trackboundUSA co-founder John Beattie reflects on his University career. The Southampton born Beattie graduated from his hometown Southampton University in 2007. He then went on to study for a Masters Degree in Business Administration at The University of Tulsa. John is now based in Loughborough where he is continuing to train and currently resides in the UK Athletics Endurance House.
I was in the same position as many students in the UK. I was enjoying University, had a nice group of friends, and could have quite happily carried on living the same lifestyle for a few more years. However, as graduation loomed it dawned on me that for the first time in my life there was no clear plan of what I would do next. I did not want to enter the real world yet, but was not good enough as an athlete to go professional. It was around this time that I received a phone call whilst watching the final round of the Masters (I am a big golf fan). It was the assistant coach from The University of Tulsa, and he had phoned to recruit me.
The Recruiting Process
The first call from Tulsa on Masters Sunday triggered the beginning of the recruiting process and my interest in the US. Whilst I knew plenty of people who had been before, I never really thought that I would be one of them. I was definitely interested in Tulsa but emailed a few other coaches just out of curiosity to see what would happen. I got a few replies but after looking into all the options I narrowed the choices down to two: Tulsa and Florida State. Talks with Florida State went well but a glitch in the admissions process meant that I would have had to wait until January to reapply. I liked what I was hearing from Tulsa and was especially impressed by the Assistant Coaches enthusiasm for me to sign. It was enough to make me feel wanted but certainly not pushy like some coaches are known to be.
Doing my Research
I spent many hours researching. I had never heard of Tulsa so was certainly going to find out as much as I could before agreeing to move my life there. The obvious starting point was ‘Googleing’ Tulsa: Where is it? What is the culture like? What is the weather like? Once I got beyond the basics, I found out everything I could about the school and the team. Tulsa was not a team with great history or tradition in track and cross country. I wanted reassurances that this was about to change and fortunately they did deliver. 2007 was the first year in school history that the men’s cross country team had ever qualified for the NCAA Championships. I knew that the programme was heading forward.
I left with the US with a great degree and know that it will help my CV immensely. Tulsa is a highly respected university and the MBA is a world recognized qualification. The practical, hands on approach to the way the material was delivered has taught me valuable skills. Skills that I feel are relevant to real life situations.
Making a UK versus US academic comparison, I had a much more pleasant experience in the US. It is hard to say whether that came with being a graduate student, or perhaps just that the culture is different. At Tulsa I knew most of the faculty and would always stop and chat to the Professors around campus. They were really enthusiastic about my athletics and were always supportive if I ever had to miss class for a race. This was a far cry from my undergraduate experiences in the UK, where athletics was seen almost as an inconvenience by many of the academic staff.
One of the great things about sharing our experiences on this site is that we can talk about our mistakes. In this instance I am referring to the GMAT. The GMAT is a standardized multiple choice test that graduate schools use as part of the admissions process. I inexcusably failed the test twice and at one stage during my first year was on the verge of losing my scholarship and being sent home. I should never have failed the test and it was purely down to complacency on my part – I had the attitude of thinking this will be easy, I don’t need to worry and they will sort me out if I fail. If I had approached the test the same way as I did for GCSEs or A Levels, then it would have been a formality. Instead it took me $500 and a great deal of stress to eventually get through.
Experiences & Highlights
Three years away absolutely flew by and I couldn’t have really hoped for much more. I have made life friends from all over the world, was able to travel all over the US, and have left plenty of doors open should I ever choose to go back.
From an athletics perspective, I believe that I thrived in the US system. My PB’s were slashed, I learnt how to train, and gained experience competing and winning at a high level. These foundations have bought me back to the UK where I am training hard and looking to push myself as far as physically possible.
Universities have a great sense of spirit and identity in the US. College sport is followed as passionately as professional sport is in the UK. Football (American) and basketball nights can bring campuses to a standstill and I always loved going to the games even if it did take me a while to learn what was going on.
Conference and NCAA Championship events were always special, and never got old no matter how many I went to. Summers spent training in the mountains of Flagstaff, Boulder, Albuquerque and El Paso have all left me with great memories and plenty of stories to tell.
If I do have to pick one highlight moment, I would nominate graduation weekend. My parents had travelled over, everyone was in great spirits and I had also just run a massive PB over 10,000m. Graduation was also the point where I knew I had reached the end of this chapter of my life. The culmination of three great years was upon me and it was now time to think of what would be next.
My biggest piece of advice would be to encourage everyone to look at the big picture. Athletics is important, though there is more to life than just this. The friends I made, places I went, and experiences I had all rank as high as most of my running achievements. Fortunately for me running did go very well, but I was equally as happy that I made the most of the three years away in terms of experiences and memories.
For the overwhelming majority of athletes, I would say to at least consider any scholarship offers even if you do decide not to take it. Whilst the US is certainly not for everyone, it should not be disregarded without any further thought. I have seen many athletes dismiss the idea and naively take the short sighted view and think that they have everything already. During my three years away, I learnt a huge amount and am now better at putting things in perspective. There is more going on in the world than just your current training set up, friends, and favourite running routes. Whilst these things are important, they will always be there when you get back.
- University of Southampton 2007 (Law)
- University of Tulsa 2010 (Masters in Business Adminisration)
- Great Britain & England senior International distance runner over cross country and 10,000m
- and NCAA All American whilst at Tulsa
- 7 Times Conference USA Champion & 5 times Conference USA Athlete of the Year
- 2008 NCAA All American Cross Country and 2010 Academic All American