Adjusting to a new coaching style can be difficult for athletes when they are used to a specific training regimen. During the 2014 Cross Country season students expressed their concerns about new Head Cross Country and Track Coach Brent Ericksen which led to a divide among perspectives of the athletes who embraced his coaching and those who didn’t.
Some of the upheaval that has taken place since the end of the season includes sophomore Gary Fanelli and four other athletes reaching out to the president to address their concerns with Ericksen in December.
“She listened to all our stories and concerns but she didn’t really know how to approach the problem,” said Fanelli.
Another occurrence was Fanelli and junior Tyler Shipley transferring from Pacific.
“If you look at the freshmen coming in this year they are highly successful, but for me it seemed like a big change to do in the middle of a running career,” said junior Tyler Shipley. The change from Head Coach Tim Boyce’s more individualistic style to Ericksen’s team oriented practices left Shipley feeling as if he wasn’t performing to his full potential.
“I guess Coach Ericksen was much more structured and I wasn’t running as many miles,” said Shipley. “I was running about 20-25 miles more with coach Tim.”
Shipley has recently transferred to the University of Puget Sound to participate in their cross country and track program where he said the program is similar to Boyce’s coaching style.
“I thought I worked well with coach Ericksen it just seemed like the results I wanted weren’t coming,” said Shipley. “I want to be as successful as possible in the year and a half I have left in my eligibility.”
While Shipley’s choice to transfer was based on his own performance goals, Fanelli’s reasoning had to do with injuries and treatment.
During the summer Fanelli had a stress fracture in his right shin, which kept him from doing the full training regimen over the summer.
“When I got there I was a little behind, but I still tried my best and went to the practices and ran them,” said Fanelli.
In late September Fanelli started to feel pain in his right thigh and informed Ericksen. The trainers later diagnosed him with a strained quad and told him to do low impact workouts on the elliptical. Fanelli said his pain got to the point where it was hard to put on his pants in the morning let alone walk down stairs.
As Fanelli’s condition continued he decided to go straight to the trainers instead of consulting with Ericksen. Fanelli said Ericksen called him into his office and claimed he was upset that Fanelli was being lazy at practices and went to the trainers instead of coming to him first.
Fanelli said Ericksen gave him the option to either quit the team or not participate in the rest of the cross country meets, which included one meet and the championship meet, and sit out the first two track meets.
“I asked him if he even believed I was injured and he said ‘I think you’re an idiot’,” said Fanelli.
When Fanelli got an MRI on Nov. 7 he was diagnosed with stress fractures in each of his femurs.
Fanelli has transferred to Southern Oregon University where he will be participating in track this spring.
Ericksen was “unable to make any comments in regard to former team members.”
“The only thing I want to see happen is for athletes to not go through the same thing I did,” said Fanelli. “No athlete deserves this. No student deserves this. I wouldn’t want anyone else to be a victim of it.”
Freshman cross country and track runner Stephenie Spencer participated in the 2014 season with injuries and enjoyed Ericksen’s coaching style.
“[His style] is very team oriented and I like that,” said Spencer. “I really like what he’s doing.” Spencer explained that the team warms up and does everything together except for the actual practice runs.
“I ended up having a great season. As a freshman I think that I performed as well as I could have,” said Spencer.
During the third week of competition Spencer strained her achilles tendon and had tendonitis in her knee a week before conference. When she addressed Ericksen about her injuries he advised her to go to the trainers to have an examination and start a rehabilitation plan.
“I told him what was going on and he said okay go to the trainers and do what you need to do to get better,” said Spencer.
Since cross country season Spencer has set an indoor track school record for the one mile at the University of Washington open on Feb. 15. Spencer’s time was 5:28.
“Coach was really supportive and said ‘you know I think you can win your race. You need to trust your training.’ I didn’t win my heat, but I didn’t worry about it because what [Ericksen] is doing works,” said Spencer. “I think that shows that I really trust what he’s doing and I think what he’s doing is great.”
As for Shipley, he holds no grudges against the cross country program and looks forward to his upcoming track season at the University of Puget Sound.
“There’s no doubt that the Pacific program will be successful under him,” said Shipley.
Spencer stated that the cross country and track teams are headed in a good direction.
“I think the people who aren’t with us anymore just work better with a different teaching style. The people who are left are working really well under him and are doing great,” said Spencer.