Frequently Asked Questions
McLean Track is a youth track program for kids age 5 through 8th grade (ages 13-14). We offer Spring and Fall seasons. Spring is focused on traditional track and field events. Fall provides exposure to cross country events (1k, 2K, 3K, 4K) as we alternate between cross country and track for our meets.
PLEASE NOTE: We are an ALL-VOLUNTEER organization and are always looking for people who want to help out with coaching or administrative tasks. With a program that now serves at least 350 children each season, we absolutely require parent participation!
We've tried to answer the most frequently asked questions below:
1. When does the season begin and what's the season schedule?
In the Fall, our Meet season generally begins the first Sunday after Labor Day (after the Fairfax County school year has begun), but we will begin practices as soon as FCPS begins the school session. Our Spring Season generally begins at the end of March/early April and continues through late May. Our team members also have the option of participating in post-season Junior Olympic competitions (Cross-Country in the Fall, and Track and Field in the Spring).
**Online registration now opens in late June for the Fall season and in January for the Spring season.** Information about the Meet schedule should be available at that time. We will notify all registered emails from the past two Track seasons, as well as others who have specifically requested notification during the year, as to when registration will open, usually a few weeks prior to opening.
2. What does it cost?
As of the Spring 2018 season, the cost structure is as follows:
- 1st child - $60
- All subsequent siblinges - $40 each
We know that many of you count on our relatively low prices to allow your entire family to participate in MYTF, and we do our best to keep costs down so the program remains affordable to as many families as possible. That said, our costs have increased a bit each year, and in particular, the fees we pay to the County are higher, particularly for our out-of-County participants. It is possible we will need to increase fees slightly again in the near future, but we're hoping to hold off until at least the Spring 2017 season.
3. How do I register my child?
All registrations are handled through the League Athletics registration system found here on our website WHEN registration is live (i.e., you will NOT see the registration link at other times). When registration is opened, you will see a live link on the home page directing you to register. If you already have an account, sign in with the email and password you used to set up the account (PLEASE NOTE: several McLean Youth Athletics' programs use this registration site, so if you've registered a child for basketball, rugby, etc., you probably have an account!). If you have not registered previously, it only takes a minute to set up a new account, and the system will walk you through that process when you click to register.
The registration system will walk you through all the necessary steps, including entering your child(ren)'s information, signing several waivers, choosing a t-shirt size for your registered participant(s), and then processing payment. As of a few seasons ago, ALL payment MUST be processed ONLINE through the League Athletics system. It *is* possible to save your registration without paying, but because of the popularity of the program and the likelihood of a waiting list, especially in the Spring season, you will be notified by email within a few days of registering (and well before to the closing of registration) reminding you that payment is due promptly; if payment is not received, your registration(s) will be deleted so that we can accommodate children from the waiting list.
4. What is the deadline for registering?
Registration deadlines are usually set for at roughly two months prior to the start of each season. This allows us to prepare for the first meet - which is a pretty big job with many moving parts; it is truly very complex to add children after this point, so unfortunately we do NOT offer late registrations. We know it seems like it should be easier to add "just one kid," but trust us, if you're asking, so are a few dozen other people, and it's much harder than you might think to incorporate additional registrations once we've compiled rosters, label sets, bib assigments, etc.
Participation is generally capped based on facility and coaching availability. We often reach the registration cap and have sold out both Fall and Spring seasons in the past, so please do not wait until the last minute to register!
5. What if I need to withdraw my child? Can I get a refund?
We understand - schedules are being juggled, children change their minds, etc. - and sometimes, you need to un-register. We do our best to accommodate these requests, but it is a manual process and there are limitations. You may of course withdraw your child from the program at any time by notifying us at
, but PLEASE NOTE: refunds will only be issued for requests made PRIOR TO the closing of registration. This is due to the costs incurred, including supplies that we begin purchasing as soon as registration numbers are finalized, and fees paid to the County based on a roster we must submit at the start of the season. If your child participates in the first Meet and decide it's just not the sport for him or her, we CANNOT issue a refund, pro-rated or otherwise.
