I remember my first international competition in 2001 (give me a break, I was still in college!) when I walked into the dining hall all alone and didn’t know a soul. I was just about ready to see if I could sneak my plate up back to my room and eat in solace when Angelo Taylor (someone I didn’t know at all) invited me to sit at his table. The fact that I remember this occurring is kind of crazy, but it just goes to show you the relief I must’ve felt in that moment. Nowadays, I know plenty of people and actually don’t mind sitting with people I don’t know, or by myself for that matter. But that’s because I am now in my comfort zone. Some other athletes may not be, so I decided to give you some helpful hints.
WHERE TO SIT:
Avoid being Clique-ish … It’s very easy to just do what is most comfortable so a lot of times you’ll see tables of just throwers or pole vaulters, etc. People also tend to gravitate towards their own countrymen. All this is very unnecessary. You must infiltrate! You also must make it easy for others to join your group as well. It is possible to have something in common with someone who throws the discus even if you’ve never held one in your life. And as long as someone can communicate with you in the same language, there are a ton of cool people who aren’t American. I always mix it up. In fact, I find that I pick up a pretty cool accent when I sit at a table full of Aussies or Brits and that is an added bonus. (Nevermind that both my Australian accent and British accent sound the same.)
WHO TO SIT WITH:
I like to eat. Therefore, my favorite people to eat with are the throwers. Why? Because they enjoy eating just as much as anybody. I also have found that they are some of the most enjoyable people to be around. They do tend to hang together so a lot of times I have to wiggle my way in to the group but it’s always worth it. I find distance runners to be all across the board. There are some that eat like rabbits and there are others who couldn’t weigh 100 pounds soaking wet but who can eat any thrower under the table. LOVE THAT! For all other event groups, you just have to use your judgment. A lot of times you get a lot of health nuts and this can be bothersome. I like to eat somewhat healthy but that’s only so I won’t develop cellulite. I hate to eat with people who refuse to put salad dressing on their salad and won’t eat more than 4 oz. of chicken because they might go over their calorie count for the day. These are the athletes who will never join you for a trip to the dessert table and look at you side eyed when you come back with a scoop of ice cream.
If anyone has hints to add, be my guest. :)