Student Experience

A Track & Field Perspective

August 14, 2020

Ollie Newport, University of Louisville ’18

I had been looking at American colleges ever since many of my training partners had told me how much fun they were having and how great of an opportunity it was to continue your sport and earn a degree. I was fortunate that I had a few decent marks and one very good one that attracted the interest of a few coaches from various universities. One piece of advice and something I wish I had known when I was in the recruiting process was not to leave it too late. I didn’t sign till April and by that point a lot of the universities I was in talks with just didn’t have enough money to give me the scholarship I needed. The university I ended up attending was definitely not my first choice at the time. It was somewhere I had never even heard of and I know a lot of my friends still don’t know exactly where it is. After scrambling to try to find a university that could offer me the scholarship I needed, I emailed a few places to see what they would say. 5 minutes later I had an email back from the head coach at the University of Louisville saying they would love to offer me a full ride and they were super interested in signing me. Fate would have it that their current long jumper had just left to go home because of a family emergency and so they were looking for a replacement.

4 things instantly drew me to this university and I would advise anyone else to look at the same criteria. First was the coach. He had over 40 years of experience and coached the likes of Brittany Reese and Larry Myricks. I really think a coach can make or break your college experience and so this was something that was very important to me. I’m sure Jonathan will tell you, if you are really serious about your sport, you should pick the coach over where the university is located. Second would be try to connect with alumni from the same university. I was fortunate that Ben Williams was already at Louisville. I got a different perspective and a unique insight into what life would be like at Louisville.

The third and fourth pieces of advice I would give are not necessarily things I held of huge importance at the time but now I realise how much of an impact they can have. You may look at a school and base your decision solely on how good they are at your sport. Sure, that is obviously extremely important. But, something you have to understand is how much money Football (American) and Basketball bring to a school and how it impacts your sport. The big schools have the recruiting power because they can build the best facilities and they have the most money to drive into sport. Smaller schools have less recruiting power and so their sports may go up and down in quality. This is something I have noticed here at Louisville. We are very lucky in that both our Football and Basketball teams are top 10 programs meaning the amount of money that goes into all sports is unbelievable. To put it into perspective our Basketball team bring in around $1.2 million per home game! Louisville’s Track and Field team is not a top 10 program right now. However, with the success of our bigger sports we are quickly improving as a team due to having greater resources, facilities and recruiting power.

My last piece of advice is the degree program you choose. This is honestly something that had very little influence on my decision. I was a very different person when I started looking at universities to the person I am now. When I first started at Louisville the only thing I cared about was trying to become a professional athlete and the degree came second. After my freshman year I realised that being good enough to be a professional was extremely hard and very few people make it. It was at this point that I decided to change my degree and really give 100% to my sport as well as the academic side. I changed from an Exercise Science degree to Accounting and later added a CIS minor. I feel this change has had a huge impact on my life. I went from someone that hadn’t really cared about my academics all through high school to someone who was winning the scholar athlete prize on the team and earning consistent 4.0 GPAs. This also allowed me to land an internship at Ernst and Young this coming summer which will hopefully lead to a full time career post college.

In summary:

  • Pick your school based on the coach and the program you feel is best for you.
  • Don’t neglect the other sports in the schools you are looking at. Basketball and Football will affect you. Even if it’s just the tremendous pride in your school having a current Heisman winning quarterback!
  • Look at the conference the school is in. (ACC is the best conference despite Jonathan telling you SEC is the best).
  • Open your eyes to a whole world of new opportunities. You will be doing things you never even dreamt of. I can assure you if someone had told me I would be going down the public accounting route 4 years ago I would have told them they were crazy! You will truly develop as an athlete but also as a person.
  • Lastly enjoy your time in college. Work hard but enjoy every moment of it. (Okay, maybe not studying all day for final exams).

Going to the US was the best decision I ever made. It has given me the best 4 years of my life and changed me for the better. GO CARDS!