On a related note, we also do NOT issue partial refunds for canceled Meets or practices. We try to build in an extra week to the season for rescheduling a Meet, but beyond that, there is little we can do. The season cost is already fairly minimal ($60 for 6-8 Meets & ~24 practices = ~$2/event!), and processing 300 partial refunds would be virtually impossible for us to accomplish. Generally, most sports in the McLean Youth Athletics program do not issue refunds under any circumstances, so we appreciate your consideration for the flexibility we do try to provide in MYTF.
6. Who runs the program?
The program is run by volunteers. As of the Spring 2018 season, our Director and Head Coaches each receive a small stipend, but this is still a chiefly volunteer program. The current Director is Jennifer Gatewood, with Adam Knudson and Mike Smith serving as co-Head Coaches. In addition, there is a leadership team that includes Kevin Cunningham, Courtney Dittamo, Elaine Kelley and Megan Pickard. We are ably assisted by several incredibly generous parents who have committed to serve as assistant coaches (but we can ALWAYS use more!), and others who have agreed to help with the various administrative roles. We depend heavily on parent volunteers and count on everyone to pitch in and help us run the program.
7. What is the Meet and practice schedule?
PLEASE refer to our "Schedule" page for updated season details, but:
We generally have 4-5 regular Track Meets during the Fall (because we also do Cross-Country Meets - see below), and 7-8 in the Spring. Regular Track Meets take place at a high school, because those require a regulation track, which only tend to exist at the high school level. As of Spring 2013, we began separating the Meet into age groups. This format allows us to move through the events faster, and alleviates the burden on many of the families with younger children who just plain don't have the attention span to sit through an entire 3+ hour meet. BUT PLEASE NOTE: Track & Field is, by nature, a LOOOOONG event sport, so although we do try to ease the transition into "real" Meets (which typically run all DAY), please know that Sunday Track & Field Meets are long, varied events with variable event and end times.
Each week, we run some combination of a 100M, 200M, 400M, and 800M race, as well as a RaceWalk, hurdles, and a "bonus mile" (really a 1600M). In our experience, running all events simply takes too long, and we have limited time in which to complete all activities and a lot of kids to get through, so we will run only a few of these events each week, allowing for everyone to be able to run an event multiple times throughout the season without burdening any individual Meet. Field and weather conditions permitting, we also hold field competitions in Long Jump, TurboJavelin, and Shot Put at the regular Track Meets, so there are plenty of events available each week.
Our Fall season also includes 2-3 Cross-Country events. At those meets, kids can run longer distances (from 1K to 4K depending on age). Those events typically begin at 2:00 pm, when we ask ALL runners to report so that we can conduct a group warmup, and be ready to run each subsequent race as soon as the previous one finishes.
We hold several practice sessions each week, broken up by age group. We have found that with our current numbers, we absolutely need to split the kids up, and also keep a relatively consistent schedule and roster throughout the season (in fact, the County now requires us to establish practice rosters as a condition of our facility permit). For the Fall 2016 season, we expect to have several days at Cooper Middle School. Details will be available by the start of the season.
Our policy with regard to practices is that they are highly encouraged but not mandatory, so a scheduling conflict with your assigned practice time does not preclude your participation in Meets. We have *many* families who find that they are not able to attend some or even any practices, but still participate in Meets. Likewise, we have some families who for schedule or religious reasons cannot participate in Meets on Sundays, and only come to practices. Our philosophy at MYTF is that we want to as many children as possible to get up off the couch, get out on the Track, and learn to love running, not just as a competitive sport, but as a life skill they can do on their own far beyond the confines of the MYTF program.
On occasion, due to weather, school events or other conflicts, we are forced to cancel a scheduled meet or practice. When this happens, we notify participants primarily using RainedOut text alerts, because they are quite simply the single fastest way to reach a broad audience, and can be sent by our volunteers from any cell phone. We also do our best to update everyone via the email addressed provided upon registration, as well as by updating the front page of this website, but those methods are slower and less reliable.
