From Athlete to Coach


This is my story. Well, it is the story of how being an athlete for most of my life led me to open a gym. It’s funny; as I sit down to write my bio, I’m thinking back over my athletic pursuits and how I always thought my path was to be a great athlete. By some standards, I was a great athlete. I was a qualifier for the 2004 Olympic Trials, I’m a member of Cornell University’s Athletic Hall of Fame, I have high school records, Nebraska State High School records, Cornell University track and field records, 16 Ivy League championship titles, cases of gold medals, and experiences I’ll never forget. From a young age I had dreams of becoming an Olympian. I started in gymnastics at age 6 and progressed through the levels quickly. By the time I was 11, I was training 6 hours a day with hopes of becoming an elite gymnast. After a broken foot, a dislocated kneecap, a horrific beam straddling incident, stress fractures in my heels, and numerous other injuries, I lost the fire. I got scared. As a gymnast, once fear sets in, you’re done. So at the tender age of 12 my life as a competitive gymnast was over, and I was looking for something else. 

In junior high I shifted gears and became a sprinter. Over the next 6 years, I set school records, city records, district records, and state records. My junior year in high school I won every race I ran at State. College letters started coming when I was a junior, and I received offers at top Division I schools. I chose Cornell University. Maybe it was because it was Ivy League or maybe because it was 1500 miles from my tiny town in Nebraska. In any case, it was undoubtedly the best decision I ever made. I left Cornell in 2003 with 11 school records, 16 Ivy League championship titles, 2 championship MVP awards, a college degree, and a dream of becoming an Olympian. I packed up my truck and drove from New York to L.A. 

In September of 2003 I was in Santa Monica, CA, training with a renowned hurdle coach and hell-bent on making the 2004 Olympic team. There was just one thing. I’d never run hurdles before. I met this coach on spring break my senior year at Cornell. He asked if I had ever hurdled before. I said, “No, my sister was the hurdler in the family.”  He told me I should give it a try because I was never going to make an Olympic team as a sprinter.  I learned to hurdle in only 10 days in the summer of 2003 and decided to make a run for the 2004 Olympic trials in the 400-meter hurdles. Nine months and five races later I had made the qualifying standard for the 2004 Olympic Trials. On May 22, 2004, about six weeks before the Olympic Trials, I was at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA, ready to run in my first televised race. Warming up in my usual manner, I came off of the first hurdle and felt a terrible pain in my right foot. (I’ve always had bad feet. I crawled off and on the track in college due to severe plantar fasciitis.) I found out that day that no amount of athletic tape can substitute for a torn tendon. Just like that, my bid for the 2004 Olympic Games was over.

My goal of becoming an Olympic hurdler seemed impossible. Still, I persisted. In 2007 I returned to L.A. to train for the 2008 games. Eight weeks in, I herniated a disc in my back.  Once again, an injury brought my training to a screeching halt. It was becoming more apparent that being an elite athlete wasn’t my path, but I knew I had to be involved in athletics in some way. I became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association in 2011. I coached young track athletes and spent time as a personal trainer. 

In 2012 I was introduced to CrossFit. I was immediately hooked. A new way to compete, be an athlete, rank myself every day against other people? I was in! Within a year I completed the CrossFit Level 1 course to become a CrossFit Level 1 trainer. I loved the idea of being an athlete again and coaching others at the same time. It wasn’t until I started coaching CrossFit that I began to see myself more as a coach than an athlete. I also began to understand that for most people who join a gym just looking to get in shape, there was a big part of the equation missing. I knew that nutrition had to be an integral part of the program. Armed with knowledge, experience, and a passion for coaching, I opened Divergent Training & Nutrition in June of 2015. At Divergent, we offer programs for general fitness, strength and conditioning, performance, and nutrition. I used to say that how you look and how you feel is 80% diet and 20% training. I was wrong. It is 100% training and 100% nutrition.

The drive to be a top athlete will always be part of me. It never goes away, but it does transform. The same drive, persistence, and tenacity I had as a young gymnast and later as an Olympic hopeful is present today in my coaching. My success, my sense of accomplishment, and my reward now come with the successes of those I coach. I don't just own a gym. This place is me. I realize now that this was my path all along. 

Katy Welsh

Certified Nutrition Coach- Precision Nutrition Level 1 (2015)
Cornell University Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee (2013)
CrossFit Level 1 Trainer (2013)
NSCA-Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (2011)
College level Anatomy and Physiology (2011)
10+ years athletic coaching experience
Trained in developmental interviewing by Harvard University psychologists (2005)
Coach2 Certified Business Coach- Coach2 Coaching Program- (2004)
2004 Olympic Trials qualifer 400m Hurdles
Bachelor of Science from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY (2003)
Cornell University Varsity Track and Field- 100m, 200m, 400m dashes/4x100 relay/4x400 relay
Cornell University School Record Holder- Indoor 60m, 200m / Outdoor- 100m, 200m, 400m, 4x100m, 4x400m