Collegiate Running and Why Attitude Matters

The piece below was a positive response to the negativity swirling around Georgetown’s track team and was originally posted here.

10391537_1168932425570_6797158_nMy name is Kelsey (Malmquist) Carroll, Class of 2010. During my time as a student athlete on the Georgetown Track and Field team, I experienced PRs in new events, not beating my high school PRs in old events, and all of the emotions that go along with it.

At Georgetown, I was forever impacted by my friends, teammates, and coaches through what I learned OFF the track. On the long bus rides home from meets, Coach Henner was always there to talk to, and not just when I ran well. With so many emotions swirling on a daily basis, helping athletes balance academic excellence with running careers they can be proud of (at every level), Henner brings a calmness and even-keeled timbre to the track program that we desperately need/ed.

1927858_521371754675_2694_n (1)My four year journey on the track team was filled with ups and downs and empty spaces, as I had to sit out at least one season a year due to injuries. In fact, the first run I ever did at Georgetown, my quad started hurting and it turned out to be a stress fracture. Injury is unfortunate part of distance running and you’d be hard pressed to find an athlete that hasn’t been emotionally impacted by this challenge in their career. Any time I was injured, the coaching staff would treat me like any other member of the team (and I wasn’t even that fast) …. as long as I showed up to practice with a good attitude and ready to work.

In a results-based sport like track, an athlete makes themselves completely vulnerable. Especially in distance running, weaknesses are exposed very quickly. Yes, it takes talent and hard work to get into a position to perform well, but it’s the athlete’s attitude that ultimately determines their performance. So simple, yet hard to grasp unless you’ve been there and pushed through the mental barrier. The reason for this aside is to set the context for why an athlete would be asked to leave the team. After a bad race (I’m talking terrible here – not like you got 2nd at Big East instead of 1st), a coach would ask an athlete … and an athlete would ask themselves, “What happened?” Barring any injuries or illness, usually the answer was simple: “At some point in the race, I mentally gave up.” If an athlete was mentally strong, had an attitude that positively influenced their teammates, and gave their all every time they stepped on the track, they would be considered an asset to the team, even if they weren’t the fastest. I’ve known a lot of teammates who exhibit those traits – that ran all four years – and I count many of them as friends today, long after out last race or workout together. And while times are important in track, attitude is something that transcends athletics and … sorry to say … actually matters in real life.

1930469_553341077895_4095_n (1)As far as Georgetown being under-funded, I went on some recruiting trips to other schools that distributed gear (shoes, uniforms) based on performance – and I promptly crossed those schools off my list for that reason. During my time at Georgetown, this favoritism was never the case (I know this because I was one of the slowest and the staff made sure everyone got what they needed). Also, am I the only one who loved the fact that we had a 320m track? Not being a fully funded program, without fancy facilities gave us a solid chip on our shoulder that would fuel our drive to pass by fancy “arm warmer” girls at the end of races. We knew what we signed up for: A world-class education, the PRIVILEGE to wear the blue and gray, travelling the country to represent our school, the opportunity to distill positive life lessons that we carry with us long after we hang up our spikes.

Thank you to the Georgetown Track and Field program, especially Coach Henner, for supporting us, cheering us on, having grace in difficult conversations, and teaching us that there’s more to life than running in circles and turning left.

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