In this episode of the Inclusive Excellence Podcast, Erin Sember-Chase and Toral Patel are joined by Adrian Durant, head coach of men’s track and field at Cornell, for a conversation about his journey from the U.S. Virgin Islands to competing in college and the Olympics to becoming a head coach at an Ivy League institution.
Durant was named the George E. Heekin ’29 Coach of Men’s Track and Field in July 2015 and has since become one of the top young track and field coaches in the country, developing over 50 Ivy League champions, seven Ivy League Championship MVPs, 11 All-Americans and several Olympians. Durant shares his own experiences as an Olympic competitor and how he constructed his coaching philosophy to reflect his belief in setting goals for success.
“A lot of times when I talk to people about goals and goal setting, they either don't have one or they’re embarrassed by it,” Durant said. “It doesn't matter if people laugh at your goal. You have to believe in it. Your declaration will guide your decisions.”
Durant grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands and, at a young age, declared that he wanted to go to the Olympics. His goal ignited his departure from home and journey to the United States after his mother agreed to send him to New Jersey to increase his opportunities to race competitively in college.
Despite falling short of a full scholarship at the University of South Carolina, Durant earned himself a spot on the track and field team by walking on. He soon became an SEC champion, All-American and eventually found himself at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, where he represented the U.S. Virgin Islands in the 100-meter dash.
At Cornell, Durant is striving to create an environment where his student-athletes and staff know they are assets to the team’s success and their goals are encouraged. He shares the importance of building a team culture anchored in excellence, where everyone’s role is respected and supported.
“If we want Cornell to be the type of place where we're maximizing the student and student-athlete experience, we want them to feel like they belong here,” Durant said. “I want my staff and athletes to know that I take it seriously, I want them to be better, and I want the team to be better. If they don't see that in me, then it's going to be hard for me to expect that out of them.”
Tune in to hear more about Adrian Durant’s experience racing around the globe as he offers up his playbook for cultivating a winning team culture on the field and in the workplace in Episode 75: Goals to Gold with Olympian Adrian Durant. Visit https://diversity.cornell.edu/iepodcast to access the episode and transcript.