Mark Bedenbaugh, a coach for 33 years, talks about building a varsity cross country team.
Name: Mark Bedenbaugh
Area of focus: head track coach - boys
Head cross country - boys and girls
Years coaching: 33
I begin my search for the next season of cross country during spring track season. I know who my returning distance runners are but will always look for the new runners or athletes who seem to handle the pre-season conditioning a little better than the other athletes who have not run cross country. I then do a little research and find out if they are involved with other sports or activities.
I also look for little brothers or sisters or cousins of the athletes that I have. Yes, I also have been coaching long enough that I do get some legacies (kids of kids I coached :-).
I have found that the best advocate for the team has to be the athletes. Over the years that I have coached my best runners are some of the best recruiters of other athletes on the team. My number one runner right now (All-State in 2018) went out and recruited one of his best friends who happened to be a pretty good basketball player and he ended up being our number three runner last season.
The number one ingredient I believe is the culture surrounding the team. We have had some success and the student body at Pelion HS knows that cross country at the school will be strong. Tradition does help with building on a solid foundation that has been established over the years. I let my runners know how special they are. By that I mean I tell them: "if cross country were easy, everyone would do it." Only a few will have the mental toughness and willpower to succeed in a sport that many people watch with a leery fascination wondering how and why they do what they do!