I talk to people who have middle school kids entering the realm of cross-country. If they ask me about training in the Summer I encourage them to keep it light and learn to run. If they are just starting out then let them run 5-10 miles a week. If a kid wants to go a few miles more then fine, but keep it aerobic. It shouldn't feel like work when you start out in the sport. Let them show up for the season able to run. Let the coaching staff take over when the time comes.
Many times they start asking about speedwork. These kids are 11-13 years old. It seems some parents want results. Others have told them about the benefits of pre-season speed. I would rather have a kid enjoy the sport and then progress. Many kids go out for cross and after a year or to disappear from the scene. Partly because it seems everyone wants to be a “winner” right off the bat. It takes seven runners to field a team. Why aren't people patient enough to see development? It comes from lack of knowledge and the sport culture is to build winning teams in all sports immediately. Not all programs are this way locally, but the high school sports scene requires kids to have commited to one sport as early as 7th grade. You need to be on a Select team, you need to be at these Summer programs, you need to play on these teams, you need to be at the weight room, pool, track, court at this time during the Summer. I guess that is what it takes. I understand this, but honestly this is why I see so many kids stop playing. Friends cancelling vacation because Johnny has to be in Akron for a soccer tournament. Johnny is 12. Is it that important?
Some kids are driven for whatever reason. Some kids want to have fun. Thank goodness for recreation leagues. I have a tough time pushing my kids at a young age. When your in high school and you want to excel, fine.