When you spend nearly three decades dedicating your life to doing something, it’s inevitable that walking away will be difficult, no matter how “prepared” you think you are.
Even when you have a whole career, several side hustles, a family, and cool new promising opportunities awaiting you on the other side, it will still be difficult. And that is ok! It shows how much you loved it. How committed you were to it. How life changing the experience was. And most importantly that you’re human.
So what do you do?
Do you prolong competing when you know it’s the perfect time for you to retire?
Do you rush into coaching even though you’re not convinced if that’s your calling?
Do you take a moment to be still, reflect on some of your strengths, pray about it, listen to your heart, and get creative? Yeah that’s what I did.
That’s how I came up with the idea to explore how I would do as an on field presenter. The person on the other side of the microphone interviewing the athletes at track meets. It was a way I could purposefully stay connected to the sport that I love so much. In a way that made sense for me.
Throughout my track career, I was always told that I did a great job answering questions in interviews, and this was something I took pride in.
I also knew, however, that answering questions is a very different skill set than asking them. It would have been extremely naive of me to go into my very first on field presenting gig with an arrogant assumption that it wouldn’t take a great deal of preparation.
So I prepared. A lot.
I’ll spare you with the details, but let’s just say, I didn’t exactly sleep very well the night before the meet. It was very reminiscent of those pre race jitters us athletes learn to cope with throughout our careers. It also didn’t help that I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I am always concerned with making sure the things I attach my name to are of a certain standard. Also, on field presenting was new to me and a very far departure from what I’d consider my comfort zone.
But one thing I knew I could use to help ease my nerves was the transferable knowledge I gained from my long track career. As an athlete I always paid close attention to the types of questions I wanted interviewers to ask, and the ones that were annoying to answer. This eventually proved to be very useful the day of the meet.
So, after hours of prep, and a few meetings later, I said a prayer, got dressed, and headed to the track. It was go time at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island, New York for the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix 2022.
We got in the shuttle bus, I chatted with a few old friends and then thirty minutes later we finally arrived at the track. It was a peculiar feeling, walking into the same track that I competed in twelve months prior, but this time to work in a very different capacity.
Instead of heading to the table collect my bib number, I was heading upstairs to collect my microphone. Instead of going to grab some hurdles that I would use in warmups, I was directed to a room to grab my earpiece. Instead of methodically choosing which songs I wanted to vibe to, I was anxiously reviewing my notes to ensure I didn’t miss any details on the given script.
There was a massive learning curve, and now in retrospect, I think I was actually more nervous standing on the field with a microphone in my hand than I was with spikes on at the start line.
And here’s the thing.
When you see those guys and gals doing the interviews or broadcasting, give them some grace because it is certainly harder than it looks. They may make it look easy, but believe me when I say there are a lot of things to consider when you’re in the middle of it.
There may be an echo in the stadium making it difficult for you to hear your queues from the control room.
There may be a time your earpiece falls out of your ear effectively taking you “offline”.
There may be a time your microphone battery gets low and you get concerned that the crowd may not hear you.
There may be a time when your interview window got shortened from 50 seconds to 20 seconds due to a false start.
There may be a time when you want to interview an athlete who just had a stellar performance, but she’s vomiting and not able to talk so you need to adjust on the fly.
There may be a time when your spotter is being called in a different direction and you are asked to prompt the long jumpers to get lined up quickly for introductions.
There may be a time when you’re asked via earpiece to move the volunteers since their standing location was impeding the fans from being able to effectively see the triple jump runway.
There may be a time when the athlete you’re interviewing is enthusiastically mid sentence and you’re prompted to tactfully wrap them up to stay on time.
Yeah. All of this happend to me on my first time as an on field presenter, plus more. But I loved every second of it. The adjustments on the fly. The ability to let your personality shine through. The opportunity to ask athletes the questions you wish interviewers asked you. The greater appreciation I got for the men and women who dedicate their time to making these meets run seamlessly behind the scenes. The opportunity to give back to the sport, even in a small way.
I received an overwhelmingly positive response from spectators, coaches, agents, meet personnel, and athletes about my debut performance as an on field presenter and it truly brought a smile to my face. Although I do think that the job plays into some of my natural abilities, this also showed that adequate preparation for anything goes a very long way.
I encourage you all to join me in the commitment to not let fear stop us from trying new things. Never let the fear of failure debilitate you to a point where you’re scared to take someone up on an exciting opportunity. The greatest growth comes from outside of our comfort zones. I know, I know, a cliché. But that doesn’t make it any less true.
I have another really cool opportunity coming up in a few weeks, that’s similar to this one, but yet very different. I’ve already started preparing for it. I can’t wait to share more about it with you guys, and I’m excited to bring you all along on my life after track journey.