Athlete Feature 24 - Frank Dick - USA Athletics Scholarships

Athlete Feature 24 – Frank Dick


Frank Dick attended the University of Oregon from 1965-1968. Originally from Berwick, Dick headed to Oregon after graduating from Loughborough University. He speaks to us about the time he spent with the legendary Bill Bowerman and cites this as a major catalyst in launching his own coaching career. Dick went on to be head British Athletics coach from 1979-1994. In 1989 he was awarded the OBE for services to sport and in 1998 he was inducted into the UK Coaches Hall of Fame.

tbUSA – How did you end up at The University of Oregon? Were you recruited or was it a case of applying like students do to most British universities?

FD – I applied because physical education in the UK had no degree for my generation at Loughborough.  Students two years behind my year would be the first with a degree. Thought I had better get one myself.

tbUSA – What was your main reason for originally going to Oregon? Was it purely for academics to get a degree or was it more to become a ‘Duck’ and compete for Coach Bill Bowerman?

FD – First it was the degree, but I also wanted to learn about athletics coaching from Bill Bowerman and study what other coaches were doing inUSA, such as Bud Winter and Jumbo Elliot.

tbUSA – Prior to the internet age in the late 60s, were you able to do much research before heading to Oregon?

FD  –   All intelligence was through written materials and word of mouth.

tbUSA – What degree did you graduate with from Oregon? Did you find that upon returning to the UK, an American degree was valuable for your CV?

FD – BSc (Highest honours)USAdegrees were traditionally considered less thanUKdegrees, but in Physical Education I believe it was considered at least a supplement to diploma.

tbUSA – Full scholarships were known as being somewhat of a rarity when Bowerman was at the helm. How did you fund your time at Oregon? Were you helped by any scholarship?

FD – i)  I applied for and received a Fulbright Scholarship.  This covered travel toEugenefromUKand return home (train and boat!).

ii)  A Churchhill Scholarship got me medical insurance

iii)  I worked the graveyard shift (0000hrs-0800hrs!) Friday/Saturday at Georgia Pacific Saw Mills.

iv)  I sold everything I could and used all personal savings.

tbUSA – There were not as many foreign athletes competing in the NCAA when you were there as there are now. Why do you think that the number of foreign athletes competing has since increased?

FD – Foreign student recruitment (now capped) could gain points in inter collegiate meets and NCAA championships which raised a University’s ranking and was seen to be good for the university’s image, attracting more economics to the program.

tbUSA –  Since your time at Oregon you have had a long and highly successful coaching career. To what extent did Bill Bowerman inspire you to develop as a coach and what lessons did you learn from him?

FD – Bill taught me to understand that we could make them too complicated. The fact is coaching is more an art than a science.  Of course you need to be equipped with the sciences.  Bill certainly was and understood them to the level he needed to advantage the athletes he coached.  But you cannot be a slave to science.  No great athlete was so because of science.  You must learn through experience of years how to apply such knowledge to meet the unique needs of each athlete in your charge.   Whereas you are taught the science of coaching, you cannot be taught the art, this you can only learn.  Bill’s approach was simply thoughtful common sense founded on relevant sciences and tempered to an art learned through life experience.  The inspiration he afforded was to believe in the value of experience and your capacity to learn your own art of coaching from that.

tbUSA –  How would you rate your overall US college experience?  What was your most memorable highlight at Oregon?

FD – Fantastic.  In 1968 seeing Barry O’Brien indoors in his last season and watching Dick Fosbury performing a high jump technique which I am embarrassed to say, I suggested was a daft gimmick to my pal, Bill Pink!

tbUSA – What advice would you offer to athletes who are currently considering the US collegiate system?

FD – Pick your university for the quality of the coach, the quality of the course and goal you have, not the economics offered.  Be prepared to accept difference and change as normal.  Make sure your year plan accommodates the NCAA season as preparation for the European/World season.

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