It’s about gaming, not training
Totally unlike the grownups who nag them, kids seem to prefer playing to working. Herein lies the secret to getting them to run. The more you can make running into a game, the more they’ll enjoy it. Some kids will be more excited by the play aspect; others just want to win. With a little imagination, you should be able to find running games that appeal to everyone.
Here are a few suggestions. Try them, modify them, or join forces with the kids to invent your own games.
This game requires some work for the coach, but is great fun if the kids are old enough to be let loose in a large park or wooded area. The coach prepares written clues on index cards (preferably weighted so they won’t blow away). Each clue leads to the next clue, until the final one leads the end point (maybe somewhere with cold drinks?) Divide the kids into two teams and have them race to the finish. The game can be made more interesting by leaving different clues for each team. One option is to send them to the same places, but in a different order.
Sharks & Minnows
This traditional swimming game works well for runners. Mark off a large rectangular area, or use half of a football pitch or the equivalent. Start with one runner as "it." That runner stands in the middle of the pitch and acts as the shark, while the other runners play the minnows and line up on the far end of the play area or field.
The shark calls out, "Come minnows, come!" The minnows sprint across the field to try to reach the opposite side without getting tagged by the shark. If the shark tags a minnow, that minnow becomes an additional shark for the subsequent rounds. The last minnow to be tagged is the winner.
Water Balloon Relay
Who doesn’t love water balloons? This relay involves dividing the kids into relay race teams and using water balloons as the batons.
If the balloon is dropped and pops, the runner can replace it by running to a central bucket filled with backup balloons, and then re-entering the race at the same spot they dropped the balloon. The winning team gets a water balloon for each runner and 30 seconds to try to soak the losing team.