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Getting Started in Track & Field

What to look for in a club

Here are some tips:

  • Safety should always come first. Athletes should have the opportunity to train on a soft surface that will protect them from impact injuries.
  • Check to see if the young athletes have been taught to do a thorough warm-up that involves jogging, stretching, drills and exercises, and a gradual increase in intensity leading up to the workout.

  • Check the quality of any equipment being used.
  • Is there adequate separation between athletes practicing throws and other athletes?

  • Do you feel comfortable with the level of supervision?

Coaching is a major variable in the safety equation. For young athletes the training program should err on the side of under-training rather than overtraining. Overuse injuries such as stress fractures are mostly seen in runners when they are training too much and/or doing their training on hard surfaces. Children younger than high school age should not be doing a full workout more than 2-3 times per week, including their weekly competition in season.

Under-train not over-train

Find out the training schedule and get an idea of a typical workout. Including warming up and cooling down (a period of easy jogging and more stretching to end the workout), the total running distance should not be more than a few miles for children younger than their teens. As older children begin to compete in longer distances they may do a bit more mileage but I would be wary of exceeding six miles per day on the longest days.

Many people believe that the bones and joints of young children have not adequately developed and strengthened to handle distance training and competition.

A child just beginning the sport should also have the opportunity to try several different events to see which she most enjoys and suits her natural abilities best. Make sure the coach is treating the kids like kids and not miniature professional athletes.


There are many opportunities for a child to experience the sport of track & field without going straight in to an organized club program. Once the decision to join a club is made, USA Track & Field and AAU are terrific resources for finding clubs local to your area. Observe the clubs and talk with the coaches to ascertain their training schedule and philosophy.

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