Describe the qualities that your program is looking for in a potential student-athlete?
There are a lot of fast kids, but every kid isn’t the right fit for our program. We have worked hard to build a positive team culture here at NIU. Regardless of the recruits athletic or academic successes they have to want to be part of a team and the culture that comes with it. Additionally they have to love to compete. There are a lot of runners out there who enjoy training and improving but challenging competition scares them. If we are going to win we have to have kids who love to compete, who want to be better than the person next to them and who won’t back down from challenge when they aren’t the best kid out there on day one. Confidence and toughness in competition are more important than any physical trait an athlete could bring to the table.
Could you give us an example of a current or former player who exceeded your expectations, highlighting the reasons that player excelled?
One of the development stories I have always enjoyed telling to my current student-athletes is about a former runner I coached named Carrie. Carrie was a fairly average high school runner running only 11:46 for 3200m as a senior. She was a local kid who grew up just two miles away from the school I was coaching for at this time. During her first week of practice I remember her, a little 5’3″ kid, coming up to me in front of the gym. She had just finished a workout where she got her butt kicked by her older teammates. She said to me “Coach, I’m going to be one of the great Lady Bears”. She said it with such confidence, especially for someone who did not have the credentials to make that statement. I loved the confidence but I will be honest and say I was not sure just yet if she could back it up. Later that fall she took 54th place at the conference cross country championship. She was upset and even cried after the race because of how far back she placed. She remained determined and kept working hard. When next year came she kept improving and by the end of her sophomore year she was the conference champion in the 10,000 meters. She ran 35:09 for 10,000m that year; a pace of 5:37 per mile when just a year and a half before she could not even run two miles at that pace. Her story is proof of just how far clear goals and determination can take you. She made up her mind to be great and to do the things necessary for that before the success came.