The USATF Foundation ODP was created in 2018 by the USATF Foundation under the leadership of Director Martin Dugard. The program’s mission is to inspire a movement across the country by providing an opportunity for youth distance runners to display their passion, commitment, and personal growth within the sport.
With the 2028 Summer Olympics site solidified as Los Angeles, there is a new dream for youth runners—stand on the starting line representing the United States. The USATF Foundation aspires to assist youth athletes to live that dream.
The USATF Foundation ODP provides a platform to assist the development of runners of all levels while delivering elite training with access to the best coaches and mentors in the sport.
Benefits of the USATF Foundation ODP
- Integrates USATF Foundation principles and mission
- Creates opportunities for elite level training
- Allows ODP members to meet and work with Foundation Elite Grantees (post collegiate professionals ranked top 30 in the world and top 10 in the USA in their event)
- Opportunity to meet like-minded athletes that are serious about their commitment to the sport
Please note: The USATF Foundation ODP has initially been developed for youth distance runners but will be expanded to other track & field disciplines in the near future.
Coaching Tips from Director, Martin Dugard
Make running fun.
First and foremost, running should be fun. Do not use running as a punishment. Encourage children to participate and try their best.
Emphasize good technique.
Teach youth good form early and help eliminate bad habits such as excessive arm movement, twisting of the upper body, or over striding.
Focus on participation and self-improvement.
In elementary school, running should be about participation and developing a healthy lifestyle, not about being the fastest kid in the school or program. Save competition for middle and high school aged students.
Consider individual differences.
Avoid a one-size-fits-all running program. Accommodate for differences in abilities within the group. Children mature both physically and emotionally at different rates, and this will factor into their ability to participate in running.
Limit systematic training and competition before puberty.
Before puberty children are rapidly growing and changing. Excessive, systematic training may interfere with normal growth and cause injury in a child. Between the ages of 3 and 9, encourage regular exercise, which can include organized running for fun as outlined in the Kids Run the Nation Program Guide for Teachers, Coaches, and Program Directors. Around the age of 8 to 12, children may enjoy participation in a more organized running program that has a more systematic training environment that lasts two to three months. Around the age of 12 for girls and 14 for boys, key developmental changes will enable students to slowly increase training distance and duration leading to participation in a systematic and competitive training environment.
Increase running workload gradually.
Running workload includes volume (distance), intensity (speed or effort), and frequency (number of days a week). Just like with adults’ running training, children should start a running program with a low-volume, low-intensity plan and limit frequency to a couple of days per week. Workload should increase over the duration of the program, but should remain appropriate for the individual runner.
Participate in age appropriate running events.
Running in a kid’s fun run or youth track event can be a great experience for kids. For children 5 and under focus on “dash” events that range from a few yards to 400 meters. For children 5 and over, kids fun runs that are a ½ to 1 mile long may be considered, but allow for a combination of running and walking. Children ages 12 and over may want to participate in a 5K run. Children ages 15 and older may want to participate in a 10K to half marathon event. Children 18 and older may want to participate in a marathon or further distance. These are general guidelines and the distance a child can physically and emotionally tolerate will depend on the individual, however longer distances (10K and over) should wait until after puberty.
SOURCE: Training for Young Distance Runners written by Larry Greene, PhD and Russ Pate, PhD