We generally do NOT cancel regular Track Meets for *just* rain; however, severe weather, including thunder/lightning, hail, high winds, or - heaven forbid - snow, will cause a cancellation, even for a Meet already underway. Practices are more likely to canceled even in the event of "only" rain, simply due to the field conditions at our usual practice fields. If there is ANY question about the weather, please be sure to check your phone, email, and/or the website for an update.
8. What are the age limits?
We accept children ages 5 through the end of middle school (8th grade, ages 13-14). For the Fall season, 5-year-olds MUST turn 5 no later than September 30th of that year (following the school enrollment policy, allowing kindergartners to run with classmates); for the Spring season, they MUST turn 5 prior to the first event of the Spring season (i.e., in Spring 2016, the first event is practice on Tuesday, 29 Mar, so the birthdate must be no later than 29 Mar 11).
It is true that in the past, exceptions were sometimes made for younger runners, especially with older siblings in the program. THIS IS NO LONGER THE CASE. Due in large part to the expanded size of the program and the need to accommodate as many of-age children as possible, we are no longer permitting age exceptions. We will strictly enforce the age requirement, and will return registrations that go through with birthdates not meeting those requirements.
9. Do you compete against other teams?
Our meets are "house" meets -- i.e., we compete against ourselves. We do not keep score and there are no bragging rights associated with these meets; our focus is on each participant seeking to improve his or her own performance over the course of the season. In the past we have participated in events with other local youth programs, but we have found that our less-competitive approach makes that challenging. We do sometimes receive invitations to participate in other local events, and when we do, we will notify parents of those opportunities as they arise. We do also participate in the Junior Olympics program which provides post-season opportunities for our more competitive kids and does involve competition with other teams. Participation in JO is entirely optional and up to each family.
10. What type of volunteer commitment is required?
With now over 300 children in this program each season, we absolutely expect each family to help the program run. This is an all-volunteer organization, and it cannot survive without committed adult participation. We ask that every family plan to contribute an adult volunteer at least three times per season (practices or Meets), or in one of the season-long roles (which generally require less time each week). Most volunteer jobs are actually a lot of fun and give adults a chance to help the runners learn running and sportsmanship skills (while also helping to pass the time). At any given Meet, we need starters, timers, lane judges, field event helpers, and "cat-herders" to organize kids prior to each event. We also need Assistant Coaches and Assistant Administrators for various functions, if those are more suited to you. Specifically, we have several roles open that we REALLY need people to fill, so please see our News page for more information. If you have a special interest or talent in any of these areas, please email
11. I don’t have any experience with running or track. Are you sure you want me to help coach at practices?
Definitely!! With so many concurrent tasks operating at the same time during Meets, we can virtually never have too many volunteers, and practices also require a lot of adult assistance. NO specialized skills are required! Many of the practice drills require only adult supervision and instruction, and most do not require coaches to move quickly. We have short and sweet explanations of the various drills and games we play for conditioning, and the more adults participate, the smoother practices run. Likewise, with Meets, we need a multitude of people in various areas, and most jobs require very little instruction to learn. Don’t be shy. We need your help!
12. Am I required to attend Meets and practices?
We cannot say this often or emphatically enough: ***YOUR CHILD MAY NOT BE LEFT UNATTENDED AT MEETS OR PRACTICES.***
This does not mean that you personally must attend every practice or meet. We are certainly willing to have parents form "coalitions" where one adult is in charge of a number of unrelated kids, but each runner at a practice or meet should know who to go to in case they need adult help. Again, this is an all-volunteer organization and although we will always stop what we are doing to provide first aid and comfort as necessary, it imposes constraints on all the other children at a practice or meet when we have to focus our attention on one child. Furthermore, sometimes an injury or behavior issue requires a child to leave the field, and that cannot happen if no adult is present to claim them.
This is a critical safety rule, and we do not make exceptions. We know it's tempting, especially with older children, to drop them off like you do for so many other activities, or to let them ride their bike or walk to practice, unccompanied. Unfrotunately, there MANY reasons this does not work at MYTF. They include (but are not limited to):
- Unlike many other sports, this is not a 12-person team with two coaches. We often upwards of 50 children at practices with no more than two coaches present. The numbers alone suggest not enough adult eyes are on the kids without parent assistance.
