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:
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
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
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
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.