Porscha Dobson, Dartmouth Director of Track & Field and Cross Country

More Than Running

November 12, 2020

Super thrilled to bring on Porscha Dobson, who is the new director of Dartmouth’s track and field and cross country programs. She is making history as the first Black woman in Ivy League history to oversee the programs. Dartmouth is my alma mater and she takes over after Barry Harwick announced his retirement in August. Porscha served as an assistant coach and assistant head coach at the University of Pennsylvania, where she helped lead the women’s team to the last five Ivy League Heps titles.

In this episode, we discuss her career as a coach, her hopes and expectations for the program, the importance of diversifying the community around her and much more more.

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porscha dobson more than running with dana giordano

Support for this episode comes from Inside Tracker. I’ve been using them for about two years now as a professional runner to help understand how I can perform my best in practice and races. They’re an ultra-personalized nutrition system that analyzes your blood, DNA and lifestyle to help optimize your body to reach your goals. Go to info.insidetracker.com/earlyaccess to be the first to hear about InsideTracker’s BEST DEAL of the year.

SEASON 2: Episode 1, Michelle Sammet | Episode 2, Porscha Dobson |

SEASON 1: All 12 episodes are available to download and stream. Guests included Molly Seidel, Alison Wade, Nia Akins, Mary Cain and more.

Show Notes and Quotes

On crafting her vision for Dartmouth upon taking the job.

– “I expressed to everyone that Dartmouth has had its glimpses of success. You know that’s there. The consistency, in my opinion, hasn’t been there. I always felt that ‘Oh! Dartmouth was second, looked super strong and maybe next year they’ll be a contender’ and then they’ll finish fifth or sixth. There’s something there. I think there’s a lot of pluses and there were some holes in the program that I saw. I’m hoping to fill those holes with my staff after being able to identify those and move forward. I’ve had good chats with the staff and the team at large. I’ve been able to break it down and also speak with captains, each event group and really get their take on how they’ve seen things. Even with some of the alumni, everyone has been so open and honest with me. We all see very similar aspects to the program and where we can develop some consistency with that improvement…And of course, I’m bringing my own unique take on it. I’m very high energy as a person so it’s really just built into my character. I love allowing other folks to see it. They normally build off of that. It can also filter into the rest of the staff and the team. We want to keep it fun too.”

Who does she look up to as she takes this step up in her job role?

– “I try to take pieces of what I’ve learned along the way…I attended UNC-Chapel Hill and I entered that program at a time when they were very successful. My late head coach Dennis Craddock did a very good job of managing the program and being able to identify who was a good fit but also set standards, expectations and guidelines. As a 17 to 22-year-old, I’m not going to say that we enjoyed every moment of it but at that moment, he was able to get the best of us. We were able to win championships. A lot of people advanced to NCAAs. A lot of people were successful outside of UNC and after graduation. When you look back, you’re very appreciative of the things that you learn. I was also a head coach at Montclair State University. That was the first time I was a head coach and I learned from the staff in other sports that were there. Everyone was giving me their tidbits on things that worked and things that haven’t worked. Heading over to Penn, Steve Dolan arrived as the director there at the same time as me. Being able to go through that process with him and navigating those first few years to find his foot there. Again, it was seeing what worked and didn’t work as you build that team culture in the process. I was taking notes on the good stuff and the things that I would change. Along the way, as an assistant coach and an associate head coach, at some schools you’re able to have full autonomy over your event group. You’re almost the small head coach of your own event group so you can build a culture there and then spread it to the rest of the team.”

– “Who are people who are mentors? I do look up to a lot of the top female coaches in the country…It’s Caryl Smith Gilbert, Amy Deem, Beth Alford-Sullivan, Tonja Buford-Bailey…And I say the women because it is a male-dominated profession so being able to stand out in that way and be respected because you are improving and doing well. It’s something to be honored for simply because it’s not easy. They’ve paved the way. They are trailblazers. At the same time, I’m happy and I’m glad I can be one of those people moving forward.”

