In his own words: Steve Sisson previews Women's Cross Country
Aug. 30, 2012
In six years, big changes have happened. When I first got here, I was asking girls to consider running cross country, and now we have girls wanting to come here.
We brought 10 freshmen in, and the depth we have is phenomenal. There are a number of things that it benefits, the most important being that it challenges people for the top seven spots. You need competition to be good, and it creates a great training environment.
My plan this year was to only take sophomores and above to our first big meet at UCLA. I was going to use it as a team bonding experience, but I’ve got freshmen who are absolutely tearing it up. I feel like I need to give them that competitive experience, because as cross country athletes, they like to race. And each day, I’m recognizing that about four of these freshmen are ready to step up and go.
The freshmen group coming in, at this point and time, is better than any freshmen group I’ve ever had at The University of Texas. We did a good job of recruiting last year.
In women’s cross country and women’s track and field, particularly in the distance area, you don’t know who’s going to be good. If you get attached to this idea of a pecking order, they’re not going to be successful. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. I ball up their idea of a pecking order and throw it away.
That hunger, that drive, that competitive nature all combine to help people do special things. People sometimes think that skinny little distance girls are not competitive, and let me tell you, they are. They’re as competitive as guys, if not more so.
I’m not an easy person to have as a coach. I don’t over-explain things. I ask them to listen to their bodies and pay attention to who they are as women -- as a human being in this body that is female, you have struggles that I can see and appreciate but can’t understand.
Do you fit with me and my personality? It’s tough to work with me. I have high expectations. My role is the benevolent uncle. I’m family, so I can put you back on the right track with the harsh word and strong word, and you know there’s love there. But I’m also not replacing your parents.
Generally, what I try to do is keep building and building our workload in such a way that the girls are capable of being in a strong place for the last meets. Maybe the conference race, they’re not ‘ready,’ but it’s conference and something special shows up. People will run a bump above what they’re physically capable of because it’s that meet, and some might run a bump below because of the pressure. From a peaking standpoint, we’re just trying to get ready for that region and national meet.
When we race, we race. I don’t like the girls to go out there and say “We’re training through this.” That’s not a good attitude. So they might go in tired or beat up, but never do we say, “Don’t worry about this.” We expect people to come at us, because we’re Texas. As a group, they understand that.
From a base level, a competitive attitude has to be inherent. If you don’t have the drive to win, you won’t be successful at Texas.