10 Takeaways From Our One-On-One Interview With Symmonds
January 2, 2014
Less than two hours after his new deal with Brooks was officially released, we caught up with US 800-meter star Nick Symmonds via phone from the Brooks headquarters in Seattle. Here are 10 takeaways from our chat with Nick.
1) Nick feels your pain but he can’t tell us how much the deal is worth.
Before we interviewed Nick, we put up on the message board a post saying we were going to interview Nick and asked for your suggestions as to what we should ask. Many of you wanted us to find out what we already were going to ask: How much is his contract for and how long is it for?
We started off our interview with Nick with him saying he’s always wanted the sport to grow and knowing the size of deals seemed like a logical place to start. When another low-30s superstar, Robinson Cano, signed with the Seattle Mariners last month, everyone in the world knew it was 10-years, $240 million. Why shouldn’t that be the case in track and field? Did Brooks overpay? Did Nike try to low-ball him, etc? Those types of conversations are interesting.
So we asked Nick if there was anything he could say about his contract, how long is it for and how much is it for. His reply:
Well, we have NDAs. I personally wish we didn’t have NDAs and that athletes could talk more openly about their contracts, but I do understand the reason for having them. The contract I’m currently under does have an NDA so I can’t talk specifics but they have committed to helping me along through 2016 and beyond and that was something I was really excited about, having a partnership that could take me well through the end of my career and into my future (post-running) career as well.
2) Symmonds did reveal Nike did make him an offer that was similar to Brooks financially, but Nick really is looking forward to having an impact at Brooks – “Just sitting in Eugene twiddling my thumbs waiting for Nike to call me – that was not satisfying for me”:
I can say that I did receive an offer from Nike. I can say their offers were very similar in financial compensation and ultimately I chose to go with Brooks for a host of reasons but mainly because I feel like it’s a better match for my personality and the things I want to accomplish in the sport. Nike does have a history of dropping athletes right at the top of their game – Leo Manzano, Meb Keflezighi and some others. I like to think about Meb as I make this transition and all of the success he’s had with Skechers and what he’s been able to do for that brand since he left Nike. If he was with Nike, he’d have been just another (guy) on their roster and he wouldn’t have done all of those cool things that he’s been able to do with Skechers and that’s what I want to do with Brooks.
I want to have this awesome symbiotic relationship where I give them more brand awareness and they help me grow my brand, and we just work really well together. Just in the last two hours since I’ve signed this contract, I’ve had meetings with apparel, I’ve had meetings with spike development, meetings with the PR/social media team and that’s what I get excited about – being at the ground level and working all of these different angles.
Just sitting in Eugene twiddling my thumbs waiting for Nike to call me – that was not satisfying for me.
Later Symmonds revealed that he also talked to some other companies, but having a team setting was key.
I really do enjoy training by myself, but there are times of the year, especially at altitude and when sharpening up before a big meet that I really do need teammates, and that was big part of the consideration as why I went with Brooks. I was looking at some other companies – Reebok/New Balance – they are great companies and have great products as well, but they didn’t have the team atmosphere and I knew there would be times during the year when I really needed to rely on my teammates and that’s why I wanted to come with Brooks, because they have the Brooks Beasts.
3) Read point #2 again. Symmonds really is excited to have a say at Brooks. Case in point – Symmonds is on a first-name basis with the Brooks CEO.
My personality has never been about what’s cool and hip. That doesn’t mean a lot to me.
Williamette University – a D3 (School) – wasn’t a cool, hip choice but it matched my personality and allowed me to accomplish the goals I wanted to accomplish. When I came here in November and met with the Brooks staff, I felt the same feeling. They don’t have the same, cool hip factor – they don’t have a Lebron James or some of those athletes that make Nike what Nike is – but what they do have is a really awesome team here of 100-plus employees that are all working together to provide the best running experience possible, and their products are phenomenal – the CEO Jim (Weber) is phenomenal. Sitting down with him was phenomenal.
As someone who likes to have a lot of control (of what) goes on in my life, Brooks is the right match for me. With Nike, I kind of felt like they rented out the advertising space (on my bib) and were just happy to have me on the list but they never really wanted my input on anything and that was frustrating as a guy who is trying to run a business.
4) What Would Mark Rowland Do? Symmonds will ask himself that as he moves on without his beloved coach, who also was a dear friend. That being said, Symmonds has for a long time been driving “the bus in terms of scheduling my week.”
Rowland and I accomplished a lot together. I still feel he’s one of the best middle-distance coaches in the world.
And we had a relationship that went beyond coach-athlete. We were really good friends and we are going to continue to be really good friends. (But) ever since the days of Frank Gagliano I’ve really kind of driven the bus in terms of scheduling out my week. The way my week is currently scheduled training-wise comes from Frank Gagliano. My lifting program is still going to come from Jimmy Radcliffe (the Oregon strength coach). I have years and years of lifts from him and Mark and I are going to continue to be friends.
