Girls Cross Country

Head Coach Rebecca Hession Inspires her Runners with Goals of Long-Term Development and Life Lessons

Coach Rebecca Hession began running cross country in middle school in the Adirondacks, a hobby that has developed a lifelong passion. She brings this love for running to coaching in hopes of teaching the Girls Cross Country team valuable skills and life lessons.

“I am still close friends with the people from my high school cross country teammates, and when I started coaching here at Andover I felt the very same connection,” said Hession. “I think that it is very common across cross country teams to have that really deep sense of community because the girls train hard and race hard but mostly they’re a community and that is the most important part, I think for all of us.”

Coach Hession’s passion is not only for running itself, but also for the camaraderie that develops between runners. She also enjoys the way running allows you to experience your natural community while spending time with each other.

Hession continued, “I enjoy the combination of community and the weather and the connection to place that we get to have as a team because we are training in so many different locations around Andover… My fondest memory is definitely trail runs with my friends. That’s something that we try to do here all the time. Trail runs, big hikes with my friends and teammates, just spending time outside with my teammates and friends.”

According to runners, in order to promote this chemistry among the Andover runners, Coach Hession teaches the team to value each other and that cross country is not only about running, but also about developing a community within the team.

Posie Millett ’20 said, “Coach Hession has taught me that being a good runner isn’t just about getting the most mileage but it’s about making relationships with the people on your team and also strengthening every part of your body. Also, she’s taught me that running isn’t just something that’s a competition, it’s a good life skill. Like when you’re older, you can go on a run with your friends and it is a good way to catch up with people and it is a great way to learn about a new place. Running allows you to be a lot more aware of where you are when you go to a new place.”

In addition to pushing the team to enjoy their time running with each other, Coach Hession emphasizes growth and improvement  by implementing a long-term training plan that challenges them over time and produces results. The plan involves developing workouts that have a specific purpose in mind and varying levels of difficulty.

Coach Hession said, “I hope to teach the girls patience in the process. A season is just that. It is not a day. Not one day makes the whole season. It is consistency and patience as you think about your training plan over weeks and months at a time.”

“She’s not the type of coach who believes in 100% [effort] 100% of the time, which is nice because you know when you are doing a hard workout that that is when you need to push yourself and when you’re doing a workout where the purpose is to feel good you sort of know,” said Olivia Brokaw ’18, “I think that she always talks about having a purpose in every run or every workout that we do. Knowing the purpose of a specific day or a specific workout probably epitomizes her coaching style.”

In addition, while Coach Hession passes on teaching about team chemistry and training, she also imparts wisdom regarding attitude and many life lessons, according to her runners.

Lindsay Rosenberg ’19 said, “Coach Hession has taught me to have a more positive outlook on life and on running… She is really into getting the team to be as excited about running as she is… She’s definitely encouraged the mentality that everyone is there to help each other and she’s taught me that even when you don’t want to do it and you aren’t enjoying it, there is so much more to running than going to practice everyday and competing. You go and you learn something new every day about yourself and all of your teammates so I think that makes that very special”

Millett added, “Even if you have had no running experience and you are walking onto the team for your first day, seeing how Coach Hession treats everyone with equal enthusiasm and equal attention and with equal importance is really inspiring to me and her constant positive attitude is really helpful.”

“The best thing I have learned from her is probably to not stress or worry about meets and things when it is important, so to not let it get in my head to early on and really just being out there and enjoy racing,” said Molly MacQueen ’21, “And also as things get more important, then worry about results and things but just to really enjoy racing and running and to not worry so much about results.”

Hession takes the time to share her “rules of life” weekly to the team, such as “always to be the first to smile” or “my sisters in sport help me transcend my own ability, and more importantly they make the process FUN,” a quote from Roisin McGettigan-Dumas, according to Brokaw.

Brokaw said, “She always shares her rules of life with us. It’s a growing list of different little things to live by and I think that she has created an environment on the team that’s like a family.”

When anything unforeseen happens, such as rain on a long run, Hession is known on the team to always say, “Well that’s unexpected!” and then continue on unhindered, according to Brokaw. Her vibrant personality and unending positivity always encourages the team to works its hardest, according to Brokaw.

Hession concluded, “Every August, I start to feel ‘cross-country.’ It’s just a part of who I am. Running in the fall, being a part of a cross-country team is really just sort of a part of who I am, and I feel very fortunate that I had that experience as a high school student and a middle school student and feel really blessed that I get to be a part of that for these girls as well.”