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Mick Grant is one of the best youth running coaches in America. He recently wrote an excellent book with John Molvar titled The Youth and Teen Running Encyclopedia. Mick was kind enough to answer some distance running questions from the Runner’s Resource and share some of his insight.
Can you provide some background on your background and experiences with running?
Started running in high school, 1972. Was an ok local road racer. Started coaching in 1976, while I was in high school, as a little league coach. Began coaching youth running in 1994. At one point, coached at least 1 national champion 6 years in a row and had Hershey’s North American Final qualifiers 12 years in a row. Retired from club coaching at the end of 2009. Was youth coach for Russell Brown, who was Hershey’s National Champion at 800m in 1999. My youth team won a 4 x 800m USATF Junior Olympics National Championship 3 years in a row, 2001, 2002, 2003. 4 kids I coached qualified for Footlocker Nationals and Chantelle Dron ran 4:22 for 1500m at age 15, at the Youth World Championships.
What is the most important thing that you have learned during your running career?
You need to have fun and stay healthy. Nothing else matters much if you don’t accomplish both.
You have written an e-book titled The Youth and Teen Running Encyclopedia. Can you give us a preview?
It is a comprehensive guide for youth athletes and their parents and coaches, based on an extremely successful program. Kids can start as beginners or as more advanced athletes and follow a long term development path.
How can a young runner design an effective training program?
Stay active all year in something, gradually build mileage, do 200s year round, starting slow in the fall and progressively speed up to 800m pace in the summer, weekly tempo run, based on effort and HR. Weekly 200s completely depend on the level of the child. Some kids aren’t even advanced enough to do that. It is important to always remember Rule 1, Have Fun and Rule 2, Stay Healthy. Childhood burnout most commonly occurs when these rules are ignores and replaced with intense training designed for quick results. We want kids to advance successfully through youth and high school levels and compete in college and beyond. Running is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
What is the best way for a young runner to keep motivated?
Let them have fun and look forward to running with their friends in a non-threatening environment. Kids understand gradual improvement.
How can parents best help a younger runner?
Support and encourage–not pressure. Obviously, parents should pay attention for signs of trouble. If the child is improving and having fun, parents should mainly support, encourage and cheer the child and the team.
Can you provide some good ideas for a young runner to stay injury-free?
Pay attention, follow our rules; Rule 1, Have Fun, Rule 2, Stay Healthy. Treat small things before they turn into big things. Practice form, don’t over train, don’t over race, stay away from track workouts as much as possible.
Thanks for taking the time to provide us with your knowledge, Mick!