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Empowering Young Athletes: A Journey Through a Kids' Running Camp

This summer at the Kids' Running Camp, I had the opportunity to coach a kids running camp for 4-8 graders. It was so much fun to share my love of running at the Kids' Running Camp with them and see their excitement for running! I got to work with my group for our morning session of the camp from 9:15-11:30.

Each morning; we would jog to our sports fields and then do a dynamic warm-up and running form drills, such as leg swings, high knees, butt kicks, lunges, toe walks, and arm circles and swings.

Because I wasn’t sure what the kids’ running experience and endurance would be like, I planned many fun running games that would work for any level! We played 2-4 games each day. Here is a little breakdown of the games:

Animals: turtle= walk, pig= jog slowly, horse= run steady, cheetah= sprint. The kids would stand in a line, and I would call out the animals as they worked on shifting gears and making their way across the field.

Straights and curves: We also did this on the field, but obviously, this works well on the track too! We jogged on the long sides of the field and then sprinted on the short sides. Our goal was to make it more laps by the end of the week!

Card Game: I used a deck of playing cards with only the number cards 4-10. Two kids would pick a card. Whoever had the highest number (like war) could choose where we would run to. Whoever had the lower number got to pick an exercise, such as jumping jacks, squats, lunges, push-ups, etc. We would do the exercise once we made it to our destination and did the number of reps on that person’s card. You can keep this going as long as you want!

Marble game: Hill sprints game! This was the most loved and hated game of the week! I placed a cup of marbles at the top of a hill. And I put a cup with each kid’s initials at the bottom of the hill. When the child reached the top of the hill, they took a marble from the cup. Then when they returned to the bottom of the hill, the marble went into their cup. The person with the most marbles at the end of the game won.

Scavenger hunt: This was my favorite game and the day we ran the furthest total mileage! I put slips of paper with over 20 different locations around campus in a bag. The kids took turns pulling a slip from the bag, and then we’d have to run to that spot, such as the front of the school, the playground, the sports fields, etc. We played this game for about 45 minutes and ran 4mi!

Wacky Laps: Similar to straights and curves, we ran easy on the long sides of the fields. Then when we hit the corner, the kids took turns picky a “wacky” way to cover the short sides, such as running backward, side shuffles, butt kicks, etc.

First to Last: This game is like Leap Frog. We ran in a line, and when I yelled, “Switch,” the person at the back of the line had to run to the front. Whoever was in front set the pace until we switched again.

Nature Scavenger Hunt: I listed 20 things like a pine cone, a tree with white flowers, a bird, etc. The kids had to run around and find all the items on the list.

After we played our games, we cooled down and stretched. We would return to the school with about 45 minutes left in our session.

Then we made an easy, healthy snack that the kids could make on their own at home each day. The snacks were a huge hit and everyone’s favorite part of the day!

Yogurt bark with blueberries, strawberries, and granola

The snack time allowed me to do a brief nutrition lesson with them. I focused on simple things like eating breakfast to fuel runs, having a recovery snack after runs, and the importance of carbohydrates and protein for runners.

On the first day of camp, I gave everyone a blank journal, markers, and fun running stickers!

Running kid's journal with run stickers

They got to decorate their journals. Then each day, they had time to write in their journal as they ate their snack.

They could write about what we did that day, things they learned, the recipe we made, etc. I used the journal to help them think about some of the mental aspects of running that I tried to work in throughout our morning, like being present, maintaining a positive attitude, and gratitude.

On Thursday, we made medals using jar lids, red, white, and blue ribbon, star stickers, glue, and glitter.

Running medal decorated with glitter

I used a hot glue gun to attach the ribbon to the lid. We let them dry overnight. Then I presented each kid with their medal on Friday!

Coach Rachel, @rachelrunspa

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