4 great reasons your child should join a track team this spring

We are in the midst of another running boom. Everywhere you go, you see people running all over the place. It seems like everybody has a random number on the back of their car to announce their longest race to the world.

Unlike the first running boom that swept me up (via my dad) in the late 1970s and early 1980s, this one seems to have caught on with an even younger crowd. That has translated into the youngest track and cross country teams I have ever seen.

Track and field and cross country are longtime high school athletics staples, but now teams can be found at the youngest levels of elementary schools in most areas.

Here are four very good reasons why you should allow - or even encourage - your child to start running:

1. By modern sports standards, it’s reasonably priced

You don’t need much more than shoes to get started, and while a top end pair of running shoes can top $100, you won’t need to add more expensive equipment just to give it a try. Sure there can be add-ons – running gear, watches, etc. – but none are vital to the sport. Team fees can also get expensive, but those also come into play in any sport.

2. Everybody can participate

This is especially true with track. With a multitude of events, you can find something that will likely interest your athletes. I have one who loves middle distance and one who likes to hurdle. And while the first one done still wins, at most junior varsity meets and at “all-comers” meets, everybody gets entered into events and they sort the winners out after multiple heats. And unlike in team sports with participation mandates, there isn’t a finite amount of playing time to split between the best players and those working their way up. Everybody gets their opportunity to run.

3. It’s not subjective

Track and cross country (and I’m sure swimming too), are absolute. The clock solves all debates. There is no discussion over who may or may not deserve to play or at what position. You are what the clock says you are. My son’s high school cross country coach doesn’t guarantee varsity spots week to week. Since varsity and JV teams run on the same course each week, if a JV runner finishes with a better time than a varsity runner one week, they switch places the next time out.

4. Even if you never threaten to win a single race, running can provide a “victory” every time you go out

I firmly believe in keeping score at all ages and at all levels, so this isn’t about everybody getting a ribbon. The same clock that is an unyielding measure of ability at the front of the pack can also make the boys and girls farther back in the field feel great about their day. Every time your athlete runs, they are not only running that race, but a race against their last training run or last meet. Every time your athlete takes to the track or course they get to measure themselves against their past. Every second (or minute in longer events) they shave off their time gives them immediate feedback that the work they put in during training is paying off, even if that payoff doesn’t include a trophy. And hard work leading to better results will always be one of the greatest lessons sports can teach.

What are other reasons kids should participate in track and field or cross country? Share your voice with us in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.

RELATED: How to choose the right running shoes for your child

Mark Buerger Follow

I've worked in sports media for more than 20 years, including everything from the Unive... View Full Bio

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