- Because there are only two or three coaches present, and due to the liability of having an adult alone with a child, we cannot spare a coach to take a child to the port-a-potty or restroom facilties, or to tend to an injury (which happens often enough that we keep first aid kits on site). A designated adult (parent, grandparent, nanny, or neighbor) MUST be available to tend to these issues.
- You would not believe how often we've had sudden weather changes that necessitate the immediate cessation of practice. When that happens, there MUST be an adult WITH transportation available to take a child home. Again: 50+ kids, 2 coaches = not enough car space to cram them all in the coaches' cars! And sometimes kids need to go home for other reasons - injury, illness, etc. You, or a designee, MUST be present.
- Although it's only happened once in the last six years, we HAVE had a case of an adult unaffiliated with our program lingering in the area of our practices and Meets. While the individual was known to local police and was not deemed an immediate threat, the incident emphasizes the need for each child to be personally supervised.
So parents, it is IMPERATIVE, and REQUIRED that you or a designee be at EVERY practice and EVERY meet with your child.
13. Must my runner check in before meets or practices?
At regular Track Meets, participants need check in only if they have not yet picked up their race number and registration packet, or have forgotten to bring their race bib to the meet (we have spares, and runners MUST have a bib to race). We do ask that runners and their families think ahead of time about what events their children will participate in, and that on Meet day, each runner choose up to (and no more than) three races, plus field events. This is both to avoid burnout in runners, and to keep the day manageable for everyone.
For practices, families are on their honor to attend only their designated practice, and for only registered children to participate. Please respect our request that only registered children from the designated age division and Group be allowed on the practice field.
14. How are race numbers assigned?
We assign race numbers according to your child’s age and gender, based on that season's registrant pool. The first one or two numbers represent your child’s age (e.g., 1003 is a ten-year-old). The last two numbers represent your child’s gender in that numbers 00 through 49 are assigned to girls and 50 through 99 are assigned to boys. So 1003 is a ten-year-old girl and 556 is a five-year-old boy.
15. My child will be in the same age group this season and wants to keep last season’s race number. Is this possible?
Nope. Bibs are assigned based on each season's registrants, and we don't always re-use the same sub-series of numbers from one season to the next.
16. Does my runner keep the same race number for the whole season?
Yes. Even if your runner has a birthday during the season, the race number stays the same. There are birthdays virtually every day during the season, so it is simply not possible to constantly be updating bibs. The number reflects the runner’s age as of the date of the first meet. This is how we keep track of results throughout the season, so it is important that children bring their bibs each week. Please pin the race bib to the front of your child’s shirt with a four safety pins, each anchoring a corner, because they do flap around when kids are running.
17. What do I do if we forget to bring the race number to a Meet?
This is not a problem, but your child does need to wear a number for each race so we can score the race properly and track results. At each Track Meet on the tables, there will be a packet of spare bibs, some fat Sharpie markers, and an alphabetical roster for looking up bib numbers. Please look up your child's number (please don't try to do it from memory - you would be surprised how often people guess wrong, even when they're sure!) and hand-write it on the back (blank) side of a spare bib. Then pin it on, handwritten side out, so the judges can see your child's number. If your child is not wearing his or her correct, assigned race number, his or her results will not be scored, and we will spend a great deal of time trying to track down the "mystery runner."
18. What happens if we miss a Meet or practice?
Well, then...you miss a Meet or practice. Happily, since Track and Cross-Country are individual sports the way we run it, there are no other team members who are depending on your child to show up on any given day. We are a Developmental League, and we want running to be fun for your child. If you have other plans, or if she or he is tired or ill that day, please don’t worry about it; we’ll see you next week. If you miss a practice or meet and your child is not ill, it would be a good idea to schedule a family jog so that you child can continue to improve (or doesn’t lose) her or his conditioning. Conditioning is important, and the practice plans follow a progression that will help your child learn track and field skills, so if you know you'll miss a practice and would like some suggestion from Coach for exercises that can be done at home between Meets, please email
or see Coach at the Meet.
