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Advice to a Parent About Their Promising Young Runner

BY Hal Higdon

A parent whose daughter loves to run is worried that she is being held back by being part of their local club. Hal offers three ways to potentially resolve this problem and keep both the parents and child happy.

Have a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


My 10-year-old daughter has begun to show some promise as a runner with fast times at 600 meters and cross country. As a runner myself, I am delighted that she is doing so well despite visual impairment. She joined a local club, and I have volunteered as a coach.

However, I don’t think she is being developed properly. She remains in the entrance group, which does very little running, despite her times being better than many in the older group above. We live in Scotland, and the club follows the rules of UK Athletics that children of her age should not specialize, but rather run or jump or throw and develop a favorite event at a later date. But she loves to run and feels deflated. How can I continue to keep her motivated as a runner?


Finding the delicate balance between being a loving parent who wants the best for their child and being a coach who may need to consider the talents and desires of many children, and their parents, is not easy. Here in the U.S, we sometimes refer to those who push and pull their children unrealistically as “Little Leaguer Parents.” I’m not sure that defines you, but let’s consider the options.

Your first option would be to communicate your feelings to the coach, or whoever is in charge of the program. As a volunteer coach, hopefully you already know to whom you might talk. A simple request to move your daughter up to the next level might result in a positive response from someone who might not otherwise have noticed her rising above the pack. But be prepared to encounter a negative response if those in charge of the program prefer to position young runners by age, not by ability.

A second option would be to communicate with your daughter that the team sometimes is more important than the individual. Knowing 10-year-olds, however, this might result in a significant eye-roll and a pleading.

More than likely, you may need to find some middle ground between the organizational dictates of her coach and her freedom to run when and how she wants. Bribery sometimes works, such as, “You run and jump and throw with your friends a couple of days a week, and you can go run with me on the weekends.” Often, young children find their own routes to fun and happiness without roadmaps from us adults. Good luck in keeping her moving in the right direction.

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About Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for ‘Runner’s World‘ and author of 34 books, including the best-selling ‘Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide’. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that over a quarter of a million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks. Hal uses TrainingPeaks to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans — check out more of Hal Higdon’s training plans on his website.