Games for Track and Cross Country Practices: Enhance Training Sessions

Games for track and cross country practices games for xc practice

Track and cross country practices are vital for athletes to build endurance, speed, and teamwork. While traditional workouts and drills are essential, incorporating games into training sessions can make running fun and engaging. These games not only boost excitement and motivation among athletes, but they also teach essential skills and techniques that are crucial for success in competitive events.

Games for track and cross country practices come in various forms, including icebreakers, team building, relay racing, and fartlek training. These activities provide athletes with a well-rounded training experience that addresses different aspects of running, from speed and agility to mental strength and camaraderie. Integrating these games into regular training sessions helps athletes achieve a sense of accomplishment, stay focused, and maintain a positive attitude towards their sport.

Whether you are a coach looking to diversify your training regime or an athlete searching for a fun and interactive way to improve, incorporating running games into your routine can prove beneficial. Engaging, challenging, and exciting activities provide an enjoyable way to hone skills, promote team spirit, and foster a love for the sport of running.

Running Games for Fun and Skill Development

Running games play a significant role in track and cross country practices as they help in skill development while keeping athletes engaged and motivated. This section presents different types of running games to incorporate into your training sessions for a fun and productive practice.

Tag Variations

Tag games provide an excellent opportunity to develop speed, agility, and concentration in a fun and competitive setting. Here are a few variations of tag games that can be played during track practices:

  • Freeze Tag: When a runner is tagged, they must freeze in place until a teammate releases them by tagging them again. This game promotes teamwork and quick decision-making.
  • Chain Tag: Tagged runners join hands with the “it” player, forming a chain. This game encourages teamwork and communication as the chain grows, making it essential for runners to strategize.

Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt can be an excellent addition to cross country practices, particularly when conducted in a park, golf course, or other scenic location. Coaches can prepare a list of items or landmarks for runners to find during their run, with the first team or individual to complete the list being declared the winner. This game helps improve runners’ engagement, navigation skills, and teamwork, all while keeping their pace up.

Sharks and Minnows

Sharks and Minnows is a classic running game in which one or more “sharks” must tag the “minnows” as they try to run from one side of the field to the other. The tagged minnows then become sharks, and the game continues until all the minnows are caught. This game improves runners’ speed, agility, and reaction times while fostering a competitive atmosphere.

Pony Express

The Pony Express is a relay-style running game that focuses on teamwork and communication. Runners are divided into teams, with each team’s starting line being a given distance apart. A “mailbag” (typically a baton or small object) is handed off from one teammate to another until it reaches the last runner on the team. The first team to complete the relay wins. This game helps develop speed, accuracy, and collaboration.

Incorporating these running games into track and cross country practices will not only make the sessions more enjoyable but also help athletes develop essential skills required for their sports. The games encourage teamwork, speed, and concentration, instilling a positive attitude towards the sport and creating a productive training environment.

Specific Workouts for Track and Cross Country

Interval Training

Interval training is a popular and effective method for track and cross country athletes to improve their speed, endurance, and overall running performance. This type of training involves alternating periods of high-intensity running with periods of rest or lower-intensity running. For example, a runner may perform a set of 8-12 x 200m sprints with a 200m jog in between each sprint as a way to increase their speed and endurance 1. This type of training helps athletes manage their energy levels, build endurance, and maintain a consistent pace throughout their races.

Fartlek Training

Fartlek training, often used by distance runners and cross country teams, combines elements of both interval and continuous training to help runners develop various types of running speeds and endurance. The workout typically involves varying the intensity of the run by introducing periods of faster running followed by slower or recovery-paced running. For example, an athlete may perform a “stopwatch fartlek” workout, which involves striding for 15 seconds followed by jogging for 30 seconds and repeating this pattern for a set number of laps 2. This type of training challenges athletes to push their limits while also allowing them to recover and maintain motivation throughout the workout.

Relay Practices

Relay practices are a fun and effective way for teams to work on their skills and build camaraderie. These workouts often involve dividing the team into smaller groups, passing a baton or other marker between teammates, and completing a specific distance or number of laps.

One example of a relay practice is the “Cage the Lion” game, where two lines are marked 150 meters apart and the team is divided into two groups. One runner is chosen as the “lion” and stands in the middle between the lines. On the coach’s call, the groups run towards the opposite line, and the lion tries to “catch” or tag as many runners as possible before they reach the finish line 3. This type of practice encourages team bonding and helps athletes develop quick reaction times and speed.

Tips for Coaching and Motivating Athletes

Creating a Positive Environment

Coaching and motivating athletes in track and field, and cross country require creating a positive environment where runners can thrive. This can be achieved through setting realistic goals, providing constructive feedback, and fostering a sense of belonging within the team. Coaches can also consider incorporating sports psychology techniques such as the “train it-trust it” process to help athletes develop trust in their abilities and achieve peak performance.

Another aspect of creating a positive environment is ensuring that practices are both challenging and engaging. Coaches should consider incorporating diverse training exercises that cater to the specific requirements of track and cross country, such as developing endurance, strength, and speed. Activities and games that vary the routine can keep athletes enthusiastic and motivated.

Encouraging Teamwork and Sportsmanship

In both track and cross country, teamwork and sportsmanship play an important role in creating a cohesive and productive team. Coaches should instill these values during practices by implementing team-building exercises and activities. Encourage athletes to support and cheer for one another during competitions, and always emphasize the importance of fair play and respecting opponents.

Furthermore, coaches can make a conscious effort to provide opportunities for collaboration during practice, such as creating relay races or pairing athletes in shared challenges. This fosters camaraderie and healthy competition within the team and prepares athletes for success during actual competitions.

Developing Individual Skills

To nurture successful athletes, coaches need to invest time in developing individual skills and talents. While focusing on the team as a whole is essential, recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of each athlete can make a significant difference in their motivation and attitude during training. For example, track and field coaches can organize specialized drills tailored to developing specific skills, such as sprinting, long-distance running, or hurdling.

In cross country, coaches can devise workouts tailored to the demands of the sport, such as hill training, interval sessions, or tempo runs. Paying attention to individual needs, providing personalized feedback, and setting achievable goals for each athlete can significantly boost their motivation and engagement during sports practice.

In summary, effective coaching and motivation in track and cross country involve creating a positive environment, encouraging teamwork and sportsmanship, and developing individual skills. By implementing these strategies, coaches can help athletes remain motivated, engaged, and productive in their athletic pursuits.


  1. Off-Season Training for High School Runners | Runner’s World
  2. Cross Country Workouts, Explained | STACK
  3. Cross Country Drills and Games – Track and Field Toolbox