“A lot of the folks I interact with now, whether it’s a newly post-collegiate athlete who’s still got goals that they want to achieve, or a middle-aged athlete who has a general fitness goal they want to achieve, or they’d like go for that Boston qualifier, whatever it is, most of these goals are achievable if you stick with it and keep building the tower—I call it ‘the Jenga tower.’ My outlook on coaching, generally, is: Let’s build the tower and we’ll eventually get there. Sometimes you do have artificial timelines, but if you can avoid them that’s better, and just concentrate on building on what you have done and not worrying about what you aren’t. So I try to think inductively about coaching and I think that’s partly due to some of these experiences—let’s assume we’re going to get there. It’s just a question of ‘how’ and not ‘if.'”
Really enjoyed sitting down with Dena Evans for this week’s episode of the podcast. Evans is currently the coordinator and coach of the Peninsula Distance Club, a competitive post-collegiate team based in Palo Alto, California that she founded in 2007. Evans also coached at Stanford from 1999-2005, and in 2003 was named the NCAA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the year after leading the Cardinal to the national title. A few of her athletes during those years are some names you might recognize, like Lauren Fleshman, Sara Hall, Alicia Vargo, Malindi Elmore, and others. She’s also been on the coaching staff for Team USA at multiple world championships. In addition to her coaching accolades, Evans was a standout athlete at Stanford from 1992-96, where she was a three-time All American in track and also star player on the soccer team.
We covered a lot of different topics in this conversation, from getting into multiple sports at a young age to her thoughts on specialization, her career at Stanford and how she juggled being a two-sport athlete, her relationship with coach Vin Lananna and how he influenced her as both an athlete and a coach, how she got into coaching and what she’s learned working with different levels of athletes over the past 20 years, what’s exciting her—and what she would change—about the sport of running right now, and a lot more.