*Guest Post from Ian Warner
He makes some pretty valid points… What do you think ?
These are simply my ideas for ways to change the sport. Not all of them are feasible and some contradict each other but they are ideas. Those who consider themselves a part of track nation need to make pushes to make changes in the sport. These changes won’t come until the athletes stop worrying as much about themselves for a bit and put some more time and effort into helping the entire sport. If not, the sport we love could be in trouble in the future.
It amazes me to see how many athletes participate in the sport of track and field yet how many know NOTHING about the sport. No history in their event, they don’t know any records, they don’t know who the top athletes are in the world.
If you ask these same athletes though about the NFL, or NBA they can tell you who is playing tonight, who is the best, stats and the whole deal. Now these leagues are clearly doing a great job marketing themselves but Track and Field must do better.
Marketing Our Sport
I noticed the lack of marketing as I went through the NCAA system. In NCAA athletics football doesn’t even have to market itself. For basketball, as long as people know what night the games are they don’t really have to. Every other sport it is a long shot if people will show up. Track is one of the worst sports when it comes to attendance though. The only thing that allows many NCAA track meets to not be empty is the fact that track teams are large. When people are not competing they are often in the stands.
Most schools get very little support from the student body. There are no cheer leaders, there are very few students, very few other athletes at the meets either. No one cares and if they do care they don’t want to spend all day waiting for the people they know to compete.
Track and Field athletes need to do more. Teams should be getting out there and talking with their friends who are not on the team about watching the meet. Most Division 1 teams have more than 50 people on the team if you include both men and woman. If say 50 people could get two family members and two friends from the school to their one home meet that would be 200 people in the stands. For a track meet that is actually a lot of people and that is NOT a lot to ask of the athletes.
My gosh some meets start at 7 in the morning and they don’t conclude until 8 or 9 at night, plus they are 2 day meets. Track meets wear everyone down. The athletes, coaches, officials and fans all are DEAD TIRED by the end.
I will put all of this in perspective on how long days can be for fans. When I was in high school at one 3 day meet on a blazing hot Toronto Summer Day my parents got SUN BURNED! Now both my parents and I are Dark Skinned Black people in which it is NOT easy for us to sun burn. I personally have never had a sun burn in my life.
They were in the sun watching the meet that LOOOONG.
The meets just go on and on. There is nothing worse than looking at the heat sheets for a meet and seeing there are 22 sections in one race. That sucks and people watching the meet lose interest.
Day for Distance and Multi Events Day for Sprint Jumps and Throws
Now this is one of my more outside the box ideas. If meets are going to be 2 days they should have a day for distance races and a day for sprint races. This would inhibit a lot of athletes from being able to do 3 events but the fan base would be much more into it.
There are very few fans of the sport who like to watch ALL of the events. Most fans can’t understand them all, they can’t learn about them all so they just stick to the ones that they care about or know.
When it comes to Long Distance, Vs Sprinters they are like totally different planets. The training, mindset, diets, attitude and so much more are just not the same. I could see their being negative side effects to this move without a doubt. I think it is just something to consider if the change would increase fan interest and decrease length of days all at the same time.
Less Headphone Restrictions
I understand why at many meets they do not allow you to use music. It often provides a huge safety issue if they were to have a bunch of different athletes rolling around with them on.
This is more for larger meets like the Olympics and the Diamond League meets. These meets are so tight on security and there is rarely very many athletes on the track at one time. I don’t see music making the environment more dangerous. I also believe that if many athletes had some music it would add to the life of the meet as you would see more athletes dancing and being themselves.
More Team Aspects
This clearly contradicts my point about having distance and sprint events on different days. I know for a fact that NCAA track and field loses a fans because fans cant follow all of the split squad travel trips. I remember one weekend at Iowa State we had athletes in Arizona, California and Iowa on one weekend. When people want to follow us they don’t even know how to do that.
It also becomes hard for the sport to be followed because there is not always a team aspect. This issue goes all the way up the pro level. The sport is in need of some sort of change and I am not sure what it is. If the IAAF opened the sponsorship rules maybe you could have companies starting teams across varying events and drafting athletes to their teams. I am not totally sure here but adding some form of team aspect will help the sport. That is why in the NCAA you are seeing more scored meets.
Meets That Are More Interactive With Fans
I will remember in high school it was the best feeling ever to have people standing all around the outside of the track. There were still people in the stands but I remember doing the 400 relay and sprinting by all the people standing on the outside of the track. It makes you feel as if the crowd is more engaged in the meet. It clearly can be a lot more dangerous this way but can be worth it. Long Jump was the exact same set up. When people were clapping to get jumpers pumped they were not on the other side of the facility but they were clapping right in the jumpers ear.
The sport needs to find away to get people out of the stands and in the action. The closer you get to the action the more surreal it is. When you can walk up to the high jump bar it has more impact on you then watching it from the stands. The closer you are to someone sprinting the faster they go by you. Getting the fans closer to the action will make a difference. It will allow people to respect the athletes and what they are doing a lot more.
Head to Head Battles
There needs to be more match ups of the best of the best at each level. Track and field has almost adopted this way where the only time good athletes face each other is if it is the championship meet of the year. Imagine the NBA and NFL did that.
Imagine if they took two teams expected to be the best and never let them face each other. Its stupid! The sport will get much more attention if these battles happen often. 2013 was a good example of this. Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt should have face each other but they didn’t. They opted to wait until the World Championships in which Tyson Gay never made it to.
Less Meets or Better Organization
Unless Usain Bolt is at the meet it is so hard to find results for meet. Even the die hard fans give up on trying sometimes. Either have less meets or organize the meets better or maybe do both. The amount of time I have spent trying to find results and live feeds is enough to make me want to shoot my own foot.
Track and Field TV
Ahhh if there was a TV station like NFL network I would be in heaven. They constantly show athletes training, teach athletes about the sports rich history, show meet results and highlights it would be so wonderful.
Let it all be known. Everyone should be able to check how many times others have been tested and what the result was. This would make it so much harder for people to sweep positive tests under the rug. It would also give sponsors more faith in the sport because you could prove that you have been tested a certain amount of times.
Business Transaction Transparency
No one finds out about the business of the sport until they sign a pro contract. This is NOT the same in other leagues. There are 10 year olds that know how the NFL work. They can tell you what coaches, athletes and agents all make.
In track and field you cant find out any numbers. Everything done in the sport is kept as one giant secret. I can see how this is good for the athletes but it is horrible for the promotion of the sport. Some people don’t even realize that you can run for a living.
Educating High School Athletes About Professional Track and Field
I think this is key because more athletes will realize at a young age that they can have a future in the sport. The issue here is that this cant be done until the sports is more transparent.
Leave a Comment With A Change You Think the Sport Needs
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Managing Director at Cover Ground/Sprinter
Ian is in his first year as a professional athlete. He graduated from Iowa State University with a business degree while on a track scholarship. He made his first Olympic team to London for the relay, by running a personal of 10.20, two one-hundreds off qualifying for the 100m, but didn’t get a chance to run in London at all. He is training now for the Rio 2016 games. Ian instills his hard work and dedication into others and people realize the focus, determination and how hard he trains to become the best.
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