One of the things that all programs need is momentum. Momentum needs to come from a leader or a group of leaders that can be coaches, parents, veterans, or team captains that have a love and passion for the program.
Head Boys Cross Country and Track and Field Coach
New Mexico High School AAAA Boys Cross Country State Champions
2010 2009 2008 2006 2005 2004 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998
New Mexico High School AAAA Boys Track and Field State Champions
2010 2009 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 1999
Awarded New Mexico Coach of the Year 10 times
Awarded the NHSCA National Cross-Country Coach of the Year for 2010
Adam Kedge has been a runner since he was a child. He ran through-out primary and secondary school and at the University of New Mexico. He studied education so he could become a teacher and coach. He has been involved in running for over 35 years. He turns 47 next month. He started coaching in a public school out of college. But the opportunity to work at Albuquerque Academy in 1995 became available and Coach Kedge took the position. He has been there ever since.
WillofaChampion.com: Do you have a formal or informal mission, vision, or purpose statement?
Coach Kedge: A little bit of both. One of our backbones at Albuquerque Academy – and I say “Our” because our coaches share this mission with the school and families that we work for – is that we want to make sure our kids feel valued. That is a core principle of our program. We want kids involved in sports because it is fun and because they feel valued.
WillofaChampion.com: What have you done to develop and maintain a culture of winning?
Coach Kedge: We stress the concept that being part of a team means everyone is equally important. Our program is not just about the varsity or an elite few. We don’t stress developing elite athletes, we stress developing elite teams. Following the mission of the school we want kids to experience a feeling of value from hard work; that through diligence and consistency they can do great things whether in the classroom or on the athletic field. As coaches we assure that our youth get the attention and instruction required to develop into the athlete they desire to be. Much of our teaching is directed to the 8th, 9th, and 10th graders. By the time they become juniors or seniors we expect them to perform. They should have learned what to do on varsity when they were on the junior varsity or C squad.
WillofaChampion: In both cross country and track and field, what do you do to develop a team-first attitude amongst your runners?
Coach Kedge: We don’t stress individual accomplishments. We keep track of team accomplishments. We want our kids to work together. We don’t want them to do individual work-outs or training that is specialized for one individual over another. I do think individual training in all athletics is very important. But it has its price. If you train as a team and work as a team then you will develop synergy or a bond as a team; that is when you will accomplish great achievements.
Coach Kedge: We have kids rely on each other for pace, volume, and intensity. Runners can’t do the same volume or pace because of age or grade appropriateness. Our training is structured so we’re all doing similar things at the same time. We sometimes work in small groups based on: ability, motivation, desire, or health. The boundary lines for varsity and junior varsity are not just fast and semi-fast or young and old. Those are too vague. We mix up our grouping to allow for a smooth transition from one training group to another. This allows for the kids to feel like they belong when they do make it up to the varsity.
WillofaChampion: How do you base grouping on motivation?
Coach Kedge: Cross Country is different than basketball or soccer where you have a small number of people on a team and you’re working to develop a bond between them. I view Cross Country as a participatory sport where we get kids of all abilities, different motivation levels, and involved in other activities. We want cross country and track to involve kids that may not be driven to be champions; yet still serve the highly motivated runner that wants to excel at the state and national level and pursue a college scholarship. Our sport is different from other sports that may have extensive preseason programs with challenging try-outs that cut players so they have an elite team that functions as a small group. We will take a team of thirty, forty, or even one hundred runners if we can get them out and try to serve each of them. We will attempt to give them the attention, the love, and the top of the line coaching they need to achieve their lofty goals.
WillofaChampion: How do you develop physical and mental discipline amongst your athletes?
Coach Kedge: We keep it basic. Part of it is an attitude; an attitude by the coach, the program, and the school. We develop physically and mentally because we ground everything in hard work. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re in. It doesn’t even matter if it is a sport. If you’re willing to consistently work hard and persist in doing what must be done to succeed in any endeavor: academically, professionally, authoring a book, you will succeed. Not everyone has the ability to be super elite and fast. But if you ground your program in hard work then you’re going to have success over the long term. Mental discipline comes from long range planning, desire, and persistence.
WillofaChampion: What do you expect from the leadership or captains of your team?
Coach Kedge: First and foremost I expect Citizenship. I expect them to be good family members, good students on campus, and I expect them to make wise decisions. Then I expect leadership during the hours that I am not with my kids. That is when they can be great leaders for their peers through example and making wise choices in tough situations. Leadership in a two hour practice or an all day meet does not compare to the leadership needed when adults are not around or present. As leaders I expect them to be good citizens, good family members, good peers, to be kind, and warm hearted. I know these things don’t seem to fit athletics but they are at the core of everything we do as people.