19. What else do we need to bring to meets and practices?
First and foremost, PLEASE make sure every child brings a water bottle to both practices and Meets. Adequate hydration is crucial, and Coach will strictly enforce water breaks! There are NO water fountains at our practice facilities, and no guarantee of a functioning one at our Meet facilities. Even with a functioning water founatin, we can't have all 200+ kids lined up at it at once, so please bring a water bottle, even to Meets.
Kids should wear sensible running shoes – trainers or racing flats, or even regular sneakers - but no sandals, Crocs, Mary Janes, etc. This is a safety issue; proper running shoes significantly reduce the chance of injury! We do not use cleats or spikes for our house meets, so sneakers are all that's needed. Kids may wear shorts and a t-shirt (MYTF shirts are welcome but not required), or sweats, or running tights, a light jacket, or any other clothing that they find comfortable for running. In seasons where we hold our Meets at Langley High School, we do suggest that everyone - even parents and siblings in the stands - bring a jacket to Meets even if it seems a bit warm. It’s often quite windy and cool in the stands at Langley, even on otherwise calm days.
If it’s a sunny Sunday, hats and sunscreen are a good idea. Sunburns trash personal records! Bug spray is also helpful at practices, where the fields tend to be particularly gnatty.
Finally, don’t forget to pack your patience, a sense of humor, and a willingness to volunteer…
20. Are there bathroom facilities?
Unfortunately, not really. A few schools have a port-a-john onsite somewhere near the field, but it isn't universal at all fields. Likewise, sometimes the school building is open during a practice or Meet, but there is NO guarantee. PLEASE NOTE: coaches are NOT available to make that trek with individual kids, so this is yet another one of the many reasons why we require a responsible adult (in addition to the track coaches) to be at all practices and Meets.
21. What if my runner falls, is stung, or has some other need for first aid?
There is a basic first aid kit at all practices and meets. This kit includes bandages, antiseptic, sting-eze, gloves, ice packs, and other standard first-aid supplies. It is usually kept near the admin tables at Meets. At practices, it will be with the Coach's equipment; at Meets, it will be at the Finish Line/Judges' Table. Adults are welcome to make use of it to fix their runner’s scrapes and bumps, and we prefer for both time and liability that parents (rather than coaches) treat their children's injuries. If we run low on any supply, please let Coach or Mickey know, so that we can replace the item(s).
22. It’s raining. Are you practicing or holding a meet?
Possibly. PLEASE signed up for RainedOut text alerts by texting the word TURBOJAV to 84483 - you will receive only MYTF texts. You can also watch your email (the one you submitted at registration) and/or the front page of this website, but they will be slower and less reliable ways to get the information. We cancel meets only rarely – in case of thunder or a real deluge or other very nasty weather. Practices are more subject to cancellation because we do use the field inside the tracks, and they are often closed by rainy weather, or mud from prior days' rains. BUT, we WILL cancel the remainder of a Meet or practice that is already underway if the weather becomes untenable, so again, PLEASE plan for an adult to stay with your child who can take them home or at least give them shelter until you arrive!
Please note: If it has been raining prior to a practice but practice is still being held, be sure your child wears old clothes to practice - it WILL be muddy!
23. I have a special concern related to my child and his or her running. With whom do I speak about this?
Feel free to email Coach at
, or speak with him personally at any Meet, or speak with your child's Group Coach at your assigned practice session.
24. I think there’s an error in the results. What do I do?
If you have found an error, we will do our best to fix it. Please know that we do try to get the results correct but there are a lot of opportunities for human error in the process (handwriting interpretation, data entry, children milling around, etc.). Please email us the race information, race number, etc. and we’ll check the original judging and scoring sheets. Please don’t simply chat with us after a Meet and assume we’ll remember all the details correctly; send an email to
25. I see you are a USATF member club. Does my runner have to join the USATF in order to run with MYTF?
No. Your runner may participate in all our house events, including our cross-country runs, without becoming a USATF member. However, if your runner wishes to participate in the USATF Junior Olympics (JO) competitions, they will need to join USATF. Youth membership in USA Track and Field is $19.95 per calendar year, and joining can be done relatively painlessly. Please consult Coach Adam for details on JO if you are interested (
