For this month's Coaching Connection we reached out to Coach Maurice DuCarpe, the head coach at Metairie Park Country Day. As a fellow New Orleans small school coach, I've been impressed with Coach DuCarpe's revitalization of the school's existing program, and especially the depth and strength of his women's team -- which extends to the middle school roster. The Cajuns are going to be contenders for many years to come!
Name: Maurice DuCarpe IV
Role at School:
I am the Head XC and Track & Field Coach of boys and girls at Country Day; however, I do not teach at Country Day. Currently, I am the Lead of the Adapted Physical Education Department at Jefferson Parish School System, as well as an evaluator of students for Adapted Physical Education in the private setting.
What is your personal athletic background?
As the son of a coach, I grew up playing and loving all sports. Once I attended Brother Martin as a Freshman, I decided to run cross country. Though I successfully ran in middle school, cross country was not considered a polarizing sport. At Brother Martin, XC was king, at least in my eyes. During my Freshman year, we won state and the following years, we continued to place as state runner-up. If not for Hurricane Katrina, I believe we would have won my Senior year – but Crusader colored glass, I guess.
What brought you to coaching cross country and/or track?
As a bright-eyed Elementary Education graduate from the University of Holy Cross, I knew I wanted to teach and coach young athletes. As I coached All-Stars, JPRD, and a few middle school basketball teams before entering the workforce, my passion for coaching developed. My first assignment was to aid the cross-country coach at Ridgewood Preparatory School (RPS), as well as the track and field team. That year, our team grew their PR’s two to three minutes from the previous season. After that I was hooked on coaching cross country!
Following that year, the RPS coach informed me of a XC and Track coaching position at Metairie Park Country Day. I was torn to leave RPS and its runners, both of which I loved; however, I knew I wanted to blaze my own path. Fast forward six years, Country Day has taken home state titles in 2019, 2020, 2021, as well as state runner ups in 2019, 2020, and 2022 (Track and Field). I attribute much of my success to the RPS coach; I have expressed this to her as it was her guidance and style of coaching that helped shape my career.
How many years have you coached?
This year marks my seventh year coaching Cross Country and my 18th year coaching, in general.
What teams/age groups do you coach?
Currently, I coach the high school cross country and track & field teams at Metairie Park Country Day. I attend middle school’s meets and practices as much as possible. Since I am not a campus coach, it restricts my time to form connections with middle school athletes; therefore, I try to be present as much as possible, as well as help my middle school coaches with workout plans and whatever else is needed. My middle school coaches make our varsity program. I do not know what I’d do without them!
What is your xc coaching philosophy?
“Build a team so strong that they don’t know who the leader is.” This quote is embedded in our team philosophy. Each of our runners, regardless of talent, is a contributor and leader in some way, shape, or form. While one runner may be setting records, another may be making the team laugh with their personality; while another may be motivating his teammates through voice or effort during practice. We need all of these kids to be successful. This is what makes us a strong family and team.
Does it carry over into any other sports you might coach?
I try to create this philosophy in all of our XC, Indoor, and Outdoor programs.
What is your general season goal?
Sometimes, being at a small school places coaches and athletes in a box in regards to goals. They may feel that it makes it more difficult to achieve the unachievable. Country Day promotes a specific prestige and confidence that helps our athletes feel they can compete with anyone. For XC, our athletes’ goal has always been and will always continue to be to win the state championship. But, with our recent successes and current crop of athletes coming through in the next few years, we are setting a goal of running well at NXN regionals at the Woodlands. I believe setting this goal will propel our athletes to reach for what was once thought unachievable. Once we meet this peak, we can continue to reach higher and higher.
Do you have a key workout you use throughout the season?
Our workouts are based on past experts’ running plans. Coe, Daniels, Lydiard, Rubio, Dellinger, Salazar, Gerschler, and others. My particular favorite include - a 10-20 minute warmup, dynamics, static, 1200m strides (200m on 200 jog), 3-5 miles of Wisner bridge up and over at 5K DP (Date pace) with 400m jog recoveries at the end of each up and down, 10-20 minute cool down, static, and trash can ice baths after.
Each runner has their own specific workout geared to what they can do, as well as a pacing group. I speak to each of them individually during static stretching, ask them how they feel, and adapt the day's workout to how they are feeling. The runners have their own preset mileage each week with a 7 day running plan.
How do you handle injury?
We have a weekly team meeting in which we discuss various factors in relation to training and that specific week. We emphasize active recovery before and after workouts. Our runners have a specific weight routine that focuses on certain areas that tend to plague new and seasoned runners. Last, Country Day’s training staff is a godsend; the attention to detail they provide our runners is astounding.
In regards to anxiety, we try to set weekly expectations, talk to our runners individually to gauge their mindset, and speak to our runners after races to reduce anxiety. We provide scientific explanations as potential reasons to why a PR was not met in a race, or why runners may have struggled in practice. Additionally, we pay close attention to course load. There are times in which a runner needs a day off to complete coursework; we try to grant this off day if needed.
Apathy is common when runners are overwhelmed with course work and not hitting their goals. At this point, we converse with the athletes and add small goals which are obtainable for that week. This approach increases their confidence – moving forward. For coursework, as mentioned above, we provide intermittent off days to our runners who have a lot going on. This allowance helps them to refuel and return energized.
How do you see athletics integrated with academics?
Country Day truly is a special place where kids can run a race one day, have a leading role in the play the following day, and perform in an orchestra the next. Country Day does an incredible job allowing their students to participate in multiple activities. All instructors - ranging from athletic coaches to art and drama teachers – work together to afford these students the ability to do it all. Country Day has a committee that is comprised of these mentors who meet to plot out the year and to reduce the overlapping of these activities.
What is the most important skill or value you try to impart to your team?
The most important skill or value I try to impart is how to set a goal and how to obtain it. Oftentimes, our runners want to set minimal goals in order to achieve them quickly. As coaches, we try to help our runners set small and large goals so they are continually achieving, as well as working towards other goals. This approach ensures continued growth amongst our team.
After the Metairie Park Country Day Cajun girls placed as state runner's up and the boys were just off the podium in 3rd place in their state championship race, I reached out to Coach DuCarpe for a quick summary of his thoughts on their successful season. This is what he had to say: