Part II. Pioneers in the Internet Landscape of Track and Field.
The first part of the Pioneers in the Internet Landscape of Track and Field series was published June 9, featuring Tom Borish and Trackshark.com. Steve McGill, founder of Hurdlesfirst.com, a site dedicated to everything hurdling, is our second pioneer to spotlight.
The inspiration behind the current series was Steve McGill and his tremendous contribution to the track community through his work at Hurdlesfirst.com, writing at Trackshark.com, Ncpreptrack.net, and Blackathletes.com.
But Steve is much more than Hurdlesfirst.com. He is a teacher, intellectual, coach, friend, father, husband, son, and all-around good guy. His dedication to the art of hurdling is evident in Hurdlesfirst.com.
What the site lacks in the way of name recognition, it more than makes up for by delivering substantive content including interviews, profiles, all-time hurdling list, training tips, workouts and much more. Steve has interviewed some of the greatest current and former hurdles to ever run. The site is a treat for hurdles, coaches, and fans of the sport.
Steve’s passion for the sport oozes throughout the pages of Hurdlesfirst.com, and since launching Hurdlesfirst.com in 2004, he has put together a nexus of information combined with content to die for. He is someone who draws on all of the knowledge and understanding he has gathered to share with readers about the hurdling game. And for these reasons, PreraceJitters.com has selected Steve McGill as one of the pioneers in the Internet landscape of track and field.
PreraceJitters.com finally caught up with the ultra busy Steve McGill, the founder and editor of Hurdlesfirst.com. Here is what he had to say about his journey.
What is your background in track and field?
I didn’t get seriously involved in track until the 11th grade, when my high school started an indoor program, and I quit the basketball team so I could run indoors. I started hurdling in the 10th grade. I hurdled for the rest of high school and also in college, at a DIII school and then a DII school. I’ve been coaching at the high school and youth level since 1995. Mainly hurdlers, but also sprinters.
How long have you been running Hurdlesfirst.com?
I started the site in September of 2004. At first it was on the server of the school where I teach. All faculty members have their own page that is supposed to focus on the classes they teach. I was like, who wants to read about that boring stuff? So I made mine a hurdle site. The original url was www.ravenscroft.org/upperschool/hurdlesfirst/index.html. Or something like that. Now tell me that’s not a mouthful.
Why did you start Hurdlesfirst.com?
I started it because I love the hurdles and always have, beginning the moment I was introduced to them. I felt I had a lot of knowledge about the hurdling events that I wanted to share. Also, I like to write, so I felt that a website would be a good way to combine my passions of hurdling, coaching, and writing.
What were your goals when you started Hurdlesfirst.com and where do you see yourself in 5 years?
My original goal was simply to be a source of information. That’s still my focus, although I also like to consider the site a source of inspiration for those hurdlers out there who feel they have no one to provide them with guidance or a sense of direction. Five years from now, I’d like to still be doing what I’m doing. I learned a long time ago that nothing is more important than taking advantage of opportunities to help people, and this site puts me in a position where I can do that on a regular basis. So I’d like for the site to just continue to grow naturally.
When you started Hurdlesfirst.com, what did the internet landscape look like in the track & field community?
Well, that’s another reason I started the site – there was nothing out there on the hurdles. There were plenty of sites on distance running and even a good amount of information to be found on sprinting and field events. But for the hurdles there seemed to be very little. So I figured that even though I was just a high school coach, starting a site that focused on the hurdling events would serve to bring more attention to the hurdles and maybe even legitimize hurdling in the eyes of those who saw it as something people do once they realize they’re not fast enough to sprint.Now there are great blog websites like Ron Bramlett’s and David Oliver’s, and you can always download races on youtube, as well as at sites like flotrack and wcsn.com. What I like about my site is that it is, first and foremost, an educational site. Nowadays, people don’t like to read. My site forces you to read. It forces you to think. I don’t ever see having forums or chat rooms or anything like that on my site. I can’t deal with people being ignorant toward each other, and forums encourage such behavior just by their very existence. Nor do I see the site ever including meet results, etc. People can get that kind of stuff at other sites. People who visit to my site go there because they want to learn more about the hurdles. I appreciate that.
