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Interview: Mary Shea When did you first decide that you wanted to be a coach? Do you have any role models in particular?

Mary Shea: I decided to become a coach after I graduated from college. I was given the opportunity to work as a graduate assistant track coach and decided to try to run, go to school and pursue being a college coach. Soon enough, I realized that you cannot possibly try to do all that I was doing in addition to a part-time job or two. My role models are people who expect the best from themselves and others around them. I like to emulate people who are successful -- from football coaches to CEOs.

FW: What are your coaching philosophies? How do the distance runners that you coach train?

MS: I think my philosophy is pretty basic. I had a great coach who knew his physiology, etc. so I was trained correctly from the start. As an athlete, I quickly understood why we were doing things. It was then that I began to mold my theories into practical applications. I start my athletes with a broad base of endurance work, coupled with circuit training and very short sprinting to maintain their speed. I individualize training as much as I can. I will not punish an athlete if they cannot complete a workout to my satisfaction. It may be that I tried the wrong workout, given their strengths. I do believe that the place coaches can make huge mistakes is in interval training. I believe "intervals" should be run at an individuals personal pace and rhythm. Next, after that phase is complete, we can begin faster than race pace and more strategic training specific to their event. Too much too soon can be detrimental to training.

FW: What other aspects of coaching (aside from the training) do you consider to be important? Do you act as motivator, teacher, psychologist, etc.?

MS: I believe that if my athletes have faith in the program, they will be successful. Apart from that, I strongly believe in meeting weekly or bi-weekly with a sport psychologist. We cover everything from strategy to team cohesion to goals to imagery.

FW: What past experience has prepared you best for being a coach?

MS: For me, the progression that I had as an athlete has allowed me to fully understand where my athletes are coming from. I will probably never forget the feeling of a great race or workout. Or how you feel when you try to race when you're sick. Or the problems college females face everyday. I think my experiences as an average high school athlete to an even better college runner have also helped me.

FW: What is the best part about being a coach?

MS: The best part is watching your athletes grow and develop into great people and successful student-athletes. It's a great feeling when your athletes run their best ever or especially when we are running intervals faster than their high school bests!

FW: Could you tell me a little about your own running career? When did you start, some high school/college/post-collegiate accomplishments, what are your PRs?

MS: I started in junior high school. I feel strongly about keeping our younger distance runners in check, meaning not overtraining. Specifically, I mean intervals. I think I was successful because I played team sports (speed development) and I ran some easy miles (aerobic conditioning). I never pounded out the intervals at a young age. My high school bests are 5:06 in the mile, 11:10 in the two-mile and 18:26 in cross country. In college, I ran 4:48 (mile), 9:27 (3000), 16:28 (5000) and 33:37 (10,000). Cross country was about 17:02. My biggest accomplishments are taking part in the 1988 Olympic Trials and being named All-American twice.

FW: Do you still run? Competitively?

MS: I do not run. I kind of fell through the cracks as a post-collegian. I had a few injuries and when I began graduate school, running became too impossible with all my other responsibilities. I do miss it!!!

FW: You are the secretary/treasurer of the Women's Intercollegiate Cross Country Coaches Association, correct? What does that involve? How did you get involved on the administrative side?

MS: Right now I am the treasurer of the Cross Country Coaches Association. Actually, I got involved about five years ago when a male coach called me and asked me to take over his duty as region representative. All of this is volunteer but it is something that greatly interests me. Since I was an athlete, I always wondered how things got done in our sport. Now, I am happy to be involved in issues that face our sport. As treasurer, I keep track of the finances of the association as well as make sure certificates, trophies, etc. get ordered and dispersed. In our executive meetings, we review the current issues and try to implement positive changes.

FW: What are your feelings about being selected as the coach of the 2001 Junior National XC team that will compete at the 2001 World XC Championships?

MS: I am extremely excited about my appointment. I always dreamed of making the team as an athlete. At least I have the next best thing!

FW: Finally, what advice do you have for any young females who would like to become a coach someday?

MS: I would tell female coaches to make sure that this is what they really want to do. Coaches work hard and do not always make the best money. Do not expect immediate gratification and realize that you will have to pay your dues. As a woman, I feel I have to be prepared to be challenged. I attend clinics, I put on clinics and I pursued my USATF Level I and III certification. I would also suggest to someone to call, write or e-mail other successful coaches and ask for advice!!

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