Just like collegiate athletes who play football, basketball or baseball as well as other sports, runners who compete on the track and in cross country can and do become professional athletes. So how do you know whether you're an athlete who has the potential to become a successful distance runner? There are a number of indicators.
First of all, a collegiate distance runner who earns All-American honors in one or several national finals of track or cross country events and/or runs one of the top times in the country for a particular event, has the potential to become a professional runner. An athlete doesn't necessarily need to be the best runner in the country or even an NCAA champion. National champions are the exception, not necessarily the rule, for who can become a successful post-collegiate distance runner.
While talent and potential are certainly factors in pursuing this path, equally important traits are desire, determination and motivation. Athletes who believe they have the ability and potential to make an Olympic team will find the pursuit well worth the journey. As with any goal worth attaining, becoming the best doesn't happen overnight. Those who have a successful career as a professional athlete will have a passion for running and the desire to see how good they can become!
Some runners choose to stay with their college coach but today many others have the option to affiliate with a training center, which provides coaching and a supportive environment that enables an athlete to pursue running as a career. Just like the college selection process, the task of deciding where to go can be confusing and complicated. Overall, you need to be aware of the opportunities available to a post-collegiate distance runner.
Here are some factors to consider:
• Who do I want to coach me?
• What type of training partners do I want?
• What event or events will provide me with the most success?
• Where do I want to live?
• Should I train at altitude?
• Do I want a location that has good part-time job opportunities?
• What type of support and services are available?
• Can I get sponsored?
• Do I need an agent?
• How do I make enough money to make a living at this sport?
If you haven't already done so, it's important to put together a running resume so you can send it along with training center application, to prospective coaches, agents or shoe companies. The resume in an abbreviated form is sometimes requested by elite recruiters at road races as well.
The resume should show your progression over the years starting with high school. Be sure to include your times at various competitions, your top performances for each year, your personal bests in various distances, your mileage and training progression, as well as any injuries. You'll also want to include the names of your schools and coaches.
If you are interested in joining a training center, you will need to fill out the center's application form. Information on your running resume can be included on the training center application or you can send a copy of your resume with the application.
NCAA rules and regulations do not prohibit contact by e-mail, text, phone or in person from professional coaches, agents or training center representatives while you are still in college, but you cannot agree verbally or formally to any contract until your collegiate eligibility has been completed.
While many college coaches can give you guidance in making the transition from collegiate to professional athlete, their focus, of course, is on the completion of your college career and that you do not do anything to interfere with your eligibility.