Building a successful high school cross-country or track team isn’t just about individual talent or winning races—it’s about cultivating a team culture that thrives on unity, camaraderie, and common goals. A tight-knit team culture can significantly impact a team’s performance. And, if your team is anything like mine, you know that half the reason they joined the team was to be invited to the team dinners.

Team Dinners and Outings:

Creating opportunities for athletes to bond beyond the track is invaluable. Schedule regular team dinners or outings to build personal connections among team members. Leverage your boosters group to help organize these events and recruit parents to host. Sharing a meal or just hanging out is a great way for the team to feel closer and develop meaningful friendships. And, it doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive.

Theme Days:

Another day of… running. Give your team some much needed motivation to attend practices by adding theme days or dress-up days. It not only fosters a sense of unity but also infuses an element of excitement and anticipation to the day. In the past, we have enjoyed theme days for Halloween, Neon Color Day, Country vs Country Club, etc. Taking pictures and posting to the team’s social media accounts can make these days even more impactful and attract future athletes.

Athlete Spotlights:

Celebrating individual achievements within the team context is crucial. Highlight athletes in weekly newsletters to families or social media posts, showcasing not just their accomplishments on the track but also their personalities. Special awards after meets can also boost motivation and recognition. They can be as simple as a golden track spike for effort.

Community Service Projects:

Contributing to the community as a team instills a sense of purpose and unity. Volunteering together for a local cause not only serves others but also strengthens the bond among team members. Our teams regularly volunteer at local road races throughout the year. We wear our team gear to increase our visibility and reputation in the community and offer smiles and positivity to the runners. It’s as good for us as it is for them.

Athlete Insights:

One of the best times to witness the closeness and the bonds between athletes is at the end-of-season team banquet. I have included a few quotes from some recent speeches to illustrate just how powerful the friendships and relationships can be for a team of teenage athletes.

“Over the past three years, cross country has been my rock. It has taught me many lessons that will forever stick with me, and it has formed friendships and bonds in my life that I will never forget.”


“It’s not just about winning. It’s about making these connections that stick around way after the season ends, you know? We’re all in this together, building memories that we’ll probably talk about someday when we’re old.”


“In cross country, it’s more than just running. It’s like this amazing journey where we’re all in sync. We’re not just a team; we’re a tight-knit family with this unbreakable bond that feels absolutely special.”







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