, tough workouts,
lots of racing and travel. I've seen evidence of that. Some of their
times are adult-fast and record breaking. This isn't about whether
they can but whether they should. Children are natural runners but
organizing their running, telling them how much, how fast and far
turns what's potentially fun, too serious and that isn't natural.
Yes, there are
some age-group kids that adapt and prosper all the way through school.
I know some of these kids as adults. They are exceptions and in
a few cases, desire waned in college but resurfaced years later.
However, for too many age-groupers, there's too much running, attention
and focus which compromises the joy so important in activities for
I know of at
least 3 instances where parents moved to another school district
where they felt their kids would be part of a better team. In two
instances I was asked by the parents what I thought of the potential
move. I didn't tip my hand because I could tell they'd move anyway
and it made me feel mighty uneasy. It's wrong to think of kids as
pawns to be moved around for best effect.
There are too
many examples of parents living through their kids, from age-group
to high school, to list here. One in particular, however, still
makes me angry. An acquaintance had his child do extra workouts
in middle school and through high school embarrassed everybody in
earshot as he ridiculed and ripped his child for perceived poor
racing and likely sucked the joy of running from the kid as her
college years were a bust.
that enter athletes in 3-4 events per track meet run the high risk
of dulling and sometimes stilling desire to continue at the next
level. Kids have it tough enough dealing with the demands of running
without adults adding further stress and pressure. Sixth grade is
early enough to get kids started.
says he enjoys a very casual running pace these days. Quite different from when
he was tearing up the track at Huron High School or Eastern Michigan University.
You can also find his columns in Michigan Runner Magazine. He graduated with a
BA in English from Eastern Michigan. You've probably met Scott before but never
knew it. Scot's voice can be heard at many of Michigan's best road races such
as the Crim, Frankenmuth, the Mackinac Island 8 Mile Run and the Detroit Marathon
as he lends his running expertise and style to the finish line announcing at those
and other races.