Bloomington, IN - In his fifth season at the helm of the Indiana cross country program, head coach Dr. Robert Chapman has the Hoosiers among the top 25 in the nation for the third straight season. He recently sat down with iuhoosiers.com to discuss the progress of his 2002 team and the IU program itself.
1. What makes Indiana University special?
RC: For me, having two degrees from IU makes it a special place for me. My undergraduate experience was at a university that essentially was a commuter campus, so I was able to experience a more traditional college environment while doing my graduate work here at Indiana. I think being at Indiana has really helped shape me as a person.
2. How has the sport of cross country changed since you competed in high school and college?
RC: I think this sports stands the test of time, so many things are still the same. I do think you are seeing a small trend in training back towards more volume and harder work at both the college and high school level. It seems the pendulum is always swinging back and forth in regards to different training theories. Recruiting is certainly different. The internet has really changed high school kids understanding of the sport and where they fit on the food chain of competitive performance.
3. What is the No. 1 general piece of advice that you would have for a high school runner looking to continue competition in college?
RC: At some point - make a decision how good you want to be. There are so many things that Indiana University has to offer - interactions with professors and other students, a strong arts scene, active student groups and organizations, fraternities, incredible library and research resources, computer technology, a vibrant social scene. Anything you want to accomplish at this university, you can. But if your goal is to stand on the starting line of the national championships as one of the nation's best, you have to make a decision early in your college career about how good you want to be. In some ways, it is that simple.
4. How big of an advantage is it to have the Big Ten Championships and NCAAs each within two hours of Bloomington?
RC: We're approaching our season like it is one giant series of home meets. Not having the stress of long travel is a big advantage. We also know these courses well, particularly Indiana State. There are some subtleties to running both courses, particularly over 10k. We think we can use that to gain a little edge - which we'll certainly need.
5. Who are the biggest influences in your coaching career?
RC: My family first off. I grew up going to UNLV football and basketball games with my dad from a very early age, and that certainly got me into sports. My uncle coached high school basketball for 30 years and was a great example. My wife has been extremely supportive. I don't think I could survive this job without her. Even when I was in high school, I felt very close to my coaches, possibly because I knew that's what I wanted to do. Thad Simmons, Bill Strachan, Dave Shay, Bruce Momsen - all of my high school coaches were big influences.
6. When you took over the IU program, you had short and long term goals for it. How are those progressing?
RC: I'd like to think we are on track or even ahead of schedule. I've looked at these goals as stages. The first was to get guys to buy into a core philosophy regarding training and lifestyle. I made it very clear how we were going to train and how we were going to have to live to support that training, and I was very fortunate that the team all bought in early. The next stage was to become a team that was a consistent in the top 25 in the nation and a fixture in the upper half of the conference. We all feel like we have achieved that. So the next stage is to move into the top 10 or so in the country - become a recognized national power - and make a run at winning the conference. That's the next goal on the horizon.