WillofaChampion: How do you develop that kind of leadership in your athletes?
Coach Kedge: We want to empower our young kids. We start with listening to them. We want to hear what is good and bad, what works for them and doesn’t. Then we want to give them the opportunity to both succeed and fail. We want them free to learn from failure. Athletics in general is not only about winning. You (WillofaChampion.com organization) have talked to many very successful coaches and players. Most of those successful people have experienced far more failure than success. So we want our kids to succeed and fail. How our athletes respond in both those situations develops their maturity and helps them become better individuals.
WillofaChampion: How do you ensure your athletes experience both success and failure?
Coach Kedge: First and foremost we want them to recognize that athletics is a place where they can take risks. Where they can try their best and not be ashamed when others are simply better than they are; or when others have a better day than they did. From there we stress how important it is for them to learn from previous competitions and evaluate how to change things in order to assure future success. Putting a plan into place in order to bounce back the next week, the next game, or the next competition is at the core of athletics. What we’re looking for from our kids is to wake each day with a renewed spirit. It all starts with giving them support and the love they need. We don’t put them in positions where we want to see them fail. We put them in positions where they can risk failure in order to succeed. If they don’t do it here then they won’t do it in life. They won’t do it when they’re applying for the big job or when asking the Homecoming Queen out for a date. We want them to apply for the job that no one thinks they can get and ask the girl out everyone thinks will say no. We’re looking to develop confident, risk taking, young adults that have intentions to take over the world and a clear plan on how they are going to get there.
WillofaChampion: Do you have coaches or mentors that guide you?
Coach Kedge: I was first trained and learned from the people that coached me as a boy. I also learned what I didn’t want to do from some of these sameformer teachers and coaches. Now I look to the coaches a lot of others do such as Mike Krzyzewski and others. At the high school level I look to one of the most famed high school cross country coaches in the US in any time period: Joe Newton. Our sport has many good coaches nationally and locally. For example one of our in-state rivals is coached by a good friend of mine. Those coaches and that team, despite being our main competition inspire me to get better; to try and either keep up with them or stay one step ahead. It isn’t very often you hear a coach say these are our rivals and they are our best friends. It carries over into our programs. Our kids want to kick them in the teeth when the gun goes off but as soon as they cross the finish line they are the best of buds. You can have the best of both worlds. You can have a tough competitor that brings out the best in you and he or she are your best friend. We have that in our state with a couple of the top programs. It makes for a friendly, highly competitive, healthy atmosphere where all kids benefit.
WillofaChampion: Do your runners do any camps or anything like that for kids that may join your program?
Coach Kedge: We certainly do. We have our upper level kids work with our lower level kids. We have a middle school program that is coached by one of our high school assistant coaches. Those small things are two examples of how we try to keep continuity in our program. We also attempt to get out to the running community by having a presence at age-group meets in order to promote our sport. On the other end of the spectrum we attempt to keep our alumni involved looking after and bringing along the high school aged kids by working with them on what it is like to be a college level runner.
WillofaChampion: What have we not discussed that you believe is critical to developing and/or maintaining a championship caliber program?
Coach Kedge: One of the things that all programs need is momentum. Momentum needs to come from a leader or a group of leaders that can be coaches, parents, veterans, or team captains that have a love and passion for the program. Success in sports is less about knowing a lot of technical things about football or basketball or running. If so any physiologist or biomechanical expert would be an excellent coach. It is about keeping kids enthusiastic about what they’re doing; keeping a burning fire in the pit of their stomach, keeping them focused on a dream or reaching for the highest star. All long term successful programs have tapped into a magic formula of maintaining enthusiasm and momentum. It comes from having everyone involved in the program; coaches, athletes, families, and faculty members share in a common goal of athletics being something far larger than simply winning and losing.
WillofaChampion: Do you mind sharing one special thing you do to keep the kids motivated when they’re not motivating themselves?
Coach Kedge: Part of it is I try to lead by example to work extremely hard. I try to wake early and get to meets and practices before anyone else. I am the last one to leave. As the leader I need to be calm in the time of setbacks. In addition, we stress a forward thinking attitude, encouraging kids to dust off and move on to the next week or next meet. As adults if we continually show the kids how much we care about them they will feed off of our enthusiasm and dedication. That goes further than you could ever imagine – coach is at practice a half hour before it starts and waits to leave until the last kid is picked up by his mom and dad at the end of an afternoon. If you’re enthusiastic about what you do, then it will carry over to other people. I am fortunate enough that it has carried over to my assistant coaches and our staff. The kids and their families have seen it too. A true definition of a team; we’re all in this together through good times and bad. That more than anything can be incredibly motivating.
Coach Kedge was the 2011 National High School Coaches Association Boys Cross Country Coach of the Year.
Interview: December, 2011