From the age of ten, I have dreamed big. My journals show my dreams and how I set goals to get there. As a 10 year old, I wanted to be an Olympian. In high school, I wanted to win state, go to Foot Locker and make a Junior World Team. In college, I wanted to win an NCAA title. I accomplished all those dreams and goals by committing myself to them, never giving up, and having a support system.
After accomplishing every dream I had for the past 25 years, I knew I would eventually have a dream that would not happen. I didn’t make my second Olympic Team last year but I am very happy with my career. I don’t know if I will get back to elite level racing but I do have more goals and dreams to work toward.
My new dream, I tried on a small scale in 2001. I would like to revisit that big dream. I want to start an elite women’s training group called Distance Divas Elite. The goal of the Distance Divas Elite group is to help US distance women to bridge the gap between collegiate and professional running. Too many talented young women slip through the cracks due to the limited number of well-funded opportunities that are available.
The funding of aspiring Olympic track & field athletes has traditionally been left to the major shoe companies. The funding of track & field athletes should not be fully placed on shoe companies. The shoe companies should not have to keep the sport afloat.
Top athletes continue to make an adequate amount to train full-time. However, the post-collegiates and emerging elites need help to stay in the sport long enough to become a top athlete (and get paid). I won’t repeat my whole story but I was a 15-time NCAA Division I All-American. My first 6 years as a “Pro” I worked 2 part-time jobs and was able to stay in the top 10 in the USA. Within 18 months of getting a livable contract, I made the Olympic team. Within 30 months of getting that contract I placed 6th in the IAAF World Champs in the 10,000m. Being in a group and being able to focus on making the right decisions for training and racing creates an environment that leads to success. With the right support, an athlete won’t have to decide between massage and groceries, or racing for rent.
The goal of Distance Divas Elite will be to help athletes that do not get a big contract and to guide them in their professional career. I want to try a new funding strategy without solely relying on shoe companies. The vision is to have the group provide their community with fitness programs for kids and adults in exchange for funding from local businesses and foundations. The funding of the group will be based on doing projects in the community and not just for wearing a logo.
The programs inspire kids to get fit and set goals. I hope they also get more kids interested in participating in track & field. The goal is to use Track & Field as a vehicle for success for kids by showing them that there is an event in track for everyone. The programs also create regional support and fans for the athletes. The businesses can fund kids programs and aspiring Olympic athletes. The athletes, in return, can be positive brand ambassadors for the businesses.
I am currently pursuing sponsorships and grants for the programs while setting up a 501c3. My goal is to have the group formed by the end of 2014. It is a big goal but all my other dreams were big. I made the Olympic team by 1.4 seconds. I won my second NCAA title 10 weeks after getting out of a cast. I am not afraid of a challenge. Succeed or not with the group, at least I tried something different to make a difference.