With the collegiate season now complete, we now direct much of our focus on the alumni who continue to harbor gold medal dreams. If you follow national track & field news, there has been vigorous debate on economics of professionalism in the sport. While a few land those major shoe sponsorships, the majority of the professionals competing at international meets are on their own or training in small groups with limited funding. It is not uncommon for these athletes to have full-time employment to make ends meet.
In the last year, former Brown coach Bob Rothenberg teamed up with some like-minded friends in a Providence, RI based running club to start NE Distance Inc. NE Distance is a community-based distance running project that supports post-collegiate runners committed to representing their community and reaching a higher level of competition. The group would offer housing, a stipend for training gear, travel allotment for races, access to training facilities for both indoor and outdoor seasons, medical support, and part-time work by tutoring and/or coaching students in Woonsocket, RI.
Woonsocket is aggressively working to reduce its high-school dropout rate through the Woonsocket After-School Coalition (WASC) — 14 non-profit organizations with a shared mission of helping bridge the gap between school and home. Several of the WASC agencies have had difficulty retaining high-quality, part-time employees. A lot of the part-time WASC employees leave when they find full-time work, so turnover has been an on-going issue. WASC is welcoming the NE Distance Project as it delivers college graduates committed to working for at least two years with one of the agencies.
Nich Haber, one of the founding members of NE Distance, said:
We’re looking to bring two groups that have complementary goals together. We’re fans of track, so we are very much interested in having helping athletes transition from the collegiate system and train to represent New England at national and international meets.
We found that post-collegiate athletes do better when they have part-time work. Full time is too much of a commitment for proper training and no work makes the athletes go a little crazy when they have a bad training day. Part-time work gives them enough grounding (and a bit of funding) to be able to accomplish their athletic goals.
We view this program as a fellowship. Athletes are able to train to be the best they possibly can be. When their window of opportunity as an athlete is over, we are hoping that their time working with the children of Woonsocket will be a benefit to them in their athletic career.
The NE Distance group is looking for athletes to come join their cause and donations to help support these athletes. Athletes can apply for fellowships on the group’s website (deadline is June 30th, so get those applications in!) Currently, the group’s budget can allow up to four fellowships beginning in September 2012, but they are willing to sponsor more if more donations are given. NE Distance is a 501(c)(3) charity and all donations are tax deductible under the Section 170 of the IRS code. Donations are given by purchasing “shares” on their website (major credit cards are accepted). All are invited to attend their US Olympic Trials party on July 1st.
Feel free to spread the word around on this new group as we at Hepstrack feel that more groups like this should be available for anyone who has gold medal dreams.