When I look at my training, I’m going to go back to the five years of training logs that I have and say OK, “What would Mark have me do today?” And now being able to in a new factor – adding Danny Mackey in, who has a fantastic background – very, very knowledgeable – maybe that last little bit five percent that takes me from being number two in the world two number one.
5) Where will Symmonds live? Just as is the case with Nike – all over.
Just due to the nature of my training, I kind of just bounce from training camp to training camp. Keeping things fresh and not stale and being inspired by my surroundings. I typically go to Mexico in January (Symmonds leaves on Sunday for a training trip with Leo Manzano) and I’ll be in Flagstaff once again in April.
Typically I wouldn’t get back to Eugene until May 1st and I’d spend May and June in Eugene and now I’ll spend May and June in Seattle instead.
I can’t have a permanent home in order to do my job to the best of my abilities. I have to have altitude. I have to have warm weather (Symmonds spends a lot of time in the Los Angeles area where his sister lives). But when I’m preparing for a championship, I have to have a team and the resources I need and Seattle is going to be a great fit for that.
6) Symmonds if very thankful to have a good deal and is very glad he consciously moved outside his shell to build the Nick Symmonds brand a few years ago.
We asked Symmonds if he was appreciative of the fact that he’s got a nice deal, whereas his training buddy, Leo Manzano, has no deal but an Olympic medal.
You look at Leo’s situation and I just shake my head and say, “How are we going to have a professional sport in the future if a guy like Leo Manzano can’t even get a deal?” It makes me sick and I am very, very concerned about the future of professional track and field.
When I think about myself, I am just incredibly lucky that I’m going to be able to finish out my career with a great contract and with great people around me to support me along the way. It could have been a lot worse if I hadn’t taken things into my own hands a few years back and really made a concerted effort to build my brand and connect with my fans and put myself out there a little bit more, I very, very easily could have found myself in the same position that Leo finds himself in right now.
7) Nick Symmonds said building his own personal brand wasn’t easy to do as he’s naturally a private person.
After hearing Nick talk about building his personal brand, we asked Nick if he at the time was consciously building his brand or if was just his personality to be outgoing, and who wouldn’t want to go on a date with Paris Hilton? We were surprised by his response:
My personality is to be very private. I’m most happy when I’m up on in my cabin fishing. I really had to come out of my comfort zone to hire a publicist and really try to work on building my brand, but I knew that’s what the job is, that’s how you get paid in this sport. And if I’m going to do it, I wanted to do it as well as I could.
It’s been challenging and I had to come out of my comfort zone a couple of times. The Paris Hilton thing was fun. The book I have coming out later this year goes into detail (about that). It’s a tough way to make a living but also a fun way if you do it right.
8) Symmonds thinks he’ll train in the Brooks Ravenna.
I’ve had the chance to try on a bunch of shoes.I’m currently training in the Ravenna, which is a fantastic shoe. I was running around this morning just thinking, “This is the shoe that’s would be perfect for me for three years.”
I’m going to have a little say as to how we proceed with spikes and other footwear but they’ve got a great line-up so I feel really well taken care of here.
9) Symmonds endorses the high quality of LetsRun.com’s journalism.
We interviewed Symmonds at 2:45 pm – just 1:45 after the announcement by Brooks was made and 1:45 after our article – Nick Symmonds Signs With Brooks: 4 Quick Thoughts About Symmonds’ Move – appeared on LetsRun (the Brooks people had told us ahead of time an announcement was coming, so we wrote that in advance). In that short time frame, Symmonds had already read what he had to say about the move and he liked what he read.
I read you guys’ write-up today. I thought it was a really good write-up and you posted it there yourself, you said, “Sometimes a change of scenery and a little freshness is not a bad thing, especially for a guy who has been doing the same thing for seven or eight years now.” So I think this is the right move.
Someone add us to this list.
10) A Belated Happy 30th Birthday To Nick.
Nick turned 30 on December 30th and is just back from a family trip to Las Vegas. So in the last three days, he’s gone to Vegas, said good-bye to his 20s, said goodbye to Nike, and said hello to Brooks, a New Year, and his 30s. And he’s headed to Mexico on Sunday.
That tires us out just thinking about it. As for turning 30, Nick seemed excited about the future. “It’s going to be a big decade,” said Symmonds.
More: LRC Nick Symmonds Signs With Brooks: 4 Quick Thoughts About Symmonds’ Move
*Message Board Discussion: *Nick Symmonds’ Free Agency Is Soon To Be Over – New Shoe Deal Coming At 1pm ET – Update has signed with Brooks!!
*NICK SYMMONDS WITHOUT A SPONSOR
*Who does Nick Symmonds think he is? LeBron?
*I respectfully disagree with Symmonds’ “big announcement”