Chiltern Cross Country League - Your Comments

Have you any comments to make on the Chiltern League?

Email them to me and I will add them to this page so that others can read them.

Message from Windsor Team Manager
Saturday was my first race at the Chiltern League as a coach/team manager, having in previous years been involved with the Hampshire League.
For 40 of my athletes it was also their debut in the league. We all had an excellent day but, as always there were a few comments re the organization.
On the whole it was excellent, everyone got away well and there were big fields. The competition was excellent and varied in quality, as a cross country league should be.
One suggestion was that would it be possible to either email a course map to team managers or put it on the excellent website. Having to remember where to go was pretty difficult for the youngsters when walking the course with their parents. Another suggestion was that, although many at the event they had been to Cassiobury Park before, maybe signs directing people to the XC course would help.

We are really looking forward to the next race at Halton.

Trevor Raggett
WSEH Boys Team Manager

Message from Richard Francis 1st Dec 2005
I suppose this comment about league 1 runners being mixed with league 2 runners in mob matches is old hat, but is there any chance that league 2 runners compete with an extra scrap of paper on their backs. At least this way the runners in each division would know who to aim at or perhaps ignore.
From Dennis: If you do that we may as well have an indication as to their age category as there are veteran and junior team races in the event as well. But extra numbers with division and age category would need to be customised and so more expensive. Any one else want to comment -
email me.

Message from Australia 7th Sept 2004

G'day from Australia.

It was good to see my name in you Chiltern League early years.

Something which may be of interest is that Chiltern League runners filled 3 of the first five places in the Southern Youth Cross Country 18/2/61.

1st Tony (Rasc) Watters (Wycombe Phoenix) 15.22
4th. Pete Yates (Royal Grammar, Wycombe) 15.39
5th. Terry Magee (Southall) 15.47

Regards - Terry Magee

Mob Matches
From Roger Thetford (Headington) 6th Sept 2002

Re mob matches and coping with large men's fields: why not simply give division 1 a ten-minute head-start? Or, if there are three small laps, five minutes? (When the division 1 leaders start catching the division 2 laggards, the division 2 runners must have spread out enough that the faster men can get past unimpeded.)

This would

(a) spread the load on the finish team

(b) avoid extending the race timetable too much

(c) be easily disentangled at the finish by the computerised results system (and if not, have two separate funnels: I recall being separated like this years ago in a Chiltern League race at Northwood)

(d) give the first few runners in division 2 (and I've been one of those) a much better idea of where they stood in their own race than they would get in a mass-start mob match, where you rarely spot your rivals.

On last year's results, ten minutes at Stopsley would have meant the division 2 leaders overtaking roughly a third of the division 1 field; with a five-minute deficit at Slough they would have overtaken about half of the division 1 field.

The Watford course is wide enough early on to cope with a mass start, but Oxford narrows severely at the end of the first field, and would benefit greatly from a staggered start. Try it at Watford to get the runners used to the idea?

League Development
from Phil Macey (under 15 Milton Keynes) 4th Feb 2002

I agree with some of Simon Walker about the points in the Scoring and that's
why I have always been saying to my Coach, that there should be 2 or 3
Divisions but the U13's,U15's,U17's all Scoring in one league and Junior and
Senior's in another League. The races could still be held at the same place
and time but just go into a Separate league. Then there will be more
Youngsters competing as they know they have got a chance of winning. Also
the competition is getting harder. I run for Milton Keynes Athletic Club
U15B and we have won it 4 years in a row and this 5th year is a lot harder
to try and win so that is a good sign, as it was getting really easy to win
but now the competition is getting better. If we did end up having separate
leagues for Youngsters and the Men/Women it would be a lot better. In the
Senior men's races teams are Scoring 1000+ points where as in the Youngsters
they are scoring 100+ points. I hope you see my point.

League Development
from Simon Walker (Bracknell) 4th Feb 2002

Many thanks for your letter regarding the “state of play” within the League. As I have only managed our Chiltern team for this season, and had only a couple of seasons previous experience as a spectator I discussed your letter with some of our Clubs more experienced people.

Certainly the new clubs that have joined the League have helped bolster the League somewhat, and as you say helped offset the effect that the “Reebok Challenge” has had in taking athletes away. The effect we believe has been neutral to the point that the league is performing no better than at anytime in the last 10 years, which under the circumstances should be considered as an improvement.

As to the format of the races we felt the mob matches were very good, everyone who took part from our Club has spoken positively about this format. Therefore one of our suggestions for next season would be that whatever Divisional format is employed all Divisions should race together for all the races of the season. This will also help with the number of venues and officials needed. If it is impossible for this to happen then as many meetings as possible should be combined and certainly the last meeting of the season should be a mob match so that suitable League presentations can take place to teams and individuals in each Division in front of the whole League – this we believe will help the League foster a positive image with the people who take part in and support it.

For the Divisional structure we would like to see a three Division League next season, consisting of 8 Clubs in Division 1 and 2 with the remainder in Division 3. Promotion and relegation across the divisions would be two teams per division. There is no point in having a League if you can elect which Division within the League your club will compete in. After the end of the current season the relegation and promotion system must prevail at all times.

