Photo credit to Wyn Wiley and ARYSE at www.aryse.com
What does track and field mean to you and what role does the sport play in your life?
Track and field didn’t just impact my life, it is my life. Not in an unhealthy way, but in the fact that it allowed me to go to Dartmouth, Nebraska, then get a graduate degree at Mizzou, take me around the country and world, and has given me a career path I am excited to pursue.
It also showed me that life keeps giving us the same lesson until we learn it. I often expect immediate results and am afraid to try something unless I know I’m already going to be good at it. Track taught me patience and reflection. If I kept doing the same thing over and over I would get the same mediocre result. I had to completely go out of my comfort zone and try new things, trust the process, and learn from mistakes.
What heavily influenced and impacted your track and field journey? Can you point to a specific experience/person that motivated you?
My sports psychologist and my graduate degree in which I learned a lot about mental skills training helped my athletic career and overall happiness. I learned how to manage my performance anxiety, fear of failure, communicating with coaches, mental focus, and motivation, and set process and outcome goals. I’m now helping other athletes learn these skills and am having an absolute blast. Life has a tendency to come full circle, and I’m currently coaching at the exact same track I learned to run on when I was a five-year-old girl.
I believe mental health needs to be talked about, treated, and taken more seriously in sports. I started seeing a sports psychologist my junior year at Nebraska, and it was a game changer. I believe, whether coping with a mental health issue or not, every athlete can benefit from seeing a sports psychologist, and that would help rid the stigma. I’ve noticed if I mention I see a sports psychologist most people don’t know what to say or how to react.
Athletes are under SO MUCH pressure, of course we need help to sort through all our thoughts! I really hope this is something which changes in the athletic world and I’m doing my best to help rewrite the narrative.
Your track and field career led you from Dartmouth to Nebraska and eventually concluded at Missouri. Talk a little bit about the individual chapters and how you ended up at these schools.
Before there was “Go Big Red” in my life, there was “Go Big Green.” I attended Dartmouth for one year but learned at 18 years old that if I was not happy and the school was not the right fit, then something needed to change. I had been recruited by Nebraska in high school, but as a Vermonter, didn’t give Nebraska much thought…until I did some more research on the school and track team. “WOW no wonder it’s nicknamed Jumps University” I remember thinking. The jumpers have a proud tradition under Coach Gary Pepin, and after a few phone calls, two weeks later, and 26 hours of driving, I arrived in Lincoln.
From the first team meeting at Nebraska, I knew I had found a home away from home. The people one meets at Nebraska don’t simply disappear the minute one graduates; their influence lasts for years. I have coffee with my professors, still keep in contact with teammates, have my absolute best friends from the track team, and talk to my old coach, Chris Slatt, often.
A stress fracture my senior year of college caused a medical redshirt but left me with one year of college eligibility to take to graduate school. Mizzou was in the mix early, and once I visited, met the coach, and team, and decided on a graduate degree, it was an easy decision that the next and final stop on this track would be Columbia MO.
You talked about the importance of mental health throughout your entire collegiate career. Aside from talking to a sports psychologist, can you elaborate on something else that has helped you cope with it?
I took academics seriously in college, and give the same advice to anyone just beginning or in their college years. I took advantage of the free tutors in the athletic department, learned to visit my professor’s office house, and asked for help when needed. The less stressed I was in the classroom, the better performances I had on the track. College is a stressful time, and stress and cortisol have adverse effects on health and the body. The lower the psychological and mental stress levels are in the body, the better an athlete can recover, practice and perform. I majored in psychology, so geek out over anything and everything psychology and mental performance.
To conclude this story, can you explain to the readers how you got started with track and field?
My older brother and sister did a summer rec department track program and, as the youngest, I got dragged to every practice. But soon I was eager to attend, and the team needed an extra girl to fill in on a relay and looked to me, even though I was two years under the age cutoff. I ran the race and, well, the rest is history. Countless hours spent at the track turned into finding my love for the long jump and triple jump and has taken me on a journey all the way from Hanover NH to Lincoln NE to Columbia MO.
It is amazing to look back and realize I’ve done track and field for 20 years.
If you have made it this far, thank you very much for your attention. This means the absolute world to us. We hope that you enjoyed this story about Mollie Gribbin and if you did, please share it with someone that could also enjoy it.
Also, thank you to ARYSE for allowing us to use their picture.