As the spring air fills with the sound of athletes running, jumping, and throwing, it can only mean one thing: it’s track and field season! Guys at Rawhide’s Starr Academy have the opportunity to compete against area schools in track and field, and the impact extends beyond the fun of running fast or devouring a post-race meal. The benefits of track and field for troubled youth impact our guys mentally, physically, and emotionally and show them they’re capable of great things with hard work and discipline.

Coaching a Track Team at Rawhide

Starr Academy instructor, CJ Behnke, coaches the track and field team for troubled youth and admits that his favorite part of coaching is witnessing the guys transform as the season progresses.

Coach Behnke also loves to see the guys change their attitudes. Many of the guys at Rawhide struggle with blaming others. As they break this bad habit and begin taking responsibility for their own actions, a noticeable change in their perspectives and attitudes occurs.

This change is obvious to others as well. Competing athletes at other schools gladly welcome our Starr Academy athletes. Coach Behnke attributes these warm welcomes to the positive impression the guys make at track meets. Every year, Rawhide guys form friendships with competing athletes which the Rawhide guys love most about running track. Participating in track gives them a chance to demonstrate their growth and maturation and cultivate relationships that represent Rawhide in a positive light.

23 Benefits of Track and Field for Troubled Youth

23 Benefits of Track and Field for Troubled Youth

The positive impression the guys make at other schools could be due to track practice and competition. Rigorous exercise can create better brain activity by generating new nerve cells and blood vessels. Coach Behnke has seen the beneficial side of competition for many of the guys.

“Track is therapeutic for the guys. It keeps them moving, gives them goals, and develops mental toughness.”- Coach Behnke

This toughness appears most when a guy signs up and finds he’s in for more than he anticipated. We’re pleased when they stick it out until the end of the season. The guys usually surprise themselves by discovering a special talent they didn’t realize they had. At the very least, they prove to themselves they can stick with a goal until completed. The guys benefit in other was too, such as:

  1. Maintaining a healthy body weight

Track and field workouts help burn body fat and speed up metabolism which helps athletes reach and maintain healthy a body weight.

  1. Improved ability to cope with anxiety

Exercising creates new neurons in the part of the brain that copes with anxiety.

  1. Creating healthy habits for later in life

For many Rawhide guys, track and field is the first sport they participate in and can help develop a passion for working out and staying fit after Rawhide.

  1. Better sleep patterns

Regular exercise makes it easier for your brain to relax when you need it to, helping make sleep easier.

  1. Strengthen balance

Running and jumping helps develop muscles in legs which make it easier to have good balance. Why is balance important? Good body balance makes it easier to move and helps prevent injury.

  1. Better decision making

Studies have found tough workouts, like those in track and field, help increase levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor, or BDNF. BDNF is a brain protein that helps with decision making.

  1. Better ability to multitask

When a person exercises, specific neurotransmitters are released, helping their brain process more information at once and making multitasking easier.

  1. Increased capacity for learning

Individuals that exercise regularly have greater volume in their prefrontal cortex, which assists with thinking, memory, and other aspects associated with learning.

  1. Enhanced mental performance

Working out for 30 minutes a day at least three days a week creates better mental longevity, and helps the brain work better overall.

  1. Increased memory

Running stimulates the growth of new brain cells which enhance and improve memory.

  1. Able to pay attention longer

Physical activity helps increase cognitive control. The University of Illinois found that students with ADHD who participated in 20 minutes of moderate exercise were able to pay attention longer.

  1. Increase creativity

Running is a solitary activity that allows an individual to clear their mind and let it wander down any creative path. Many writers have used running or working out to help their creative process.

  1. Decreased distraction

Running and working out allows athletes to clear their brain. It also helps them focus better, both during, and after the run.

  1. Learning how to work well with others

Track and field events like relays require teamwork and communication to be effective. Track and field also creates one on one situations between athletes and coaches that help athletes understand constructive criticism.

  1. Working towards a goal

Setting goals for individual performance is a big part of track and field. Being able to set goals and work towards them provides experience for goal setting and hard work later in life.

  1. Balanced mood and behavior

Track and field workouts and other physical activities help burn excess energy and release mood balancing endorphins.

  1. Improved motivation

The hardest part about exercising is getting started. Seeing successes in track and field and regular practice helps increase motivation and encourages goal setting for bigger and better things.

  1. Increased ability to withstand stress and frustration

Hard workouts provide stressful situations, and track and field is full of them. The ability to handle the workouts and grow from them helps individuals learn how to handle other stressful situations. Hard workouts also burn excess energy and allow the brain to think more clearly during stressful and frustrating situations.

  1. Increased coping skills when presented with a new situation

Track and field is full of different events and challenges that provide plenty of opportunity to try new things. Experiencing changes and participating in new events during track and field helps outside of track and field too.

  1. Lower risk for depression

Aerobic workouts like those found in track and field help release endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine which combat depression.

  1. Increased self-discipline and self-esteem

Self-discipline is required to stick with track and field workouts. If an individual sticks with workouts, they start to see physical changes, faster times, better jumps, and longer throws, which may build self-esteem and confidence.

  1. Increase self-confidence

Seeing hard work payoff builds self-confidence by giving track and field athletes something to be proud of and to showoff where they started the season and where they ended it.

  1. Inspire others to live healthier lives

Running and working out is always fun when a friend joins. Consistently working out and eating right can help encourage other friends and family to follow suit.

Making History

Through many years of competition, Rawhide guys have set numerous school records for Starr Academy, but three jumping records stand out:

  1. Long Jump: 20’4.75”
  2. Triple Jump: 41’6”
  3. High Jump 6’0

All three records above were set by the same guy in 2002. Had he been eligible to compete in the Wisconsin State Track and Field Championship that year, his long jump and triple jump records would have placed him in the top five in any of the divisions.

The 100 meter dash record is also impressive. Set in 2012, it stands at a blistering 11.64 seconds, a time that would qualify many runners for Wisconsin’s state track meet almost every year. Many of the guys on the team have their eyes set on the record book.

Whether they set records or not, the guys look to have fun. They’re excited to make new friends and learn they are capable of doing things they didn’t know they could do. As Olympic distance medalist Kara Goucher said:

“Your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is.”

Wish the track team good fortune in the comment section below!