This issue of scoring is complicated, however whatever scoring system is introduced it should be consistent for teams across all the Divisions within the League. One of our viewpoints is that each senior men team should have eight scoring members. This is preferable as many clubs find it difficult to score ten, and it levels out the high scores of the big clubs scoring massive points from their senior men, making the league scoring tighter and more interesting. All the other teams should be four to score. Looking at the scoring from another viewpoint it is possible to question the whole balance of the scoring for a club team. As the scoring is cast currently it is possible for a club to almost guarantee a meeting win by fielding a highly competitive senior men team alone. This cannot be good for the medium term where we all recognise the need to motivate younger people and women to take part in athletics, and cross country in particular. If we were to score the league in a way that is more reflective on the current smaller numbers of young runners and women, would we get in time a greater number of these athletes to compete. Because the young runners and women will make a meaningful difference to the results a club achieved and these groups will be able to see this, i.e. it becomes a selling point for clubs to use when trying to attract these groups to compete. Looking at the current Division 1 situation (after four matches) 73% of the total points awarded went to the senior/veteran men, with the remaining 27% of points spread across all the other male and female categories. A ratio of 50/50 or even better 40/60 for points award in favour of the groups other than senior/veteran men would address this issue.

Division 3 of this proposed League structure will always be a problem because of the uneven membership of these Clubs.

Trying to find a suitable league format leads onto three other issues to which solutions need to be found. Firstly the issue of single sex clubs, one idea would be for single sex clubs to “combine” within the Chiltern League for the purposes of scoring, or too consider some form of weighted scoring solution. Secondly the League does need to attract new clubs, but there is an issue of what happens with new clubs who join mid-season; here our viewpoint is that these clubs should run as non-scoring guests for team purposes, but individuals can score subject to competing the requisite number of races during a season. Thirdly there is the number of fixtures during the season, there is an issue with the number of fixtures that occur in the first three calendar months of the year, and we believe that there can only be one Chiltern meeting after Christmas. Unless there is room within the fixture schedule for four meetings prior to Christmas we must reluctantly suggest a cut back to four fixtures in a season.

Finally we have considered the actual meeting formats. Our athletes and particularly the younger ones would prefer to run in single sex, age group specific races – one of the major reasons they enjoyed the mob matches. From a coaching point of view we believe that running a senior short race combined with young runners has an adverse effect on the cadence of the younger age group and is therefore not desirable. Whilst we don’t believe that any of our senior athletes ran in this short race format we however recognise that this race format has potential value in increasing the number of runners that the League will attract and the race should therefore continue in its own time slot with the meetings.

From Roger Thetford (Headington) 20th June 2001

I've been thinking about the proposals for restructuring the Chiltern
League. The following is not completely thought through, but you may find it
interesting. I've been competing in the Chiltern League for about ten years
now, and am just about to move into the veteran ranks.

First of all, what is the league trying to ACHIEVE? Enjoyable and meaningful
competition for the masses? Strong club teams able to hold their own in the
Southerns / National XC? Breeding-ground for GB junior internationals?
Senior internationals? Answers to many of the questions about the structure
will become much clearer once the objectives are defined and agreed.

1. The restructuring is driven principally by a need to cater for the young
athletes. There seems to be about one division's-worth of such young
athletes in the Chiltern League, so why not simply run them all together, as
a single division? Races should take place at the division 1 venues. Could
even have a 2-division junior-only structure within these races if desired,
to provide incentives to the clubs with weaker junior sections; the
youngsters would have the joy of seeing promotion earned in their own right,
rather than being swamped by their senior men's performance / lack of

2. Completely separately, have two or three divisions for the seniors. (For
definiteness, assume three divisions from now on.) If div 1 and div 2
usually compete together then that simplifies transport for the youngsters
(who will mostly be from the div 1 and div 2 clubs), but because of timing
many youngsters travel separately anyway so div 1 and div 2 _could_
(sometimes?) compete apart, with youngsters from the div 2 clubs at a
different place to their seniors. This reopens the possibilities of using
some of the smaller but attractive venues. Promotion and relegation would be
based on just the senior results, so that ambitious young clubs wanting to
offer competitive races to their seniors would not be forced to divert
effort into setting up junior sections. (I'm certainly not anti-junior, but
experience in orienteering has taught me that university-age recruits, who
have made a decision as independent adults to become involved, are much more
likely to stick with the sport than youngsters who are more influenced by
parental pressure. Whether or not clubs should be 'persuaded' to set up
junior sections is crucially determined by the objectives of the league:
promoting mass participation and clubs that perform well in the regional /
national competitions would not (necessarily) require pressure to coach
juniors, whereas producing junior GB internationals of course would.)

3. How can runners who will never make the club's scoring 10 / 8 / 4 be
incentivised to turn out? (Is this even an aspect that the Chiltern League
should be trying to address? -- see objectives above.) Perhaps point 4
provides an answer...

4. At ALL matches, including div 1 or combined div 1 & 2, have a short race
of 1.5 to 2 miles open to all: men, women, boys, girls. Mainly for fun, but
could run a team competition too: senior men / women allowed to score only
if the club has complete senior men's / women's teams in the main races.
RADICAL IDEA: handicapped starts? (e.g. men 18+ off scratch, women / U17 men
get 2 minutes start, U15 men / U17 women get 4 minutes, etc)

5. Division 1 and division 2 veterans: 5 not 4 to score (as vets seem to be
becoming ever more prevalent). This is half the senior team of 10. Division
3 to remain as 4 to score, half the senior team of 8.