Updated: 12/15/98

Interview w/Randi Rossi

Girls State Champs - Div 1

E-Mail Interview with Randy Rossi (Irvine HS, Calif) California State Division I Girls Champions Questions by Doug Speck - work by Randy Rossi One of the solidest team performances in recent years in developing a team was done this Fall in California's Division (Large Schools) I by Irvine's Randy Rossi with their eventual State title and national ranking. With a very young squad (four ninth graders on the Varsity) and in one of the section's toughest Leagues (check out the team record below going into the League Finals before they won state), there were a ton of factors that went into the successful development of this group. As I have done this project I am more and more convinced that our coaches are many of our best educators with their product on the line each week with some very worthy goals to work towards. Again, as you read below one must be impressed with the careful thought, planning, and execution of a season. Please send your thoughts to Randy at: rrossi9@idt.net 1) Describe your quick reaction to the season past with your Girls Cross-Country team-- FUN! The chemistry of this group was unbelievable. We had a great time from the beginning of summer camp all the way through to the State Meet. 2) At the start of the season what level of success did you see this group capable of rising to? At the beginning of the season, I felt that with LOTS of hard work this group was capable of reaching the CIF Finals. Nevertheless, the team goal continued to be to qualify for the State Meet. 3) When and for what reason do you think the team started to "click" later in the season? The team profitted tremendously from our trip to the Blue Lagoon Invitational at UCSB on September 26. The varsity spent Friday night with the girls from Nordhoff and really bonded. After the race, we stopped for a campus visit to Westmont College. After the tour, we had dinner together in the dining commons. That trip really united the girls and gave them an incredibly strong team bond. The following week, the girls got a huge boost out of winning the dual meet against Sta. Margarita, the number 2 ranked team in OC at the time. So what appeared to be a late season charge really began at the end of September and continued to gather impetus throughout the season. The 2nd place finish at the OC Championships (10/17) was another big boost. This group of girls was very focused on climbing the ladder to the top. Even when the team lost the double dual to both CdM and Newport Harbor, they were very positive. The team meeting the day after the loss in the double dual was extremely significant in setting the tone for the rest of the season. From that meeting through to November 28th and the State Meet the girls were on fire. 4) What were the "intangibles" that ended up making this such a successful group despite lack of a "big gun" up front in races? This team was extremely coachable. They prepared physically and mentally every day to meet the challenges of racing. The "pack" began to develop at the Runner's Workshop in Catalina in August. The girls and I had a team meeting where we discussed the goals for the season, and then the girls themselves outlined what they were willing to do in order to make their dreams come true. I was thrilled with their dedication and their willingness to do whatever it would take to make their dreams a reality. At that meeting I shared the "Laws of the Pack" with the team as a key to success. I presented the Laws of the Pack to them as outlined by Skip Stolley in his article in the California Track and Running News. The girls loved the "Laws" and took them to heart. So every day in practice they would work to develop the pack and close the gap. As they got stronger and fitter they began to draw even greater strength and confidence from the pack. They all thrived on running together. There were never any ego conflicts on the team. This group was never concerned with who was the first, second, third finisher, etc. They were more focused on breaking the 5 girl gap record of :31 set in 1981 than they were about what order they finished in. It was clear to the girls that their strength as a team was in their ability to run together, and to pack as tightly together as possible. The "pack" took on a personality of its own and became the focus of everything that they did mentally and physically. 5) Did you do anything different in the preparation of this team than your past squads, would you share that with us, and why you made this general change? I did a number of things differently in preparing the team this season. Some of them were small and some were big. I added a 3/4 mile jog every day at the beginning of practice prior to our team stretching routine. I made the girls do "boy style" push ups instead of the girl style this year. The girls built up to 25 "good boy style pushups" everyday. I added more crunches. The girls built up to and did 100 crunches every day during their stretching routine. I did a great deal more mental preparation with the team this season. Each day before a meet I would give the team a brief reading before the start of practice. They would sit and read the selection quietly before the warm up jog. The selections were motivational thoughts, poems, songs, stories, letters from graduates of the Irvine XC team, and pertinent positive ideas relating to XC and making dreams come true. The girls really picked up on this pre-meet activity and by the end of the season, they were bringing selections to me to be duplicated for the team to read the next day. The week of the Sea View League Finals, there was one or two selections per day. I had the girls vocalize their team and individual goals on pre-meet days. The girls would stand before their teammates and state their team and individual goals. I told a lot more stories from the past Irvine teams in preparing the girls. I showed them videos of previous successful teams and their performances. I even had graduates visit practice and team meetings to share their thoughts, ideas and good wishes with the team prior to the big meets at the end of the season. I incorporated visualization more this year with this group. During the last three weeks of the season, the girls would sit in a circle and while holding hands, and I would talk them through the race of their dreams as part of their pre-meet preparation. They responded very positively to this activity and asked to do it as a part of their regular meet preparation routine. Throughout the season, I stressed "The Law of Attraction". The Law of Attraction declares that positive thinking produces positive results while negative thinking produces negative results. The girls took the Law of Attraction to an entirely new level. After the Sea View League Finals, I called Ken Reeves and spoke to him about water workouts and how he incorporates them into his practice routine over the last three weeks of the season. Ken is a genius! I adopted his ideas. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I continued to do the same training that I had done in previous years. Then, I put the girls in the water on Tuesdays and Thursdays of the weeks of the CIF Prelims, the CIF Finals, and the State Meet. This proved to be a great boon both physically and mentally. Physically the girls continued their cardiovascular training but enjoyed the tremendous benefits of impact free training while not "pounding" the roads. I feel that their legs were clearly much fresher. Mentally, the girls enjoyed the workouts, and keyed into the "secret" training routine that would give the "pack" fresh legs and a sharp edge. 6) What advice would you have for young coaches who try to patiently build a successful team during the length of the season? Think positive, and express positive thoughts and values to your team under any and all circumstances. Make every experience into a learning experience. If a team or an individual looses or does not perform well, help them to find the positive elements of the experience. There is always something to be learned from disappointment. Don't allow a team or an athlete to beat themselves up. Evaluate the experience, highlight the positive, learn from the negative and then prepare for the next challenge. A season is never lost on one, or even multiple losses. The Irvine XC team was 2-3 going into the Sea View League Finals, and our season turned out pretty well. Plan your training carefully. Don't forget, the season is long. It's not as important where your team is at the mile point as it is at the finish. The same is true of the season. Prepare your team mentally and physically to be at their best when it counts the most at the end of the season. Call Ken Reeves (Nordhoff HS, in Ojai, Calif) and Joe Kelly (Peninsula HS, Rolling Hills Estates, Calif) on the phone, and invite them out for lunch or dinner. Ask them everything that you can about coaching and training. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't be afraid to try new ideas, but be sure you adapt them to your style and your philosophy. If you are going to err in your training program. Err on the side of rest, not on the side of over training. Rest is critical to improvement and peaking. Don't neglect the mental preparation of your athletes. There are many roads that lead to Rome. Choose the one that you feel the most comfortable with, but guide the development of your athletes both mentally and physically. Lavish relentless, unconditional positive reinforcement on your athletes. There is no point of diminishing returns. Help your athletes to believe in their abiltiy to exceed their wildest dreams. Relax and enjoy the season. Make a strong attempt never to communicate your nervousness to your team. Practice the Law of Attraction on yourself and your team. Believe passionately in yourself and in your coaching plan, and your team will believe in you and,in turn, in themselves.