What is the hardest thing about publishing Hurdlesfirst.com and writing?
Just the time element. It takes time to write articles. I teach full-time, I’m coaching during most of the waking hours when I’m not teaching. Then I have to make time for family, and my own running, and at least a little bit of leisure time. Like right now I plan to interview 1996 400h Olympic champ Derrick Adkins for a profile, but when I called him last week he didn’t pick up, so finding the time to call him again, when I know I’ll have an hour’s worth of space to converse, is proving difficult. Then it’ll take another chunk of hours to put the interview material together and make an article out of it. I love doing it, but finding the time to do it on a consistent basis is the hardest thing about it.
What do you do work related, when you are not publishing Hurdlesfirst.com?
I’m a high school English teacher. That’s the job that pays the bills. I’m always grading papers, which is another thing that cuts into my website time. Finally, there’s the time I spend coaching, which is at least two hours a day, often more.
You are also published author, share with us your work?
In 2001 I put together a collection of short stories, poems, and personal essays that I had written over a period of five years. The name of the book is A Hurdler’s Dream, and it centers around hurdle-related themes, obviously. I also wrote it as a tribute to my dad, who passed away in ’97.
What do you want readers to know about you?
That I’m a family man first. I have a ten-year-old daughter named Sanura who is my best friend and favorite hang-out partner. I also enjoy spending time with my wife, Joy, and my stepson, Akil, when he stays with us during the summers. I love my mom more than anyone in the world. I miss the days I spent growing up with my older brothers Greg and Glen, and my older sister Jo. And I’ll miss my dad forever.
Who has been your favorite individual to interview?
I’ve immensely enjoyed all of the interviews. I learn tons of stuff every time.But the one that stands out the most is the one with Renaldo Nehemiah in April of ‘05. Watching him hurdle in the early ‘80s was what inspired me to pursue the hurdles to begin with. So he was a key childhood hero of mine. Plus the interview itself was just incredible. When he stressed the importance of “becoming one with the hurdle,” I felt tears forming in my eyes, because I realized that I was talking to someone who understood the spiritual dimensions of athletic pursuits. For me, learning how to hurdle well, and learning how to coach hurdlers well, and this whole struggle to master the various aspects of hurdling well, has always been a spiritual quest that requires total involvement of body, mind, and spirit. What sets apart the interview with Renaldo from the others is that I could tell he had approached hurdling on the same level. People talk about how fast he was and how gifted he was. But very few people get just how deep he was. And is.
Who would you like to interview if given the opportunity?
When I started the site, the person I dreamed of one day interviewing was Renaldo because, as I said above, he was a childhood hero. So, now that I’ve interviewed Renaldo (and I’ve interviewed Edwin Moses for a different website), I’d have to say Allen Johnson. I’ve never met him, but it seems to me that he’s a very genuine person. Also, as a hurdler, he has dedicated his adult life to mastering his craft, and you have to respect that. When he loses he doesn’t make excuses; when he wins he doesn’t gloat. And you have to respect that too.
If you knew someone was thinking of starting a track and field website, what would you tell them? Figure out what your niche is. What will your site offer that isn’t already out there? Once you know what your niche is, get on the keyboard and start typing. The great thing about the web is that if your site is good, people will find it.
Is there a question that you wished I asked you?
The one question you didn’t ask me is where my passion for hurdling comes from. Answer: when I was a seventeen-year-old high school senior, I fell ill with a rare, life-threatening blood disease called aplastic anemia. I was treated at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where, to make a long story short, I was miraculously cured. I was able to return to school in time to rejoin the track team and graduate with my class. The whole time I was in the hospital, the only thing that kept me alive – that kept me wanting to live – was the hope that I would one day be able to hurdle again. I didn’t care about keeping up with my school work or anything else that had to do with the real world. The only thing I cared about as I lay dying was hurdling. That which matters most to you when death is staring you in the face is what matters most, period. Ever since then, I have dedicated my life to the hurdles, because I’m convinced that the hurdles saved my life.
By Jay Hicks.