It’s that time of the middle and high school athletic seasons when coaches can do some hands-on instruction with their student athletes.
The WVSSAC calls it the flex period, it lasts three weeks, and it’s up to each coach to set their team’s schedule.
Right now, middle and high school coaches in Cabell and Kanawha counties are meeting with their student-athletes, getting a chance to see what their squads are going to look like for the various upcoming seasons.
One of those coaches getting that closer look at his athletes is Justin Cox, head coach of Huntington High’s boys and girls cross country teams.
He credits this training period for giving coaches a great lead into the season. “I think it saves so much time for the beginning of the season. The kids come in much more prepared for the rigors of the season. You don’t have to spend very much time at the beginning of the season dealing with conditioning issues; they are pretty much ready to go.”
Echoing Cox’s thoughts is fellow cross country coach at Nitro High and Andrew Jackson Middle schools Crystal Legros, who said, “I think it is super important for the coaches, because it gives you an idea of what you are going to have on your roster. These three weeks help show what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are -- it gives you an opportunity to build your practice plans. Basically, providing you a jump start to your season.”
Every coach uses the three weeks in his or her own way. For Legros, it’s a matter of getting that game plan in place for the approaching season. “My plan of attack is to work to build a base for our runners," she said. "Some of them have run all summer and some of them haven’t done anything. We try to see where all of them are at with their conditioning and build on that foundation.”
For a couple of groups, the sixth graders starting middle school and the ninth graders starting high school, these three weeks can help those athletes get adjusted to new surroundings.
For Cox, there’s another area the flex training period benefits. “Right now, I have a very young team and have picked up a strong group of ninth graders, and for that group to connect with the returning runners before school starts is great. When school starts, they already have a group of friends, they have a group of people they know and it gives them an identity from the get-go, making the transition a lot easier,” he said.
The situation is the same for Legros, especially for the sixth graders. “I try right away with the new runners, that as much as we want to be competitive, the team is a family. This gives the younger runners the opportunity to meet their teammates, build some new relationships, and to help calm some nerves that are probably there due to the move up and the change in their lives. This is a new step in their lives, and it is up to the coaches to make it a fun time and to help take some of the uncertainty out of the new situation,” she said.
One of the main goals that both coaches have to convey to their athletes during the three weeks of allowed training is to get them to adjust their eating habits as the competitive season quickly approaches.
Legros admits it is a challenge with her young runners, saying, “We do our best to get them focused on proper nutrition, hydration, and to overcome some of their bad eating habits and have them ready for when practice starts in earnest.”
Three weeks may seem like a short time to get your point across, but for middle school and high school coaches in West Virginia, they all will tell you, it’s time well spent.