Last year's members of the Santa Cruz Youth Track Club Credit SCTC

As parents, we are always seeking ways to keep our kids mentally engaged, physically active and unplugged from the vast array of media sources. Turn off the television, the computer, the video games, and get ready for the Santa Cruz Track Club youth season to begin!

Running and participating in track events provides children the opportunity to develop cardiovascular endurance and mental toughness, increase self-confidence, and improve balance, strength and flexibility all while having fun.

It is going to be another exciting season for the SCTC youth program. Each year the program gets bigger and better and this year will be no exception.

“Last year, we had over 100 participants,” said Greg Brock, coach and general manager of SCTC.

This year, the youth club is expected to have even more kids—boys and girls, ages 7-13 of all abilities are welcome.

The season begins on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011 at Soquel High school track and concludes in mid-May. Practices are on Monday and Wednesday from 4:30 to 6:00 PM.

The regular season practices are followed by 6 all-comer track meets to be held Tuesdays from 6:00 to 7:15 p.m., also at Soquel High school track. Track meets commence in May and are for ages 5 through 13. These meets are supposed to be a blast for the young athletes, allowing the kids to participate in at least 4 events. Last year, many great results were achieved and personal bests attained.

The season may be longer for those athletes wanting to compete in the Junior Olympics. The regular competitions range from local all-comer meets to large races with over 600 competitors.

“The kids can compete at big meets primarily in the Bay Area, although some choose to wait until our season-ending all-comer meets at Soquel High School.” Coach Brock says.

All the workouts are geared with fun in mind. Included are hill repeats, hurdles, long jump, relays, obstacle course, monkey bars, and new this year, plastic javelins. The youth program not only underscores running and conditioning, it also highlights sportsmanship and personal growth.

“The philosophy is that the program is to teach about Track And Field, get exercise and have fun,” Coach Brock says. “It can be low key or the kids can compete at a higher level.”

So, for those of you with little athletes at home, mark your calendars for Feb. 16, and get out to the track. You will be amazed at how much fun your kids will have.

There is no need to pre-register, but make sure your child comes prepared with proper shoes, proper clothes, sun screen, hair tie, water bottle and a pair of sweats. It gets chilly in the evening.

“Just show up the first day of practice,” Coach Brock says.

The SCTC is a non-profit organization and requires a $40 registration fee for the program. Children will receive a SCTC T-shirt, coaching at practice and events, and free entry into the Wharf to Wharf race. In my book, this is a bargain to be had. Nowhere can you find 3-months of bi-weekly workouts for only 40 dollars