by Emily Bartlett '15, Grinnell College
Traveling to Italy for a semester seems like it would be any college students' dream. Tanasia Hoffler (Williams College, 2013) and her coach Fletcher Brooks were not so sure, though.
This concern was due to the fact that Hoffler performs at a national champion caliber level in track and field, as both a sprinter and jumper. She and Coach Brooks worried that going abroad would throw three years worth of hard work out.
Coach Brooks, however, believed in Hoffler: "Coach trusted in my ability to get things done and come back ready to work with the team," Hoffler said.
Ready she was.
So ready, in fact, that she will be competing in the 2012 NCAA Division III National Indoor Track Championships held at Grinnell College on March 9-10. Her events will include: long jump, triple jump, 60-meter hurdles, and a 4x4 relay.
Coach Brooks worried that Hoffler would come back from Italy sluggish and a bit out of shape, as that has always been the case with past athletes when they return from abroad.
The track athletes miss the first six weeks of training and competition when studying abroad during the fall semester. That time is heavy on technique work, a key aspect of training for many young college track and field athletes.
|Tanasia Hoffler '13|
"Tanasia's experience abroad," proclaimed Coach Brooks, "is an example for others to follow. I've had many athletes who come back home who were all out of shape."
Hoffler recognized this past pattern. She wanted, more than anything else, to prove everyone wrong, and to show her coach and her teammates that this did not have to be the norm.
Tanasia's fellow athletes who were also abroad helped to keep her motivation up: "A lot of the reason why I was able to consistently do the workouts was because of the others [athletes] with me. I was determined to prove so many people wrong, because I knew [the norm] had always been to not workout hard while abroad. I got a lot of support in this endeavor from other teammates while I was gone."
Often, thinking about her teammates back home provided Hoffler the inspiration she needed to keep pursuing fitness in what she dubbed "Pasta Country."
She felt many of her off-campus study friends thought she was crazy for avoiding pasta. And gelato. Especially gelato.
"I did not go crazy on food," explained Tanasia. "You make do, if you are determined and willing. I had to try gelato, though. So good! A lot better than what they call gelato here in the United States."
Coach Brooks was delighted that Hoffler internalized his often-chanted motto, "fat don't fly." Brooks went on to say, "I am always cognoscente of the fact that I am working with young women. I never talk about cutting calories…. Why should you eat man-made carbohydrates? Let's go with fruits, veggies, the real stuff."
Hoffler trusted this advice given by Coach Brooks. She recognized that she didn't want to eat a ton of pasta "as a power and speed athlete because it just does not facilitate the development of lean muscle mass."
Certainly, since she came back in better shape than ever, she ate the right food.
She also exercised harder on her own than any athlete who went abroad before her.
Coach Brooks sent Hoffler new workouts for the week by email every Sunday. They occasionally Skyped. Hoffler always emailed Coach if she had any questions about the workouts.
"That kind of contact was unusual," explained Coach Brooks. "I've never had that much contact or given such aggressive workouts to an athlete abroad before."
Because of these intense workouts, Hoffler returned to her team in better shape than many of them who had been able to train with the coaches for six weeks before. She started in September, while the team did not begin until November. These extra two months made all the difference for her performance.
This commitment to herself and her team, shown through her dedication to healthy eating habits and going above and beyond with her workout routine, exemplifies Tanasia's personality.
Coach Brooks described Tanasia: "She really has embraced the idea of Team over her time at Williams. She has become an incredible leader this year. While she always led by example, she is much more vocal now, willing to both reprimand and praise her teammates. I really appreciate her interest in the team."
Tanasia, too, is thrilled to be working out with her team again. "The team gives such support. We really enjoy what we do and have goals. We are determined to reach those goals."
Those goals, more specifically, of reaching and winning nationals. Williams came in seventh overall two years ago and fifth last year. All Coach Brooks and Hoffler want is to see the women pull out a first place victory.
Hoffler rose above expectations while abroad, and is in better shape than ever. She thinks, though that "the fact I went abroad adds an interesting twist on my mindset. I know I missed out on a lot of technical training, but I also have a trust in my coaches and myself. I'm so excited to compete."