Personal experience with coaches and visits to elite universities is invaluable.

Irena Gillarová

I have just completed an inspection tour during which I visited elite universities from the Ivy League and also MIT. I wanted to meet with our ambassadors, especially with coaches, to establish better relationships, as personal experience is invaluable. And above all, I always want to give young athletes the best advice possible with choosing a specific school. And thus, I had the opportunity to experience the environment of each university first-hand.

I started at Harvard, where athletes Michal Husek and Ondra Veselý studied in their first year. I saw the facilities and the coach of Michal and Ondra gave me a tour of the historic campus. He told me about their approach to athletes and how the boys fit into the team and athletic visions.

Thanks to my contacts with coaches, I have a general overview of how each university runs its programs. However, the coaches also told me what athletes they are looking for in the future, which is good to know. For example, the throwing coach would like a skilled hammer and shot put athlete on the team. I was very happy to hear that another Czech athlete recommended by Ondra will attend Harvard next year.

During the training session that I observed, everyone introduced themselves to me at Harvard and said they were happy to have Czech guys on the team. In the evening, I went to dinner with Michal and Ondra at the local cafeteria and they confirmed that they have a great team. I am happy that the boys are satisfied. Although they are extremely busy, especially in their first year, there is a lot to do at school.

MIT does not yet have a Sportegy Futures ambassador, but I have long wanted to personally see how it works there. Although athletically, MIT is not in the best division, it is still the best technical university in the world with very good athletic results.

So I just decided to come and check it out, and went straight to the head coach's office, introduced him to our project and talked about Czech athletes. I believe I made an impression on him. I was able to tour the facilities and again confirmed that the conditions at universities in the USA are unbeatable. They even have a pool, a hockey rink, squash courts, and an athletics hall on the third floor in one building, which I have not seen yet.

From each school, I had a completely different feeling. For example, Yale and Harvard have a completely different atmosphere. I was taken there by rower Jan Vacek and it was also a big experience. I had the opportunity to see a rowing training session, during which I got to know the legend of American rowing and current coach Steve Gladstone.

We watched the training session together, so we had enough time to get to know each other. In the eyes of the coaches and young athletes, it helped that I introduced myself as a two-time NCAA champion. The successes of athletes in the US are always appreciated.

My alma mater (Virginia Tech University) reminded me most of Princeton, where athlete Láďa Töpfer studies. I worked with him in the past when I still worked for another agency. What impressed me most about Princeton was the facilities and mainly the approach of the athletic coaches, who showed a great interest in European athletes.

They even told me they realize that Harvard has the best name in Europe, so it's harder for them to get foreign athletes. One of the coaches even told me he plans to travel to the Czech Republic this summer to meet potential new students. I was pleased that they wanted to do their job better, so they asked me what they should improve. I was really thrilled with their approach.

I already know that I won't be taking a similar trip for the last time, even though I traveled between universities by car and slept in a Walmart parking lot. Camping at the parking lot of the chain mentioned above was recommended to me by one Ivy League counselor who told me that she had traveled the whole US this way. It's a popular option for backpackers in America. It was an adventure. Although I was sometimes a little scared, the sleeping powder made sure that I wouldn't wake up in the middle of the night.