I am a high school basketball and football coach. I know very little about cross country, so I am constantly learning. My question:
My 14 yr old son is in the 8th grade. He loves to run and trains very well by himself. he has improved very quickly for an 8th grader running varsity. Maybe too quickly. He will run 5k road races in high 17 min to low 18 min. His cross country events in low to mid 18 min.
We put no pressure on him, but he is kind of dejected that he cannot break 18 min as fast as he wants. I am not really sure what to tell him? I think he is doing great, probably the fastest or close to fastest 8th grader in Alabama.
He dreams of maybe getting a scholarship one day. He has the top grades in his 8th grade class and is in most gifted classes. My question: is it realistic to think with his times what they are now that he could shave enough off by his junior year to achieve that? I know how difficult it is to achieve any college athletic scholarship (I am a former college basketball coach).
What advice or websites can I give to help him? I tell him not to worry about any of this for a few years and just log miles and have fun........but in the back of my mind I am still wondering?
Your son sounds like he's got a good head on his shoulders. All the very good runners are never really satisfied with their times. They are constantly thinking about how they could be faster. This is what I call a "good problem".
Since, you are pretty familiar with how college athletics works, I don't have to go into great detail about getting an athletic scholarship. With running, just like any other sport that you want to excel at, it takes time and consistent effort.
Make sure your son runs track in the spring this year. When he gets into high school, you might want to consider training year round. In the off seasons, just focus on doing distance runs. You don't have to do incredibly tough workouts all the time. The best thing at a young age is consistency.
He is going to get faster naturally by just getting bigger and stronger. If you add a good mileage base on top of this, your son definitely could be fast enough for a running scholarship. Just to give you a ball park number, if your son by his Senior year can run under 16 minutes in the 5k, he will probably get at least a partial scholarship offer.
As far as great websites, you're looking at one right now! Another great one to read is Running Times, or log all your runs at RunningAHEAD.com. If you are looking for a professional coach to guide you through the off season training, so he gets in good shape, but doesn't burn out and hate running, I strongly recommend the services of Thunderdome Running. My good friend, Matt Thull, puts together a specific workout program tailored to your son's needs.
Another thing to look at, just to improve his racing strategy is to watch this YouTube video I created for cross country runners.