– “Everywhere I’ve been I have been assigned to rebuild the program. It’s something I enjoy but it’s also something that the student-athletes there and the athletes I recruit into the program have a chance to recreate parts of history as well.”

How did she know she wanted to be a coach?

– “If I’m being completely honest, I never saw myself as a coach, educator, teacher or anything in that realm. I always had my eyes set on sports communication, journalism or something in that field. It’s even what I went to college for. When I think back, a lot of my life led me to this point…I was the captain of my track and field team since being a junior in high school. When I arrived at UNC, I became the captain my sophomore year, which is always an interesting dynamic. I’m 19 years old but I’m the captain over 20 or 22-year-olds. I was part of the inaugural Carolina leadership program at UNC and a lot of other schools have started to begin their own programs that simulate that one. Then, I guess after college the funny story is that I went back home, did some freelance journalism and I was in the mall one day. I was sitting in the food court one day and a track and field coach from New Jersey, who knew me in high school and I used to run for their club , saw me and said, ‘I didn’t know you were back in town! Why don’t you come on down and help out a little bit? I said, ‘Absolutely not…I think I’m done with track right now. I just need a break.’ He contacted me every week. I think I blew him off for six months. Long story short, I came down to the school, observed one practice and just fell in love in that one day. I was shocked just even in myself. I said, ‘What?! That was too easy!?’ I just kept coming back. I started showing up two times a week, then three times a week and eventually every day…Ever since then, I’ve just fallen in love with it. I enjoy working with young people but in particular young people at that college level. It’s young adult people who are entering college as young girls and boys, they go through those four years and leave as men and women. In those four years, so much happens – so much growth and development. Their eyes are open. So much knowledge and relationships. Just assisting them through that time, I really find enjoyment.”

Diversity at Dartmouth

– “In my opinion, our sport, in particular, is pretty unique. The beauty of it is that it is the most diverse sport in the world. Period. Not just the country. It brings so many different backgrounds, genders, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. In my opinion, we have to capitalize on that. If we’re not, then we’re not doing any justice to the beauty of our sport. Yes, you look at the locations of different colleges and universities. Hanover is predominantly white. We get that. At the same time, you want to bring different types of people into this bubble…so what are we building and what are we making of it. When you’re off to attend a college or university, one of the purposes is that you’re not simply there just for the academics. Yes, that is a portion of it. Especially in the Ivy League, you know that you’re going to get a world-class education. But you’re also there to be a bit more cultured to gain more knowledge to be able to prepare yourself for the next stages once you leave that university. What are those next stages? In life, you’re going to encounter all different types of people. You want to be able to communicate with all types of people, work alongside folks and have an understanding. What better place and time is there to do that than in college when you’re having that growth that we spoke about before.”

– “Even with my staff, we’ve been talking about diversity on the team. It does take a bit more work to turn over every stone…I challenge the coaches. When it comes down to it, it’s internal. Are you really looking for all different types of student-athletes? Obviously, you want to maintain that high level of academic and athletic excellence. There are so many people out there. It does take more work. It really does. You have to go out there and allow people to know, ‘Hey! Do you know what Dartmouth is? Do you know what the Ivy League is? Let me educate you a little bit about it about how this could be an appropriate or life-changing opportunity for you.’ It takes a little more digging and searching. It takes more phone calls. It takes more emails. It takes more creativity to try and make sure you’re presenting it in a more creative and attractive way. We’re starting to do that. I’m excited about it. When you do have that on your team, it allows recruiting to be a bit easier. You can find those people and be able to recruit all different types of folks, all different types of backgrounds and not just having a focus on Black and Brown people. Yes, we want Black and Brown people on the team but we also want people from different parts of the country. We also want representation. We want Asian people on the team as well. We want to be able to look say, ‘This is our sport. This is what we represent.’ I tried to do that at Penn and I think I was successful in doing that. I was very intentional about it as well. I definitely want to bring that to Dartmouth so that people can be comfortable.”

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