Kevin Jermyn is the head cross country coach and assistant track and field coach at Elon University in North Carolina. He has been coaching for almost 20 years with 14 seasons at Duke University as head women’s cross country coach and associate track and field coach from 2000 to 2014. Some of his accolades include ACC Coach of the Year and NCAA Southeast Region Coach of the Year. He also helped the Blue Devils to a second and third place finish at the NCAA Championships in 2004 and 2005.
As a college XC and track coach, what general thoughts do you have about youth running programs? Do you encourage kids to participate in multiple sports or focus on one?
From a health and a long-term running development perspective, I believe it is valuable to participate in a variety of sports/activities. However, if a young runners doesn’t participate in other sports/activities, they can also develop their overall athleticism by participating in the field events, sprints and hurdles.
Your running resume is top notch. Millrose Games high school mile champion in HS, All-American at Georgetown, and a professional career with a best of 3:43.56 in the 1500m. When did you start running seriously and who/what helped you reach that top level?
I began running in the summer prior to my freshman year of high school. My sister, who was two years older, was on our high school’s cross country and track & field team. I decided to follow her lead and had a feeling that I had pretty good endurance. I was never the fastest kid in my neighborhood, but I seemed to be able to outlast many of my friends while playing.
I was blessed with two amazing coaches at my high school, Peter Whitehouse and Joe Cicoria. They instilled a culture at our high school where team members worked diligently in their studies and athletics. They helped me become educated about running and challenged me to push myself to be my best. In college, I also benefited from world-class coach, Frank Gagliano, and from training with some of the best runners in the world. While I may have had some talent for running, I believe that most of the success came from a strong work ethic, the will to win and a love for what I was doing.
Injury has been an issue for you as an athlete and for many of the athletes, you have coached over the years. Do you have some recommendations on exercises or drills kids can perform to avoid injury?
I focus on three key areas when advising my runners on how to become injury resistant. First, you need to eat healthy, which means both a sufficient volume of food and high-quality ingredients. If you owned a Ferrari, I am sure you would only put the finest gas and oil into that high powered engine. Why do we treat ourselves any different? Second, you need to get to sleep early and log nine hours of sleep to support higher level training. Runners that are training seriously and sleep less than eight hours are more injury prone. Third, you need to build a strong core and feet so that you can maintain proper posture while running. Specifically, I focus on exercises that strengthen the transverse abdominals, glute medius and our big toe. Many runners already focus on their core quite a bit, but I have seen good results by focusing on foot health as well. Our feet are our first point of contact, so if we lose alignment/posture there, it will throw alignment off going up the kinetic chain.
We have some kids that will be heading to high school in the next few years. What recommendations do you have for them to prepare for the transition to high school XC and track?
I believe that success in running, more than many sports, is more influenced by your work ethic and lifestyle. If you want to become a successful high school runner, keep on progressing your training volume and intensity, and couple that with lots of sleep and excellent nutrition. If you are not satisfied with where your performances are, be patient, put in the work and trust the process. You will get there!
When recruiting athletes to your program, what qualities are you looking for?
Love for running and hard work. Team focused. Posture/athleticism.
You’ve been coaching for almost twenty years now. What made you decide to start coaching and what do you enjoy most about it?
I love our sport and teaching. My coaches had a profound positive impact on my life and I find great fulfillment on trying to pay it forward so to speak.