Marmiduke, on Jul 17 2009, 08:47 AM, said:
One thing I'd like to mention to anyone involved in this xc thing is that: after Regionals heaps of people, myself included, are sent an invitation to go to the USA on a running camp/competition series kind of event run by Sports Travel Australia. The first time I was sent this I had run really badly at Regionals, and my parents and I figured the scheme was just a bit of a revenue raiser, and that they had sent the invite to everyone. Well, my friend made Regionals for the first time last year, was invited to go to the US like everyone else, and she accepted and so is going this year, and it sounds as though it's going to be a great experience for her (from the information she's been given, which is a little scanty). I asked around at my training group, and no one knows anyone that's gone. So, I wondered if anyone on CR has any experience with this annual trip?
I can help you with the information about the Cross Country tours to America run by Sports Travel Australia as I've had a fair bit of involvement with them over the years. My eldest daughter went on the tour in 2006 when she was 14 and I'm about to head off on the tour in September as one of the Coach/Managers and this will be my 4th tour with the group.
Some background information about the tours might help you. The tours were started over 25 years ago by a keen athletics coach and administrator from Ballarat in Victoria to give young athletes a chance to travel overseas and experience mixing with and competing against students in the USA. The tours originally started as track & field tours and then a few years ago, they added Cross Country running tours as well. Unfortuately, the gentleman who organised the track & field tours passed away last year and so only the Cross Country tours are continuing. The gentleman organising the XC tours also has a passion for athletics and his daughter recently competed in the Boston Marathon. So the people involved are all "in to" athletics.
The original tours were aimed at the top performing athletes in the States as there were very limited opportunities for them to compete overseas at that time. Over the years, the tours have expanded into being aimed more at up and coming athletes to provide them with opportunities that might inspire them to continue on in athletics. While not everyone from All Schools, for instance, will receive an invitation, the idea is to give as many athletes as possible the opportunity to travel on the tour and the invitations are sent via the Schools. Over the years the cost of the tour has been kept as low as possible to make it affordable as the priority for the organisers is to give young athletes a chance to travel and compete and not to make a huge profit. If profit was the motive, then the tours would cost a lot more. Sorry, I'm trying really hard to not make this sound like a "sales pitch".
The tours are a combination of competition, coaching sessions, sightseeing and mixing with the American students. There are four races of which two are "Invitational" races where 20 or so School teams will be competing and these are probably similar to a Region type carnival and then two smaller mid-week races against 3 or 4 School teams as part of the School's normal weekly Cross Country racing season. The races are all held in Nevada with three races in Las Vegas and another race in a town called Laughlin. The sightseeing takes in Las Vegas, including a Cirque du Soleil show, the Grand Canyon, Disneyland and Universal Studios.
Over the years we have built up a strong association with the teachers who run the School Cross Country events in southern Nevada and they love the Aussies coming over to run in their races. The American students have a great time asking about Australia and the Aussie athletes feel the same about the Americans. The way the US schools run XC is very different to how we do it, for instance, it's not in Age Groups and so it's based on Varsity Teams (the best 7 runners in the school team) and then Open or Junior Varsity Teams for everyone else in the School XC team. The spirit the American students have for competing for their School is something we rarely see in our Club based system here or in the Schools. The performance of the School team takes precedence over the individual and so every runner from 1st to last place is cheered on to move up to get a better score for the team. It can be a culture shock when you first experience it. One other thing is that sport in School is compulsory over there and so all the students must compete in something and so that will cover everything from tennis, football, soccer, cross country, etc in the Fall (Autumn) sports.
As for the people who travel with the tour, I'm a Level 3 Distance/Middle Distance coach from Sydney and like I said at the start, this year will be my 4th XC tour. The other Coach/Manager on the tour is a Level 4 coach from Victoria who has managed one of the age groups for the Victorian High Schools Cross Country team for 9 years as well managing teams at PSG, World School Games, etc. He also lectures in Human Movement at Ballarat Uni, so he is very experienced. This will be his 3rd XC tour on top of the 9 or 10 track & field tours he went on previously. This year, we are also taking two students from the University of Ballarat School of Human Movement (future PE teachers) to assist. There are 21 athletes ranging in age from 13 to 18 plus 5 parents on this year's tour as well as the 4 Coaches and Managers, so it's not a small group.
Anyway, I hope that helps exlpain what the tours are all about. If you don't go this year, there is nothing stopping you from replying and asking to be included on a future tour.