Cross Country is all about teamwork and team support. The best cross-country teams are reliant and supportive. Here is how to contribute to your own team and give a sense of school spirit. Team Captains, take notes.
Make XC known at your school. I know that I don’t speak for all schools but usually Cross Country is a lesser known sport in high school so it is always appreciated to hang up some XC posters to convince people to join or just to recognize the team. One poster that we always do is a big piece of blue butcher paper with “GIRLS XC”or “GUYS XC” written on it, and then everyone signs their name all over the poster. Tell the main office to mention XC in the announcements when there is a meet or when someone has an exceptional race.
Make everyone feel hyped and included on race day. If you are a captain or senior, try to find out what locker everyone has and make little posters for their locker. Even just a small note of encouragement can melt someone’s pre-race jitters. Another example of one activity we do at my school is “The PR Fairy.” Everyone writes their favorite protein bar and sports drink on a slip of paper with their name and puts it in a hat. Each team member draws a name and buys those items for their person. The next day (race day) everyone puts their bag with the food and person’s name in a box and it is distributed. This action not only builds team bonding but also helps when people don’t pack enough food for race day.
Summer training is perfect for team bonding. Usually the captains run team training
during the summer so it is a perfect opportunity to bring the team closer and do fun activities. Plan a team bonfire after practice, create fun relays, even shuttle the team to the XC course to practice running the course. If you live near a nice hike or lake tell the team to meet you there and go for run, then hang out and eat lunch there!
Finals spirit week. During the week before State or another big meet, make each practice day a spirit day. For example, on Monday everyone can wear crazy socks, or Wednesday everyone wears pink (Anyone get that reference?) Give everyone a color to wear and make it a rainbow day!
Team dinners or breakfast. If your team is small you can host team spaghetti dinners at member’s houses. Designate everyone to bring a dish (salad, garlic bread, cheese, etc.) and the host makes the spaghetti. This is a perfect way to get people to interact who don’t usually talk to each other, and also carb up before race day. On Saturday morning practices ask everyone to pitch in for team doughnuts or muffins; a perfect treat after those early tempos.
PR Recognition. A PR is a big deal, so make sure those people are recognized. Applaud them on the bus ride home, call them out on the announcements, or give them a small prize at the meet. One way of doing this is by creating “Breadwinners.” Every time someone PRs, award them with a piece of bread or box of spaghetti. It’s fun and then you can take a picture of them all eating their bread and put it on the team’s social media.
Team Social Media. Create a team Facebook or Instagram account with pictures of all the runners at meets, team dinners, etc. Recognize the most spirited people, the breadwinners (above), notable races and much more. Just make sure that everyone is featured at least once, and also in a positive light. This isn’t an opportunity to make fun of someone’s running face or bully. This is a fun thing and make sure only captains have the password to the account.
Cheer during races. I know this seems obvious but make sure every person is cheered on at race day. Even if you’re warming up, run by the course and cheer on your team members, making sure to wait for even the people who are a little behind. Hearing encouragement makes all the difference in a race, especially when there is a hill or you’re hitting the wall. Create posters that have cute sayings like “Hill yeah!” or “5k Par-tay!” to make your team stand out and increase spirit.
Cross Country is one of the best sports in my opinion because of the team closeness and activities. Make your season special by adding some spirit ideas to practice, race day, and other team related events. Be creative with it and have fun!