Team

Guess what I finally got in the mail! My Oiselle Voleé singlet! I’ve been (impatiently) awaiting it’s arrival since the original team membership order this Spring, and had almost given up hope on its arrival after the original order was lost by the USPS forwarding office. However, it finally made its way to me and I am thrilled that I’ll be able to officially represent the team next time I race!

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Why am I so excited to join this team? After all, I’ve seen a few criticisms about the newest form of the team, including the comments that it’s too big, too impersonal, or is a trick to get people to pay to advertise the company’s clothing. From what I know the original team was much smaller and had a few more perks, so in comparison the newer team set-up, with many more members, a focus on online rather than face-to-face interaction, and a membership fee rather than exclusively free perks.

I did consider these cons when applying, and decided I still had many reasons to be enthusiastic about the joining the team. Individual enthusiasm for this form of team may vary, but here’s what has me excited to fly with the Voleé:

  1. Virtual/wide-spread team isn’t  really a negative for me. Sure, I’d love to have people to train with on a regular basis, but I also enjoy the ability to run at whatever time I need to on a given day, and the freedom to modify my training plan and running routes on the fly. My recent experiences with friends in creating virtual teams for encouragement and accountability with training has shown me that being surrounded by team, even if you’re not actually training physically together, is still valuable to staying positive and motivated during the rough patches of training, and being encouraged to celebrate each small success during better times.
  2. I’ve observed great team cohesiveness with all the Voleé that I’ve met in person and online, and I am also ok with not personally knowing every single member of the team. I’d love to meet all the women in my state section of the team, and will definitely seek out teammates to run with/cheer with when I travel out of state. The lack of exclusivity isn’t a problem for me – with a larger team that just means more likelihood of finding women to run with.
  3. The purpose of the membership fee and the benefits that go along with it were clear and seemed reasonable to me. The fee included a singlet and spike bag, membership to the team forums and newsletters, a discounted pair of shorts/tights, free shipping, special team-only sales or early access to sales/items, and a donation to the developing athletes fund. Some of these definitely encourage more clothing purchases, but honestly, anyone joining the team probably already likes Oiselle’s clothing so isn’t suffering too much from the purchase-related perks. I’m honestly ecstatic to have a team singlet that isn’t huge/stinky/required to be turned back in at the end of the season (as I did in every school xc and track program), and can’t wait to use the discount on some pricy tights this winter which I probably wouldn’t be able to buy otherwise (ah, the good Colorado winters…tights wear out quickly up here). Being able to contribute to the emerging athlete fund is extremely valuable to me as I have several friends who are currently in that category, one of whom runs for Oiselle. In my current financial circumstances (i.e., not grad school) I’d actually give more to the fund if that was an option.

I’ve already met 3 teammates in person, and look forward to meeting more as I watch for matching singlets at races (should be easy to spot with the snazzy, eye-catching design!). I’ll admit the singlet also brings with it dreams of open meet cross-country teams, relays, and feeling at least sort-of legit if I end up lining up for any track races next Spring/Summer.

Sure, one doesn’t need an official team to do these things, but I’m excited to move forward with a supportive, enthusiastic team of athletes to call on when I need a boost during a busy, exhausting week, a group to cheer with, or a singlet to run beside in a challenging race.

#headupwingsout

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No, I didn’t just join for the snazzy singlet (although they are AMAZING)

About 5 months ago in mid-December, as snow piled up outside and I tried my best to tune out the cold basement air and whirring of my bike tire against the trainer drive, I balanced my phone on the handlebars of my bike and watched the green grass and tan sand of a sunny cross-country course become obscured by a flowing river of brightly dressed runners on the Oiselle Periscope broadcast of the USATF Club XC Nationals women’s race. In contrast to the later official post-race broadcast by USATF TV, this view of the race was bumpy, loud, and chaotic, immersing me in the XC atmosphere on the sidelines and pulling me along as the video stream recorded the frantic cheering-spot-to-cheering-spot sprints that are unique to XC. The cheering around the recording phone increased with each passing Oiselle runner and I found myself smiling, remembering the excitement of running around on a warm-up or on aching post-race legs to cheer on the JV women’s squad or the men’s teams as a high-school and collegiate XC athlete. As I cross-trained alone in my chilly basement the brief vicarious feelings of team membership added to my growing desire to find some way to return to the team atmosphere in my running life.

5 months later and I am now a member of that same team that I enjoyed a live-stream based comradery with while watching that XC race. I had been looking for a way to return to the comradery and extra motivation provided by being a member of a team since a few months after my undergraduate graduation, and that shaky live-stream view of the competing Oiselle teams and supporting cheers reminded me of exactly what I missed about being on a team. When the Oiselle Volée started hinting at a potential new batch of team memberships this Spring I began seriously considering the idea of joining the team.

I had also looked at some other team options this winter, including racing for a team back in my home town that a former teammate runs for, trying to create a team with some other post-collegiate running friends, or just racing in my cycling club’s colors. However, the Volée had some additional aspects that appealed to me over these other possibilities.

Each of my options would provide a long-distance network of supportive and inspiring teammates and a jersey run in, but the Volée option had the added benefits of a much larger and wide-spread team, an established network of existing teammates and platforms for interacting with them online and in person, an association with a company that focuses on women’s running and female leadership, and the perks of free shipping and periodic special deals on running clothing line that combines beauty and function in a uniquely appealing way.

Lastly, by joining this team I had the opportunity to help support the professional division of the team, as 25% of the membership cost goes to supporting the Oiselle Emerging Athlete Fund. As someone with several former teammates who’ve gone pro (one of whom runs for Oiselle), and who cares strongly about the professional side of women’s competitive running, the ability to directly contribute even a small portion to helping developing professionals stay in the sport was incredibly appealing. Oiselle’s decision to use the team membership cost in part as a tool for supporting elite-level competitive female runners goes along with their history of a positive attitude towards competition and supporting the wider issues of fair play, athlete sponsorship that acknowledges athletes as whole people rather than purely numbers, and the balance between team/inclusion and fierce competitiveness.

I can’t wait to rejuvenate my own sense of team and competitiveness as I gain amazing new teammates to cheer with and for, local/regional runners to support, compete with, and learn from in-person, and an enormous virtual, world-wide cheering squad that I will have the privilege to represent every time I put on the Volée racing singlet.

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