It’s important for everyone who’s interested in track and field to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. After all, this is a sport that is not always considered to be the premier and most exciting to fans, and it is certainly not one of the most sought after or respected among its peers. For a lot of people, track and field has become second to most sports, including football, basketball, ice hockey, soccer, and even lacrosse.
We are the people who feel differently about this. We are the life blood that pulses through the veins of track and field; we are the heartbeat and the rhythm that keeps it alive. It does not matter whether you are taking part by participating in track as an athlete or as a coach, we are all equally responsible for our collective body.
It is for this reason that we invested track and field enthusiasts need to take notice of the disservice that we are doing to our own sport… to ourselves.
I will begin by referencing just a few of these things that we do.
One – We constantly argue over or training style, training philosophy, and even over who is right and who is wrong.
This isn’t the case with sports such as football, basketball, and soccer – even though they all include multiple offensive and defensive schemes, as well as special situation plays. The New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, and Kansas City Chiefs all run different offenses and defenses not only from one another but also within their own teams, depending upon who the coaches are at the time. For example, the Patriots even have had a complete change of style to adapt to their aging quarterback – and amazingly, they continue to win.
The reality is that regardless of which offense or defense scheme is used or which coaching style is put into play, fans today are just as excited about winning because in the end the outcome is the same – a winning team that they can believe in and feel a part of.
Two – Etiquette.
There is a certain etiquette in most major sports, but I’m not even sure if this exists in our sport.
Sports like football, basketball, and soccer have an etiquette that has become a fundamental part of the game. Things like having a specific coaching attire, using sidelines with designated places for athletes and coaches, having a warm up area structure, and even displaying a respectful manner towards those who have taken part in the sport before are some basic displays of sport etiquette.
For us, the equivalent of this could include little things such as not having open pits, not running into headwinds, using boards instead of tape boards, and creating a mandate that missing a practice or meet would require some sort of accountability and consequence for the athlete.
Maybe I’m off, but I’m pretty sure that one reason these major sports do so well is at least partly due to the fact that they maintain a level of accountability, etiquette, and professionalism. There is a respect of the sport that seems to be missing from track, a respect that we must expect from not only our athletes, but from our coaches as well.
Three – This one will be short so we can get to the actual point. For some reason, in track and field we seem to have a predisposition to believe that a bigger class or division automatically equals better, and this is true whether we are talking about the high school or the college level.
Division I isn’t for everyone and neither is Division II or III. In a sport like track and field where time is time, distance is distance, and height is height… we all need to look at the whole story, not just at the numbers.
It is unfortunate, but I could go on and on about examples such as these that show our sport has not been able to clean up or organize by itself.
Unity does not happen by accident. For the betterment of the athlete, for the aspiration of placing our sport in the global conversation alongside the premier sports that currently dominate the tongue, we need to be better. These other sports are able to maintain an organized and completely unified manner, and the truth is that so can we.
I apologize for rambling, but as we all know, fatigue sets in by the time the season comes to an end. There seems to be a relentless dysfunction that occurs in our sport, and I refuse to let it make a liar out of me.
As the track and field season comes to an end and recruiting really starts to pick up, I offer the next part of this article in an effort to present to you some truth, reality, and even possibly inform some of you of the depths of the sport.
As you read this next part, I would like you to visualize which track meet you would be watching, where it would be located, and what caliber of athlete you would be observing.
The winner of the hundred meter 10.20 Second place 10.22 third place 10.37.
The winner of the 4 x 100m 40.92. The 200m in 20.89.
7 individuals running 46 seconds.
The winner of the women’s hundred meter and 11.48 seconds the winner of the women’s 200m in 23.44, seconds second place 23.75 seconds, third place 23.80 seconds.
Women’s 800m in 2:05.24. Men’s 800m 1:51.94
Men’s Long Jump 7.97m
Women’s 400 hurdles in 58.9
Men’s 400 hurdles in 51.3
Women’s triple jump 12.52m, men’s triple jump with seven athletes over 15m.
Includes coaches who have coached 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 National Championship teams and an abundance of both individual National champions as well as all-Americans.
These are just some of the stats. This does not include all of the details, but certainly there is truth in the numbers. I once heard, “The numbers tell the truth, but they don’t tell the whole story.”
Looking at only the numbers, I feel comfortable that in most cases, most Division I and II schools would be hard pressed not to welcome any of those performers onto their teams.
The above performances are just a snip-it of what took place at the Division III National Championship, which was held at the Spire Institute in Geneva, OH.
The story goes like this:
The above performances are from individuals who were competing at the Division III level. I am not suggesting that any of these performances will create an Olympic future, professional career, a score at the NCAA Division I championships, or be awarded a full athletic scholarship.
For most of these individuals, these performances came as the result of the hard work they put in throughout their college career. In most cases, these athletes didn’t have marks in high school that would’ve allowed them to be recruited by Division I or even Division II schools. In some cases, these athletes may have even sought after Division III institutions.
As the story continues, I unfortunately see that there is a stigma that Division III athletics is taken less seriously. The consensus seems to be that these athletes don’t train as hard, the coaching isn’t as good, and the competition isn’t that steep.
However as the story ends, I recognize that these athletes absolutely take the sport seriously. They train extremely hard, and in most cases, at places where weather is not even suitable for our sport, and in facilities that are substandard even when compared to some high school facilities.
I’m not declaring that Division III coaches or athletes should participate in Division I athletics, but I am certainly saying that there are some truly amazing Division III coaches and athletes who fly under the radar simply because they don’t coach at household name institutions.
The competition in Division III athletics is… competitive! The marks tell the truth but they don’t tell the whole story.
I strongly encourage all track and field enthusiasts to not only look at the numbers, but to also look at the story. It’s time to recognize that among the track and field championship weekends of Division I, II, and III, there are indeed amazing performances occurring all over the country because of the continuous hard work, discipline, and commitment by both coaches and athletes alike.
Remember – “The numbers tell the truth, but they don’t tell the whole story.”