So my middle schoolers are going to run their first "important" meet next week. I am talking to them about how we change our practices (tapering) and our approach the week or so before the BIG meet so that they can run their best. Is this too much pressure. I want to be equally clear that it is not pressure, it is an opportunity with very little downside. If they work with me and rest as they need to, they will run more quickly than they have in the regular season and they may even move up in their typical placement. I suspect a few of my runners will be very pleasantly surprised in how well they run at the league meet because they have been working so hard all season that their body is ready for this rest. Others may not have put the same time or effort into this sport this season, but they too will at least have good results. This is a time when a Middle Schooler first glimpses what seasons are, and what championships are and how coaching varies through each. They are learning a great deal about the sport and no matter what their performance, they will take all these lessons with them when they move to the next level next year. What we do in Middle School will help take the edge off of what they may experience next year, especially if they are particularly talented and may be contributing to a high school program next year. Working with Middle Schoolers to take the league meet seriously helps them understand what they see when they watch other sports and championship seasons. All around it is a win to put a little pressure on the Middle School cross country runner at this time of season to help them feel that and to process it. But as coaches we need to be careful to be very clear, the pressure is just a test and nothing more. The pressure is about where their attention is for a few days, where their focus is for a few days, where they may change things just for a few days so they can be at their best on the day. The nice thing about 13 and 14 year old's, most of them understand that. My challenge is to keep saying it to them, eventually even the one's that put a great deal of pressure on themselves will hear and hopefully begin to learn to use that pressure in a positive way and not have negative consequences. This is an opportunity for coaches to really do youth coaching.