Cross Country Update #1

Dear Cross Country Parents,

Thank you for registering one or more of your children for our Fall Cross Country Program! We are excited to begin the week of September 13. There is a lot of info here, but we will do our best to keep such messages to a bare minimum.


  1. Family Portal/Message system
  2. Tentative Calendar
  3. COVID Update/Info
  4. Our Philosophy and Basic Approach
  5. Notes on Competition


This message is being sent through our Family Portal, which is a blog connected to the club website. You have been added as a subscriber to “Cross Country” and “General Club Updates.” This system allows us to store all of our sent updates in one easy place for you to find. To find updates go to, click on Family Portal in the main menu, click on “Join Now” and then enter the password SJTFC21 to enter the site. Once you are there, you can also subscribe to updates from any of our other programs, or unsubscribe after the program ends. 


You can see the tentative schedule by clicking on SJTFC Calendar in the Family Portal (remember the password: SJTFC21) or by subscribing to the google calendar. If you have trouble accessing the google calendar make sure you are logged into a personal google account (this means you may have to log out of a school or work google account and log into your personal account). Please note that the calendar/schedule is subject to change. Also, the competitions that are listed are all tentative at this point, and it is important to note that competitions are always optional, and families must provide their own transportation and fees for most meets (the club will cover entry fees for the Belmont Plateau meets for kids in the Advanced and Morning programs). 

A few people have asked about substituting morning or evening sessions. If you are signed up for the morning program, you may substitute some evenings as necessary — please just let us know in advance so we always know how many kids to expect. The Sunday sessions are for everyone. They will focus more on fun, games, agility, strength and technique, and older/experienced members will be encouraged to mentor the younger ones. 


Unfortunately, it is not looking to be the carefree Autumn we were all expecting. As a club, safety and health is our #1 priority, and we will follow any recommendations from the County or State regarding outdoor gatherings. At this time, we believe it is relatively safe for kids to participate in outdoor activities with common sense social distancing. It is always one of our basic rules that we do not tolerate rough play, and we expect kids to keep their hands to themselves at all times. During a pandemic, this rule takes on new meaning. PLEASE speak with your children about this rule, and help us to help them understand that we must respect personal space at all times. We will often break up into smaller groups to help us with our distancing. Here is the current list of guidelines, but note that they may change before we begin the program:

  • Conduct a COVID self-assessment each day before coming to a practice session or meet (per Camden County DOH recommendations. You do not need to do anything on line or bring anything to practice, but you can print out a helpful guide here.
  • Do not come to a session or competition if you or an immediate family member are sick.
  • No mask required at this point, BUT all participants are free to wear a mask at any point during any session or competition. 
  • Maintain social distance, and respect the distance that others choose for themselves.
  • Have a family plan regarding what you determine to be safe protocols, and stick to it.


As a youth athletic club we follow the recommendations that have been set forth by the American Development Model. The AMD is a guide for how to approach athletic training for kids, in ways that help them develop a strong foundation for lifelong health and well-being, while also helping them reach their true athletic potential (some day). The “some day” means that we are more interested in a child’s health, well-being, and happiness today, than we are in how successful they are in cross country, track & field, or any other sport, this year. We have excellent data that shows that kids are more likely to reach elite levels of performance when they are allowed to be kids, the focus is on fun, they participate in multiple sports, and we prevent them from quitting at a young age. Even if your goal for your child is to reach an Olympic podium, that reality becomes less likely the more you push training, specialization, and competition at a young age. As a club, we always celebrate success, but we define success on an individual basis. None of this means that we do not encourage kids to compete, but it must be the kids’ decision (with some positive support). If your child is good enough to compete at a national level, and they are asking to do so because they think it is fun, then we will support that 100%. 

From there, we know that all children will benefit greatly from athletic training, and even some age-appropriate competition. Regardless of a desire to compete, or what we often call “athletic ability,” all kids have a right to healthy, organized, athletic activity administered by qualified coaches. Developing and practicing complex physical movements throughout childhood is proven to lead to greater health throughout adulthood. For this reason, we seek to engage as many kids as possible in our programs, regardless of physical ability, identity, or financial means. Our staff is trained to view each kid as deserving of the best coaching we can provide. 


The competition calendar is based around a series of Saturday morning meets at Philadelphia’s Belmont Plateau. If an athlete competes in four of the Belmont meets then they are eligible to compete in the series championship on 10/30. Our program will officially end with our own fun meet on 11/14 that will feature several distances from 100m to 5K, allowing us to encourage all of the kids to participate in some way (even the youngest!) For kids who are more motivated, the USATF Regional Champs are on 11/20 (location TBA), and Nationals are on 12/4 in Kentucky. There will also be a meet at Gwenned Mercy Academy in Pennsylvania on 10/3, and a Monday afternoon meet at the Gloucester County Dream Park on 10/25 (middle school age only). To repeat, all competitions are optional, and families must provide their own transportation and race fees (exception: the club will cover fees for Belmont races). 

Based on our philosophy as a club, we view all competition for kids under the age of 18 to be for fun, and for practicing to compete. There is no rush to introduce competing to win. We will encourage kids to compete as a way to learn about themselves, to practice sportsmanship, and to compete against themselves to gauge the results of their hard work. All competitions are optional, and there is no team obligation to attend meets. Please listen to your kids. If they are saying they do not want to compete, just encourage them to keep coming to practice, and allow that desire to emerge naturally. Mild negotiations are appropriate. For example, “Let’s just pick one meet to go to to see what it’s like.” 

That’s it for now! We look forward to meeting everyone in about a month. 

Coach Craig

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