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Van Norman pushes track and cross country to excel

September 15, 2016

Nicholls track and cross country seasons have already gone underway, and, according to Head Coach Heather Van Norman, they intend to push themselves to the limit and beyond.

“I want them to be the very best they can be,” Van Norman said. “It’s all about their attitude. “If you think you can win, then you probably will.”

The Colonels measure these victories by more than just wins and individual times.

“We may not look like we’re doing well on paper, but we’re doing really well for where we are,” Van Norman said. “We are going to be really competitive in our conference.”

Van Norman’s message to her players is one that extends far beyond the sport itself. Her biggest point of emphasis to her athletes is one that speaks purely to effort, both in and out of competition.

Van Norman reiterated that whether competing or in the classroom, nothing less than maximum effort was acceptable.

“Every opportunity is a learning and growing experience,” Van Norman said. “We can use this opportunity to grow and develop and graduate. I tell my players that you’re going to go to class, be active in your community, and be the best you can be in your sport.”

While both the cross country and track teams are held to identical standards, they have each had a unique set of challenges to face.

“The cross country team has certainly done what it takes over the summer to really improve,” Van Norman said. “On the track team we have a lot of new faces this year. We’ve also luckily had a lot of juniors and seniors to serve as leaders to them.”

The coach did not seem phased by the amount of new athletes, though.

“They’re really going to compete hard. We’ve got a really good freshman crew.”

Van Norman ran as sprinter for Louisiana State University from 1989-95. After finishing there, the six-time All-American then began her coaching career at Rice University in Houston, Texas. She followed her two-year tenure in Texas with coaching stints at both Georgia Tech and Tulane.

“My coaching tenure prepared me for what I’ve encountered at Nicholls,” Van Norman said. “All of my athletes have had many personal issues and environmental issues. When they have a problem, I’ve either been there, done that, seen that happen, or thought I could do that.”

She placed an equal amount of weight on her experiences as an athlete as she did with her experiences as a coach when concerning how she was able to assist her players.

Despite her years of experience, Van Norman said that she still can’t help but feel a bit of anxiety when it comes time for her players to compete.

“I still get butterflies; I still get nervous,” Van Norman said. “I know how hard they’ve worked. When those track athletes go to run, there is nothing I can say to them at that point.”

It is that hard work that Van Norman kept reiterating on that the team takes the most pride in.

“How they act in class is how they perform in their sport,” Van Norman said.

She said that throughout all of her years, the students who gave the most effort in class were the ones to give the most effort in their field of competition.

“You have to be a student of your sport,” Van Norman said.

All sports, including track and cross country, are meant to be learning experiences, according to Van Norman. She said that there are lessons that both the coaches and the players have to learn from each other, and those are lessons that they plan to take into every competition.

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