High School Sports are Dying?

Posted by Latif Thomas

An interesting point was brought up in the discussion section of my last article on 400m training. A suggestion was made that if you (as a parent) don’t have faith in your high school’s coaches, pull the athlete from the high school team and have them compete for better coaches in a more appropriate environment.

That made me start thinking about an idea that seems to be gaining traction. High School sports are dying. And here’s why…

Most high school athletic departments are amazingly antiquated and Socialist institutions. Their inability to see outside the confines of their own insulated world has them grasping tenuously to a losing belief system on how to both develop young athletes, as well as adapt to the many opportunities athletes have in addition to being on the high school team. These athletic departments don’t realize that their own inability and/or refusal to adapt stands as the source of their own destruction.

The youth sports landscape has changed and as evolution has taught us, we must adapt or we will die.

There is a growing trend here in America that has more and more athletes abandoning, or, at least, downplaying the importance of their high school sports team to compete for AAU and Club teams and get quality, individualized coaching from superior coaches outside the confines of their public school coaches.

Additionally, young athletes with great athletic potential are bypassing their hometown schools in favor of private schools with superior traditions for developing athletic success.

And lack of coaching education is to blame.

Let me give you an example:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked in a program where some kids’ wildly positive and successful experience on the track team caused them to give up other sports in order to train for track and field. Due to ignorance in the true sense of the term (to be uninformed or unaware) other coaches lobbed accusations of ‘recruiting’ and ‘stealing’ athletes.

No such thing ever occurred. The results did all the recruiting.

I was told (and this is a direct quote):  “Kids quitting the soccer team might be good for the track team, but it’s bad for the soccer team.”

What a fatally flawed and inherently Socialist line of logic. The ‘forced parity’ argument does not work in The Real World. At least not for long. Such a rule of governing stifles innovation and hard work. It is, in essence, a bailout for the mediocre.

Let me put this in business terms:

If the Soccer Coach does not provide a product/service (competitive program and individual improvement) that the consumer (athlete) wants to buy, it is the right of the consumer to purchase what they perceive to be a superior product/service, i.e the Track Coach. The Track Coach has the right to improve his/her team as long as no laws are being broken (as there must be regulations in the market). It is not the fault of the Track Coach that the Soccer Coach chooses not to invest in the resources (Coaching Education) that will allow it to continue to earn a competitive share of the market (athletes).

Following the basic principles of Free Market Capitalism (that we hold as fundamentally American as apple pie) the Soccer Coach has one of two choices:

1. Adapt to the situation by providing a better product/service (become a better coach thus providing a better experience through better individual and team results) and regain market share.

2. Die (complain about how unfair it all is because they don’t want to work as hard as the Track Coach or the Football Coach, etc.) and then go out of business.

Most athletic departments will simply bail out the soccer team by inventing regulations to limit the success of the Track Coach even though the Soccer Coach has access to the same opportunities.

Therefore, this hurts both the Soccer Coach and the Track Coach. Now you have a mediocre Soccer Team and a mediocre Track Team where if you simply allowed the Free Market to balance itself (again, not an unregulated Free Market, but it still must be Free) the Soccer Coach would be forced to invest (educate him/herself) in order to provide a better product/service.

In that instance, investments (education) by the Soccer Coach would yield better results forcing the Track Coach to invest (educate) more and competition would lead BOTH programs to greater profits (results in competition and fun for the kids).

This is what is called a ‘win-win’ situation.

But, of course, this isn’t what is happening. The Soccer Coach cries poverty or badmouths the Track Coach out of a stubborn, but psychologically predictable, refusal to acknowledge their own coaching incompetence. In response, the Athletic Department bails out the Soccer Coach.

What happens next is the point of this article.

The Track Coach (and you can substitute Track for Soccer, Football, Basketball, Lacrosse, etc.) says,

“Forget this. I’m taking my talents to South Beach.”

Now the best coaches in your public school leave the stifling public school and start/join the Club/AAU Team that actually supports concepts like ‘education’ and ‘winning’ and ‘success’ and ‘working as hard as you expect your athletes to work’.

(If your argument is that winning shouldn’t be a focus for teenagers then you haven’t spent much time with them because they’ll choose winning over a weekly pizza party ten times out of nine. Winning doesn’t mean ‘be the Champion or I’ll punch you in the face’. It means be the best you can be because you work hard as an athlete and I put you in the best position to succeed with safe, effective and contemporary coaching techniques.)

So now, in 2011 and beyond, parents and athletes have a larger range of choices. They can go to the public school that lives, coaches and competes in a bubble, doing the same crap they’ve always done and doing nothing in terms of athletic development other than just play soccer (because most HS sports teams don’t develop biomotor skill as a part of the program, they just play and scheme for soccer/basketball/football for 2 hours and then call it a day) OR they can join that progressive, cutting edge AAU/Club team/coach that competes against better competition, gets them better access to college scouting and develops them into better athletes which, of course, makes the whole experience exponentially more fun.

If you were an athlete, which would you choose? If you were the parent of a talented athlete, which would you choose?

When I was in high school, I was an extremely raw, but reasonably talented sprinter. But I went to a Socialist high school where one of my coaches taught me to, I shit you not, clap my hands together in front of me when coming out of the blocks. I also never did a dynamic warm up, a speed drill, a speed workout, lifted a weight, got a race plan, etc.

Back then (and I’m dating myself here) there was no such thing as the Internet, so I couldn’t go to a site like this to get information or invest in a program like Complete Speed Training 2 in order to train around the outdated training that is the norm at the developmental levels. (As I’ve said countless times, this doesn’t make them bad people. Some of them are wonderful people, just not effective coaches.)

