Interview with Cross Country Head Coach, Nick Poles '09

This fall, Cross Country's Head Coach Nick Poles '09 shared thoughts on his sport and the important lessons and values he learned from competing as a runner in college and high school.  

What is your favorite aspect of running?

I really appreciate that even in a single week of training, running allows you to combine general fitness and competitiveness. I enjoy equally the days when you simply lace up your shoes and head out the door and the days when you have the opportunity to push your fitness, test your limits, and compare your current performance to your past performances, all with the relatively simple goal of becoming a better athlete. One the one hand, a Sunday morning long run can be the quietest 2 hours of my week, while on the other, a Tuesday night track workout might give me a headache and make me just want to sleep for 10 hours.
What are your thoughts on your first year as Head Coach of Cross Country?

I’m thrilled but also slightly apprehensive. This year’s team has a lot of potential, and no coach wants to miss an opportunity to help a team realize that potential. Additionally, any time a program changes coaches, I think there is bit of a “blank slate” feeling both for the coaches and the athletes. This “blank slate” makes this year an exciting time for RL XC, and I’m really looking forward to setting the tone and defining the culture of RL’s program for this year and the years ahead.
What were some of your biggest takeaways in your 10 years of competitive running? 

I’d say I certainly learned the value of grit from my years running at RL; no matter how you feel going out to practice or into a race, you have to work to get better every day. In college I was surrounded by some really good runners, so I was essentially forced to learn how to be an independent and consistent athlete. Running in both high school and college taught me the value of being a what I’d call a “24/7 athlete;” a sport doesn’t end for the day when you leave practice. Everything you do outside of practice time also contributes to your success or failure as an athlete, from recovery, nutrition, and sleep to managing stress and managing time.
What are the most important lessons you learned from your coaches at RL?

In terms of being an athlete, my coaches at RL taught me that, at the end of the day, I am responsible for my athletic success. Your coaches can coach you every second of the day and care about your success as much as possible, but if you don’t respond and hold yourself accountable then you might be left regretting not putting in the extra time and effort.
In terms of coaching, I’d say RL coaches taught me just how valuable the combination of positive reinforcement and transparency is. I remember always really wanting to work hard for the coaches who both explained the method to their madness and could put a positive spin on a tough workout or game situation. Those were the coaches who could always get me to go the extra mile when I didn’t think I could.
Favorite Olympic events from this summer?

I’ll admit I’m a bit of a middle distance fanatic, so I really enjoyed watching Clayton Murphy’s 3rd place finish in the men’s 800m. I thought he ran a gutsy, focused race. He’s going to be an exciting runner to watch in the future.