Physical Therapist and Run Coach Partner Together to Create Junior High Running Club


July 29th, 2020 was the day the IESA announced they would be cancelling all fall sports due to COVID-19. By the first of August, Denise Smith (physical therapist and running technique specialist) of Smith Physical Therapy and Running Academy sat awake one night and was convinced she’d be able to offer a running camp for Junior High athletes. Less than 24 hours later, she proposed the idea to Megan Sloan; friend and RRCA run coach. Soon, the 2 of them had the foundation set and started promoting their camp with a start date of September 8th, 2020.

“I hated seeing the season being cancelled. I know that running can be such an outlet for these kids, especially since they aren’t in school at the moment,” Denise explains.

Together, Megan and Denise created a plan to offer a 3-day a week program for 7 weeks, with the intention of creating a ‘whole’ runner. The plan wasn’t to run miles on top of miles every day. Education is the core of the program; running is simply a bonus.

“We want these kids to leave this camp with the understanding that there is more to running than running. We want them to understand technique, nutrition, strength, mobility, flexibility, and agility to create a solid foundation in order to prevent injuries as their bodies go through growth changes,” says Denise.

The camp has also brought in a team of experts to further explain their craft and how important it all ties into the sport of running. Denise Smith and Megan Sloan want to give huge thanks to the following experts to offering their time to help educate these young youngers:

An added bonus to the program was the chance to offer the athletes multiple cross country meets at Veteran’s Acres Park in Crystal Lake, IL. Denise and Megan worked closely with the Crystal Lake Park District to ensure all safety protocols were met and highly enforced. (Masks are required until the race starts, hand sanitizer is readily available, any spectators cannot congregate in large groups and MUST be spaced out, and no starting corral is to have more than 10 athletes.) The 2-mile course was created, marked, and ready for the athletes on October 3rd at 8am. Julie Pearson of Race Time, Inc. offered to step in and offer an official chipped timing service so the athletes would have a true race experience.

Together, the coaching duo couldn’t be more grateful for this opportunity and the support they’ve been given from the parents, the Crystal Lake Park District, and School District 47, which will be joining forces with the running club at their next Cross Country meet on October 15th.

The 3rd and final meet of the season will be on Saturday, October 24th at Veteran’s Acres Park. If you have a Junior High athlete who is interested in participating, you can register them for the final event! Registration link can be found here.


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