‘Elite athlete’; it’s not exactly an option you whimsically put on your list for potential careers or university preferences in Year 12. There’s more to it than wishful thinking and raw talent, and that’s what Abby Regan is here to share with us.
Having already been on exchange once before, Abby now tells us that “undertaking a Master’s at Washington State University (WSU) was a different adventure, the University picked me.”
How to get scouted:
I was scouted via Facebook whilst traveling before my exchange placement to The Netherlands. It was kind of surreal. I was on an island during Yacht week in Croatia when I received an inbox message on Facebook asking if I was interested in running for the University of Idaho. I was confused because I was older than when most get recruited at 18 years or younger, however was intrigued to find out more. I contacted an Australia friend, Todd Wakefield who had been studying at WSU- I had no idea that it was only eight miles from the University of Idaho. I told him my times and that Idaho had written a message of interest and next thing I had his coach calling me via Skype. The WSU coach Tim Riley then followed up my options and after much discussion we discovered I would be able to apply for a Masters degree with two years of running eligibility once I competed my bachelors.
There are a few ways to get noticed by American Universities. In most circumstances it comes down to how good your times are for track, or what your PB’s are for jumps and throws in the field events. Universities in The States are proactive in searching websites such as allathletics.com, where individual’s times worldwide are automatically logged for the athletes.
As university in The States is expensive it is rare to find anyone who will go over to America as an international to study then find a way into a sport team. If you are accepted to a university with an athletic scholarship, 100% of your tuition is generally covered, I don’t think I have heard of any circumstances of an Australian in the States who isn’t.
If you are an athlete who has not been contacted by any Universities in The State’s but wants to apply, I would recommend sending an email of interest to the Head Coach of that particular sport. You can simply search for Universities in The States that your interested in, whether it be because that school has a good reputation in that sport or you are interested in a particular part of the country. I would put together a brief resume of your achievements in your sport that you could then forward to them, along with your expression of interest. I would recommend being as proactive as you can, following up emails if they are taking a while to respond, as Head Coach’s are always busy.
For track and field, depending on if you are wanting to be located on the East or West of America I would highly recommend choosing a school within the PAC 12 (West) conference or the SEC (East) conference. They offer the highest level of competition within Division One sports in the US and if your times are good enough, that is where you want to be.
Australia vs. The US: 4 things training overseas can give you:
Become your best
Training overseas gave me the opportunity to grow into an athlete that I wasn’t sure I was capable of. I grew up in Coonamble, located in rural NSW and was always so excited to make it to the next level, always hoping I would but never wanting to admit it or truly believing I could. Through high school at Loreto Normanhurst I followed a similar pattern and slowly got better. It wasn’t until 2011-2012 when I ran the City to Surf for a training run and placed 15th in the Women’s and was then the last selected for the 2012 Olympic trials in the 1500m. As the last seed I ended up placing 8th and ran my fifth PB for the season. It was with this time that Wayne Phipps recruited me to America.
The State’s allowed me to experience a new caliber of competition that I may have never otherwise been exposed to, or comfortable in. Many athletes in Australia come to America for large track meets to qualify for World Championships or the Olympics because the competition is better and has more depth. At WSU I was exposed to this competition once or twice a month during the main season.
Train and travel
Two of my most favourite things in life. I struggled to afford travelling to competitions domestically within Australia, but at WSU we travelled every second or third week during a season, either within the state or sometimes as far as Indiana or Arkansas.
Become a good student
As a student- athlete, you are a student first, then athlete. I already had good a good routine and study habits as a student but the States taught me how to combine this with my running, something Universities in Australia do not address well.
The Universities in The States allow you train as a professional once or twice a day, and travel for competitions- despite your schooling. We would train before school and then at 4pm be in the weight room or dedicate time to recovery with stretching, rehabbing, ice tubing, etc.
They show you the right methods of recovery through nutrition, stretching, rehabbing and provide the facilities and support to address this every day. At UTS as a scholar athlete I had access to the University gym. WSU had an athletic trainer specifically for track that I would seek help from and alternative methods for cross training such as an underwater treadmill, an AlterG (antigravity treadmill), VersaClimber and stationary bikes etc.
Have your education paid for
In Australia I was on an athletic scholarship that would provide me with what I thought was ok at time a $1500 check per year. In The States they were able to pay for my entire tuition, as well as a Stipend per month that allowed me to survive. Because of the struggles of studying, working three jobs and training, I would of never been able to complete a Masters in Australia, it wouldn’t of been possible financially or mentally.
The missing footnotes:
A good routine and organisation is key to balancing your studies as an elite athlete. If you experience trouble with professors/lecturer’s because you have trouble completing certain assignments or exams due to your sport, fight it. I had a few tutors who didn’t understand why, or not wanting to be sympathetic as it was for sport. It shouldn’t interfere with your academics, but sometimes it did. You need to seek advice from your sport department at your University or speak with your tutors when you begin the semester to inform them of your situation. With little support to athletes at Universities in Australia you need to stand your ground and do this yourself.
If I was to do it all over again, I would try to apply for a scholarship position when I was 17-18 years. I spent many years trying to work out the balance of a University life and training, which was particularly hard with all the parties and the desire to travel every holiday. If I had of gone to The States earlier I may have progressed faster with my running and age is important for runners, you only have a certain window to be able to compete at high levels.
Studying and training overseas has not only been amazing for my running career, but more importantly it has allowed me to grow as a person, become more independent and form life long friendships. I had finally found people who trained and studied at the same time just like me and were fun, supportive people to be around.