Summer XC training: Spartanburg coach Jack Todd

Name: Jack Todd, HS coach at Spartanburg High School
Years coaching: Fifth year at SHS.  Coached 10 years at the South Carolina School for the Deaf & Bind from 1980- 1989.
Interesting note: Head coach for the United States Blind Track & Field Team at the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona.
Favorite workout:  Speed workout on Cottonwood Trail, behind SHS; specifically - 500 meters at 5K pace followed by a 200 meter jog, followed by 300 meters at 5K pace. Repeat 5 times with a one minute rest between sets. Reverse directions for sets two and four.
Favorite quote: Where does the strength come to see the race to its end? It comes from within. (Chariots of Fire)

How and when did you get involved in coaching?  Tell us about your competitive running background.
In 1974, after track practice at Wofford College, my teammates and I watched a high school Region championship on our home track.  The S.C. School for the Deaf & Blind boys team won the meet and did a victory lap around the track. That evening I decided I would pursue a career teaching and coaching at SCSDB. I began running competitively (track) my senior year in high school (Greenville High) and ran track at Wofford College for four years.  I have been running ever since, competing at distances from 400 meters to the marathon.

What do you hope for your team to achieve this coming season?
Our boys and girls should be competitive at the Spartanburg County Meet and the Region II AAAA Meet.  Both teams should qualify for the State Championships, where we should have our peak performance.

Looking at 2013 success, how do you help athletes with their focus for upcoming season?
Our coaching staff will meet with each runner during the summer to discuss goals and aspirations for the season.  We will guide each runner in establishing goals that are challenging, yet attainable.

What kind of terrain do you prefer for your team to train on?
We are fortunate to have a beautiful trail (Cottonwood Trail) next to our high school.  Many of our practices will incorporate elements of this trail.  I believe the low impact of trail running reduces injury, calluses runners to racing conditions, and (being removed from traffic) is safer than training on roads in an urban setting.  We do however practice on the roads (to offer variety and incorporate hills) as well as the track (for measured speed training) on occasions throughout the season.

How do you prepare for summer and fall training?
Our summer conditioning begins on June 18.  We practice Monday - Friday, beginning at 7 a.m. Going into summer conditioning we ave a template of what we intend to accomplish each day.  This includes type of run (distance, fartlek, threshold etc) as well as the drills we will do.

What philosophies do you have with your athletes?
We stress to our runners that cross country rewards consistency and effort.  We want each runner to be fully invested in our program.  Our most visible goal is to build championship teams and quality individuals; however we also strive to instill a lifelong love of running and fitness with our runners.  If our runners are not practicing an active lifestyle 20 years from now, then we have failed as coaches.

Are you a coach that prefers high mileage, low mileage or speed for training and how do you adapt for different levels and backgrounds?   What role do you have in summer training?
My philosophy has evolved from low mileage to moderate mileage. However, speed still plays a vital component in our training philosophy.  We adapt to different ability and maturity levels by adjusting frequency and duration of workouts, particularly during summer training. Our coaches are very engaged with summer conditioning.  We attend each practice session and conduct short meetings at each practice.

What is the value for your team in summer training?
Summer training lays the foundation for the fall competition season.  The strength we gain in the summer allows us to smoothly transition to faster paced efforts once school begins.

Looking back at each previous season, do you make any changes for summer training?
We are constantly monitoring and evaluating our program.  We make minor revisions each year.

Do you include weight training in summer conditioning?
We include strength training, core development and plyometrics within our summer conditioning regimen. We encourage our older runners to incorporate weight training in their supplemental training.

What do you see that has changed in the sport? 
There are more large, Saturday meets than 30 years ago.  With the growth of meets and the advent of technology, the way we score meets (popsicle sticks, score cards to be completed at finish, pull tags, barcodes, chips) has changed dramatically. The number of teams that condition in the summer has increased dramatically.

How do athletes interested find out about your team? 
We encourage our runners to promote cross country to their classmates.  We also have a student interest meeting at each of our feeder middle schools in late May.  This is followed by a parent information meeting the last week in May.