On the Course with Xc Coach Jim Davidson

A high school cross-country coach with 40 years of experience? If that’s a rarity, it’s also Mr. Jim Davidson. Back in the 1975, when Mr. Davidson was still a graduate student, he started to run with Choate’s Boys’ Cross Country team. Girls’ Cross Country was not an official sport yet at Choate, but a few girls ran with the boys team. After he became a teacher at Choate, the athletic director at the time asked him to coach a new Girls’ Cross Country team. In its first year, the girls’ team grew into a group of ten athletes. It started running, and has never looked back.

When asked recently about how he got the job, Mr. Davidson said, “I would not say that it was by chance, but it was sort of by chance.” He went on, “I had run in high school and did a fair bit of running in college, and it was fine with me.” He gave credit to the Director of Athletics for the idea, but admitted, “I guess you could say that I have worked with the team since it was a team.”

Mr. Davidson said, “Running is a sport that anyone can do something in.” He pointed out that a runner’s progress can be measured more easily in cross country than, say, soccer or basketball. That’s “especially important for young athletes,” he said.

So what, exactly, are Mr. Davidson’s coaching methods? He explained, “I like to really identify individual strengths of kids. I like to structure practices so that there are different phases or stages so that kids of different abilities can find success in the sport.”
He went on, “I try to structure practices so that there can be chances to build your confidence, chances to do more than you believed you could.”

Additionally, Mr. Davidson tries to challenge his runners by helping them establish goals to work toward. “One of my methods,” he said, “is to try to see where kids are and help them move from their point A to point B.”

Mr. Davidson tries to inspire and get young athletes to test themselves. “That could mean a ten-minute-mile runner to making her way to a sub-eight-mile runner.” Mr. Davidson is a big believer in giving positive and constructive criticism to his runners.

As for this year’s team, Mr. Davidson acknowledged that he is working with a athletes new to the team, if not the sport. He did say, however, “We have a stronger top five runners than we have had recently.” New junior Lilly Bar ’19, sophomore Sarah McAndrew ’20, and captain Kay Ingulli ’18 will likely be key to the team’s success. “We have some kids who are starting at ground-zero as well,” Mr. Davidson said.

Clearly, Mr. Davidson’s coaching has worked so far this fall; Girls’ cross country hasn’t lost a race yet, topping Lawrenceville and Taft. However, the team faces tough competition coming up in teams like Andover, Loomis Chaffee, and Deerfield. It will be important for the girls to stay focus and work even harder if they want to continue their success, something that Mr. Davidson will certainly emphasize.

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