Every kid who plays a sport has most likely had a dream of playing professionally. If you would have asked me in my early high school years, I would have told you my dream was to play in the NFL. I never really considered a professional Track and Field career, because I was so confused as to what that meant. Are there professional teams or clubs? How do you earn your salary, and is that salary parallel to other professional sports? This week, I will talk about my transition from the University of Florida, to the professional/post collegiate scene in my sport.
This past week, I moved from my 2012-2013 training site in Ashland, OH to Santa Barbara, California to join the recently formed Santa Barbara Track Club. The program is made up of 4 veteran multi-event athletes and is headed up by Coach Josh Priester. Our hope is to continue to grow this club until it attracts national attention, and the caliber of athletes that we have already should give us a good spark for the future this upcoming season. This will be a new experience for me, because in the 13 years that I have competed in this sport, I've never really had a full season with a training group! I expect this to bring more training fuel for all of us to feed off of.
Professional Track and Field in America is unlike any stereotypical setup you can imagine. It's not like the NFL, NBA, NHL, where there are teams, divisions, conferences, and multi-million dollar salaries. Track and Field after the college level is all about networking. Who has what you need to get by in training, and how can you get them on your side and prove that you are worth their time and financial commitment. One of my big supporters is Gill Athletics. They make my pole vault poles, javelins, discs, and shots. Having them by my side takes the financial strain on equipment out of the picture, and gives me the most quality products (in my opinion) that there is.
Next, you have to find a coach that believes in your potential, and a facility to do your work. Westmont College has provided me with some of the best training conditions I've seen. A brand new track, a weight room, a pool, and so many of those dreaded hills to run on in Santa Barbara. All of these things must provide an atmosphere suited for your personality, and it must be positive and uplifting.
Let's talk money for a second. The largest portion of your income in Track and Field is prize money. Each specific event that you attend will have a listed payout for the place that you finish. I won big prize money last year at the Pan American Games, and the USA Championships, and that money has paid for the rest of this year for me. Only when you're at the absolute top of the sport do you see big money from shoe companies, and I am working towards that out here.
If you do wish to continue to pursue your dream after college and take on this type of scene, know that it does take patience and a lot of ambition. It's not the most glamorous sport out there, but the Olympic dream is hard to give up on, especially when it's lived in you for so many years!
That's all for now. I wish all of the athletes that are starting their fall training this month the best of luck, represent your schools well!