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The Scarlet & Black

Student walk-ons become valuable members of athletic teams

Anna Brew ’21, originally a Nordic skier and sailor, walked on to the women’s cross country team with limited experience. Contributed
Anna Brew ’21, originally a Nordic skier and sailor, walked on to the women’s cross country team with limited experience. Contributed

The process of joining a sport at Grinnell may seem like a process that is mostly reserved for players who were recruited by coaches. But it is still very possible to join a team sport with little to no experience. According to Terran Mott ’20, who is now running her fourth season with women’s cross country, “I think it was pretty easy. I emailed the coach over the summer before I got to Grinnell and she welcomed me without any hassle at all.” 

 In addition to having no experience with cross-country before joining, Mott also had a slightly unconventional reason for joining. As she described it, “What had happened was my mom had decided that I would be better off at college if I had a sport, because playing a sport would give me the structure of a friend group and the discipline to exercise every day. So, she told me to pick me one and then I picked to cross country because I thought it had the lowest skill threshold to join because it is just running. I had run for exercise a little bit, but never more than maybe a mile at a time and never outside.”   

Anna Brew ’21 is a walk-on athlete as well for the women’s cross country and women’s track teams. Her decision to join sports at Grinnell was very easy because of her love for physical activity. In her own words, “In high school, I was a Nordic skier in the winter and I was a sailor during the fall and I couldn’t imagine going to college without playing sports or being in school and not doing a physical activity that I enjoyed. I thought that the easiest thing for me to join, that seemed like it didn’t need a lot of experience, was running because I could run on dry land and I technically ran cross country in the seventh grade. I wasn’t recruited. I just reached out to Evelyn and she replied, ‘Awesome, I’ll add you to the list!’”   

Despite feeling overwhelmed in the beginning, Mott explained how she eventually overcame the struggles, “The hardest part with starting actual training was getting left behind on runs because I was really slow at first. It was hard because I would get lost or I would feel like being left behind was somehow indicative of being left behind socially on the team. As my first season went on, both of those things went away because the team has a really strong culture and it was mostly in my head.”  

For Brew, other challenges arose when she started out, “I think the hardest part to get used to was the mentality of it because running takes a lot of mental focus, which is similar to cross-country skiing but very different from what I did when sailing. So the fact that I didn’t have another person with me that I could talk to about the course or my breathing was tough. Also racing was something that I had never done and trying to be more comfortable with it was hard. Fortunately, a lot of the older runners were really helpful in that area for me and would remind me that it was only my first time doing this.”   

Both Mott and Brew had great experiences overcoming the adjustments to a new sport and continue to enjoy their sport. As Brew puts it, “I like running a lot. I like that practice gives me some more structure in my day. I think if I had afternoons without it, I would procrastinate too much and school work wouldn’t go well for me. Also, it’s a really great group of friends and people that really care about you. On top of that, it’s not based very much on performance. If you aren’t the fastest person, that really doesn’t matter. Since running is an individual team sport.”  

Mott explained how the coaching staff is special to her. “They think of themselves as in a parental role for their runners and they always speak to and then also in their interactions prioritize our personal growth as people over our growth as athletes. I think I have learned things about resilience and commitment that I would have not learned if I hadn’t been an athlete or if I hadn’t worked with Eve,” said Mott. 

Joining other sports at Grinnell may be tougher than an individual team sport like cross-country or track but it is still an option that many Grinnellians could benefit from. As Brew elaborated, “I feel like choosing to be on the team and not having run before, does give me more confidence in just thinking that I am capable of doing something that I have never done before. I can join something, try hard, and get it to work for me.” 

Anna Brew ’21, originally a Nordic skier and sailor, walked on to the women’s cross country team with limited experience. Contributed
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