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  • Michelle Howell

Q+A: Joining a Pro team

After my last blog about making the switch from collegiate to post-collegiate running, I received a lot of questions from readers about the process. So I'm taking you all on a deep dive of what the process was like for me and some tidbits of what I've learned along the way.

Did you have to search to find your track club, or did it find you?

It's essentially the same process as collegiate recruitment, I had some clubs reach out with interest and others who did not and I had to make the first move. With that being said I contacted the District very early in the process (beginning of outdoors) expressing interest in their team. From what I've learned typically teams begin recruiting/reaching out after NCAA finals to allow athletes to focus on finishing their seasons.

Was your decision to join your current club based on solely the coach and members?

When making my decision I made a list of factors I wanted out of the next stage of running (teammates at and above my current level, a middle distance specific training group, a small group rather than a big one). The coach and members of the team were a big factor for me in terms of joining a group with a team culture that coincided with my own values so talking with coaches and current members of the team was something I made sure to do.

I also looked at the track record of members of the group (what they've run, how they progressed, how long they stayed with that program).

What other things did you look for within the club- location, facilities available, places to run, altitude camps/training?

Knowing my skill level coming out of college, I knew I needed to be open with my search in terms of geographic location. I wanted to stay on the East coast primarily because I personally prefer it to the West, I'm more familiar with the racing circuits, and if I wanted to go home being here is an easier trip than being in the West or Mid-west for that matter.

Coming from a smaller Division I program I'm used to not having access to top-notch things (throughout college I never had a locker to my name). So when it came to amenities and facilities I have a shortlist of things I need in order to do what I need to do: access to a track, a gym, a chiropractor or physical therapist on retainer, and a massage therapist is a plus.

Altitude training is not a necessity for me or something I necessarily care for. I grew up living in the South and training in humid climates all of my life.

For you, did you prioritize the track club and its benefits, and let everything else fall into place? Where you would live, work, etc.

I prioritized the group's competition level and my ability to succeed there over other factors, which made my decision difficult toward the end of the process because I chose these over financial aid. Where I am now is a great fit for me athletically and financially things have fallen into place- we gained a sponsorship with UA, I'm able to work part-time as a high school coach and work with private clients. In terms of job opportunities, I've always thought of coaching post-running so I also planned to do it part-time as I ran and eventually transition so being in a larger city with plenty of schools was a big plus.

Being somewhere where you could see yourself afterward is important in my opinion because where you are is where you'll be making connections and building your life. However, I will say if you are considering running seriously post-collegiately you need to jump in the pool headfirst. You can't dip your toe in and expect to succeed meaning you need to focus on the present and worry less about the future later. Worrying about the future and wasting your time is a huge fear within our sport. It's not like the NBA or NFL where you can sit on a bench and not play and still be financially stable. The lines between who gets a contract and who doesn't are blurry to say the least and you never know how long or short your career will be. The one guarantee is that unlike other sports or careers for that matter, the time window you have to be able to compete is relatively small. Wasting time being overconcerned about the future is not how you want to spend this opportunity if you chose to take it.

I hope this q+ a's are insightful and please reach out with any questions I don't cover, I'll be releasing the next series in December