26. Should my runner participate in the Junior Olympics meet?
Junior Olympics is a post-season event and is completely optional. The threshold question is whether it would be a fun experience for your kid. The USATF competitions tend to attract the region’s fastest runners, and most competitive jumpers/throwers, and you should consider whether your runner would enjoy the experience of competing against other highly successful kids, or whether they need more time to develop before jumping into that arena. Some runners get discouraged if they are not in the head of the pack. This could mean they would benefit from experiencing that situation and learning from it, or it could mean that they would become more permanently discouraged, because they’re not yet at the stage where it would be a positive learning experience, and something to build on. You know your runner best.
27. I’d like to pace my runner during a race. Is this permitted?
Pacing older runners (9 & up) is prohibited unless there is some other issue such as vision impairment or special needs; if there is, please discuss with Coach so provisions can be made.
In general, pacing is discouraged for younger runners as well. It is not safe for the spectators, it drives the timers and judges nuts, and it does not let the kids develop pacing techniques on their own. We work on this skill at practice. If you think your very young runner may suffer a "meltdown" and require immediate comfort (sometimes you just can’t tell with 5-year-olds), feel free to walk or jog along the backstretch to be able to pull your runner off the track for a hug. Please stay away from the crowd at the finish line, since that is where most collisions occur. Also, as heartwarming as it is to see an older sibling or friend running along to encourage another runner, please make sure your kids aren’t doing this - it is both a safety and a liability issue. We’ve seen lots of collisions with this – and collisions don’t warm the heart. Except during the Family Fun Meet, all races are for registered runners in the designated age/gender group only.
28. You said you do the Long Jump, TurboJav, and Shot Put field events. What the heck is a "TurboJav," and do you do any other field events?
The TurboJav(elin) is a plastic, torpedo-shaped device designed to emulate the experience of throwing a javelin, without the pesky child endangerment of chucking sharp, pointy spears on a field full of children. Learning to throw the TurboJav properly is a bit of a challenge, but one that will train your children well for future throwing events at the high school level.
As of the Spring 2017 season, we have added the Shot Put to our repetoire, and have varying weights for the different age groups to try. At this time, we do not do other field events, although we do sometimes offer a High Jump "clinic" for older kids during the younger kids' portion of the Meet, and we are always lookin to incorporate additional options. Mostly, the issue is the size of the program; so many kids = too many volunteers required to keep all the moving parts going at any given meet. Coach is open to the possibility of expanding the events though, so stay tuned for possible clinics or special Meet days that may incorporate some of these other events.
29. You've said you're a non-competitive, Developmental League. Will my child have the ability to earn any awards for his/her achievements?
We absolutely want to encourage kids to keep trying and persist in besting themselves each week. To that end, we issue ribbons for each event, based on the age and gender of each child, within heats for race events (all field events are for the entire age/gender group). Ribbons for all race events will be created each week following the Meet (by our generous ribbon writing volunteer!); they can be picked up at any subsequent meet, from the box of folders containing ribbons sorted by bib number. Ribbons for field events are self-serve; we have found in the past that a) there are simply too many (since almost all children participate in the field events) and b) most children aren't as interested in their field ribbons. There will be a red self-serve ribbon box on one of the tables at the Meets that contains a supply of ribbons, several pens, and results sheets from the previous Meets so that parents (or older participants themselves) can write ribbons earned for field events.
In addition to the Track ribbons, we also provide special awards for special events. Runners in the Cross-Country races will earn medals, fancy ribbons, pins, or other special awards for their participation. We also highly encourage every child to try to the Mile race at least once each season. We try to set aside a "Trophy Mile Meet" in the Spring specifically for this purpose, and each child who runs the Mile that day will earn a trophy. (If your child has to miss Trophy Mile day, they can earn a trophy by running the mile at any subsequent Meet where it is run; only one trophy per season, per child please.)
30. How do I contact you?
. We will respond to your email as quickly as possible, but please be patient -- especially in the off seasons. As noted above, we are all volunteers, and although the email is checked at least daily during the season, it is not monitored constantly, and in the off-season, may only be checked every few days.