University of South Carolina - B.S. in Exercise Science
Georgia Southern University - M.S. in Sports
Tracy Ljone fell in love with college athletics in the pool as a swimmer at the University of South Carolina. That's also when Tracy realized there was a real lack of female coaches at the collegiate level, with less than 40 percent of women’s teams being coached by women.
So Tracy, wanting to be part of changing the dynamics of women’s sports, decided to parlay her passion for sports into coaching. As a strength and conditioning coach at Colorado State University, Tracy is responsible for designing sport specific programs for Division I athletes across a variety of sports.
While this can be a big job, Tracy also places importance on changing the stereotype of college coaching as an “old school boy network.” “I believe it is vital for young females to have strong, vibrant and confident role models not only in life but in the athletics environment,” she says.
People are more important than results.
What inspired you to pursue a career in athletics? Were you always an athlete?
I was a collegiate swimmer at the University of South Carolina where I fell in love with the environment of college athletics. I saw then that there were only a handful of women in coaching and wanted to change the dynamics.
What does your job involve, and what types of responsibilities do you have in your position?
I design sport specific strength and conditioning programs for Division I athletes. At my current job I work with the "endurance" sports, including swimming, track and tennis, but I have worked with all sports including basketball, volleyball, golf and even football. The programs are geared toward important competitions so that our athletes peak at the right time. The most important facet of designing a program is injury prevention. After that, my goal is to produce stronger and faster athletes so that they can reach success in their sport. Currently I work with approximately 100 athletes in four different sports.
Beyond the day-to-day duties of my job, I consider my grandest responsibility to be a positive, confident and strong, yet feminine, role model for all the female athletes I coach.
What is your favorite part of your job?
When an athlete does something she didn't think she could. You can see the gratification in her eyes but more importantly the confidence that has been built within her.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
When an athlete is struggling I want to share the burden as well. As we all remember the college years are such an impressionable stage of life and many challenges arise during these four years. Young athletes are faced with problems not only on the athletic field but also life issues such as relationships, confidence, eating disorders and questions about life when athletics is over. All of this is in addition to performing well for their coaches, teammates and
school. There are many days when you just want to hug them and tell them everything will be alright. Some days it's like having 100 kids of your own because you care about each and every one of them.
The other challenge I struggle with is the lack of women in coaching and working in a male-dominated field. Less than 40 percent of college female teams are coached by women. It is decreasing every year and is currently at an all-time low. Coaching is predominantly an old school boy network and a tough environment to break into -- and even tougher to stay in. Many females leave coaching due to family obligations and the time commitment that college coaching demands. I often ponder how to procure and keep women in coaching. I believe it is vital for young females to have strong, vibrant and confident role models not only in life, but in the athletics environment as well.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Balance was definitely an issue for me when I was young coach. I worried about my athletes day and night. In my 15 years of coaching I have seen a lot and have learned a lot, and I now have a much different approach to coaching. I used to be extremely strict and unyielding with my athletes because I was only worried about the results they produced. However, now I know life and athletics is all about relationships. Every day I take the time to get to know my athletes a little more, and I strive to find out what motivates each one to get out of bed every morning. This has made all the difference. I still have high expectations when we are working out, however I have learned there is so much more to life than winning a game. I also have realized that the more they are enjoying what they are doing, the better they will perform anyway. It all works together.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
Every day when an athlete leaves the weight room or the field and says "thank you" I know I have made it. Not because I am the most successful coach but because I have made an impact that day and because that athlete is better than when they came in.
What are some of the rules you live by?
“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
This quote by Don Swartz sums me up both in coaching and in life.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
Passion for sports, of course, but also the ability to relate to, understand and empathize with college-age females finding their way in the world.
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
Breathe. Take the time to enjoy the people around you. It took me 13 years of coaching to realize people (young female athletes in my case) are more important than results.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I would like to continue coaching at some level, whether it is at the college, high school or youth level, but I also want to become a college professor. I completed my Ph.D. a few years ago and would like to take all the knowledge and experiences I have had in college athletics and teach young, upcoming professionals in the sport industry and hopefully inspire more females to pursue a career in coaching.