For those that do not know, I am an inner-city school teacher/coach, and for the most part have been successful in both endeavors. At least successful in the modern sense of the word meaning the majority of my students pass the standardized test at the end of the year, and my soccer team is routinely playing for our conference championship, the highest level a middle school team can achieve. This school year I had the opportunity to start a new sports program at my school for cross country. I ran in high school and still occasionally do races, but I had never coached a running program before. Not having a lot to go on and not a whole lot of information from the athletic director and underlings in my school district we started off very slowly. I knew high schools ran 3.1 miles, but did not know how far middle schoolers had to run. I did not even know where to find information on what schools were hosting meets. After trying to get information from people in my own district I finally branched out to other districts in the area and the very next day got everything that I needed to know. Pardon the pun but we were finally up and running.
My team has done very well for being a first year program despite the fact that I could only talk seven guys into going out, and no girls. There were a few girls interested, but they wanted to do two school sports at the same time. I said that they needed to pick a sport and when I described what cross country is they decided they would rather do volleyball. Our first meet was canceled because it was too hot though our football team played that night. I guess running in a tank top and shorts is more dangerous than playing football in a helmet and pads when it comes to temperature. (I am still trying to figure that one out.) Our next two meets we won, which I was a little shocked not knowing exactly how good the middle school teams were going to be. Finally we got to our biggest meet of the year, 19 total teams, and we finished second by less than 15 points. I wish we would have won but was still happy with how the meet unfolded until I looked closely at the team that beat us. The school that beat us does not exist. What happened was their district took ALL of their middle schools and combined them to make one team. After doing a little investigative work I discovered school districts can combine their teams but when they run they need to have two teams that represent the schools they come from. For example let say the town of A makes one team from their schools B and C. The B kids would be the town of A’s Red Team and the kids from C would make the town of A’s Blue Team. Ok that sounds fair except the very next meet we went against the combined schools second team and beat them by 40 points. So, either one side of that town has all the good runners or that school has made a varsity team and junior varsity team out of the two schools.
That would be ok if only one school district was doing it, but we have come across three schools that are and have overheard other schools saying they need to do the same thing so they can compete. Now being from an inner city school with limited funding and limited opportunities for my guys to run in races outside of school (running clubs, 5k races, etc…) we are already behind the eight-ball. If this trend continues how are we supposed to compete with these new “super teams?” My guys have taken it as a personal challenge to beat the “super team” and have competed and trained really well. Right now we have beaten 43 different schools and only lost to two schools, one super team and one traditional one. Tomorrow we get a shot at both of them and hope to redeem our losses. Hopefully we and the other traditional school can show these combined teams it is more about the talent and work you put in than combining schools so you can be competitive.