Middle School (5-8)

In middle school it's time to begin transitioning from play to training and to gradually introduce competition. Learn more here.

Coaching Guidelines

In middle school it's time to begin transitioning from play to training and to gradually introduce competition. Always keep practices fun, but be aware that runners at this age are eager to be treated like adults, work hard, and be recognized for it. They enjoy practicing skills and seeing their improvement. You should explain, broadly, the reasons behind the exercises they do at practice and begin teaching the mental and physical skills required for competition.

The video segments include the primary benefits and key elements of execution for each activity so you understand its purpose and how to do it properly. This information should inform your coaching and can be shared with your runners. Just make sure to focus on only one or two of the most attainable points at a time so you don't overload them. And finally, include runners of all abilities to encourage kids to be active for life, whether competitively or for recreation.

Running Sessions

In middle school you should spend the most time building skills. With their bodies changing rapidly during puberty, adolescents need lots of practice with basics, such as strength, coordination, and pacing. However, they are also capable of refining specific aspects of running technique as well, such as elements of knee lift and foot strike. Activities should focus on developing these skills while keeping things fun. Competition and performance training should take up no more than approximately 30-40&percent; of your team's time. Competition can be a motivator that keeps kids excited. Performance-related training, where athletes must pull all their skills together into workouts that stimulate the physiological demands of competition, will improve runners' abilities. However, focusing too heavily on competition and performance means there is less time for skill development. Remember that middle school is a critical time for skill development, essential for success in running, and all sports.

Keep It Fun

Make sure that fun is still the primary focus of your practices, as overly emphasizing competition at this age can lead to burnout. Kids and parents may be intent on winning, but try to shift their attention to individual improvement and enjoyment. Finding the right balance between the serious and fun factor keeps middle schoolers interested in running. And running is the best way to get better at running.

The Impact of Puberty

Middle school can be a confusing time when kids of the same age are at different places emotionally, socially, and developmentally. Late developers can be substantially smaller and weaker than those who have already gone through puberty. Research shows that late developers tend to drop out of sports at disproportionally high rates. On the other hand, late developers tend to be the better athletes when they get older if they stay with it. It is important to be aware of how these differences can discourage both early and late bloomers. Make sure to always do the following:

  • Acknowledge these challenges.
  • Help students feel comfortable and confident.
  • Give students encouragement.
  • Provide many opportunities for kids to see their progress as compared to themselves and others who have developed similarly.

Stretches & Strength Videos

See all Stretches & Strength Videos (23)

Form 101: Introduction

Form 101 is a five segment series that explains the fundamentals of good running form. This segment covers the importance of teaching good form and six guidelines for approaching form training.

Tags: middle school, form

Time Trials

A pacing exercise that establishes a baseline for each runner's fitness level and pacing skill, and provides an opportunity to practice pacing and monitor progress

Tags: middle school, pacing

Running Rewards

A pacing exercise and fun team competition that trains runners to identify the effort it takes to run at their goal race pace and teaches them how to monitor their speed

Tags: middle school, pacing