Preventing this from happening is, in fact, the primary reason Patrick Beith and I started CTF in the first place.

To this day my mother still feels guilt that she couldn’t do anything or find anyone to help a talented, hardworking, but directionless kid. But I know this for a fact:

If there was a ‘Latif Thomas’ like coach at the private school one town over (like there is today) she would have sold a kidney (which is probably what it would have taken since we had no money) to get me into that school to work with that coach. And if I was my parent, I would have yanked me from that public school and done the same thing.

And that is exactly what is happening today. When coaching in that galaxy far, far away I heard a “coach” say:

“I only go to clinics and conferences that the booster club pays for.”

Direct quote. And he said it with pride. And that, my friends, is the epitome of the problem.

I regularly hear public school coaches cry about ‘recruiting’ and ‘stealing athletes’ and ‘AAU is the devil’, even though badmouthing another school or coach to prevent a kid from going there is the order of the day and just as morally reprehensible as actively recruiting a kid to private school or club team, but I digress…

My friends, this is 2011. Your athletes (and their parents) are reading articles like this, going to sites like this and investing in their education while some of you stand there and cry about it.

They know that you don’t know what you’re doing. And that’s why your athletes are quitting the school team for the Club team. That’s why your athletes are leaving practice to go right to their personal coach to get real coaching. That’s why parents of 13-18 year olds are the second biggest group of purchasers of resources on this site (behind high school coaches). And that’s why I get dozens of emails from young athletes and parents each week asking me how they can train around their high school coach.

I know I’m mostly preaching to the choir here. But I’ve worked at three different high schools and they’ve all been the same.

If public high schools, coaches and athletic departments want to keep their head in the sand and wax poetic about the good old days, that’s their choice.  But, right or wrong, the youth sports landscape is becoming more specialized, personalized and professionalized every day.

Athletes have a right to good coaching. Parents have a right to safe, quality coaching for their kids. Coaches have a right to conduct their business in an environment that is friendly to their commitment to using sports as a means of developing self esteem and teaching life lessons to young athletes, as well as winning some Championships.

But I know one thing for sure, coaching education is the key to adaptation.

You can adapt or you. will. die.

To your success,

Latif Thomas

P.S. I know a lot of good coaches at the public schools are losing talent to outside influences. And that sucks because we actually know what we’re doing. Trust me, even though I’m at a private school, I still lose good kids to other sports. I also know this is a controversial stance on a controversial subject. And I purposely took a controversial tone in order to stimulate conversation on both sides of the aisle.

So leave your comments below and let’s talk about it!

ADDENDUM (September 16, 2011 9:13AM)

As you can see below, this article has stimulated lots of discussion from opposing points of view.

My main problem with where a lot of this discussion is going is this:

Peoples’ personal bias won’t allow them to see the alternative viewpoint. Public school coaches dismiss any validity of the argument made *for* ‘Club’ sports or why parents/athletes choose the ‘Club’ sport alternative.

‘Club’ sports coaches often (I said ‘often’, not always) ignore the value and community aspects of the public school season by coercing kids into year round ‘Club’ involvement out of selfishness and greed instead of doing what is in the best interest of the kid.

Here’s the truth:

Public school coaches are right. And wrong.

‘Club’ coaches are right. And wrong.

The inability to see past our own personal viewpoint (and in some instances hypocrisy) is the first and largest stumbling block to having an open minded discussion or facilitating any kind of long term change.

Try to see both sides of the argument and then express your opinion. But I can tell in the first two sentences of a post (or diatribe) who the ‘public school’ coaches are and who the ‘club’ school coaches are.

Your personal opinion is no more right than mine. And my personal opinion is no more right than yours. If you can’t see or accept that then you are part of the problem.


P.S. If you liked this post…


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Latif Thomas owns and operates Complete Track and Field and serves as the Co-Director of the Complete Track and Field Clinic, the largest track and field clinic in the United States. A popular speaker and presenter at some of the largest coaching clinics in the country. Over the past 15 years, he has coached more combined League, Division, All State and New England Champions in the sprints, hurdles, and jumps than he had the emotional strength to go back and try to count. Follow @latif_thomas on Twitter

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  • kim kimlay

    nice article great post comment information thanks for sharing

  • koi seo

    I am sure that I am biased to a point, but my experience has been that the majority of HS coaches are good, educated coaches who are in athletics for the right reasons. When I see club/AAU coaches treating their programs as their sole means of income, I feel sometimes the line gets foggy.


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  • Kim Libera

    In my state a lot of the better athletes come out of middle school club programs. Why does it work? The clubs get to work out all year but not necessarily 7 days a week. They don’t get into this restricted time limited thing. The atmosphere is removed from the school scene so that means you lose the distraction of other school or cultural activities. Clubs mentor well-none of this social track show up & play Frisbee stuff-no fooling around. They build nice manners & a sense of responsibility. Problem with school scene is it’s hard to enforce commitment-parents don’t get that. They think practice is once a week & then they chaperone their kid to the next activity in the list. When you don’t have a consistent enough practice schedule that leads to a lot of discomfort from lack of fitness. No kid wants to stay with that. They perceive track as being too much work. Face it track is work but I think the rewards are great. You don’t get to sit a bench. My state has strict geographic areas where track succeeds & where track is a disaster. It also depends on the direction of the school. We probably all share stories that those in charge want the football & basketball teams to be their prizewinners-they narrow the focus, not us. Why would you promote football given the sheer number of head injuries showing up & their long term impact. Does anyone care about building up the next Olympians? I do. If we specialize too much in football, one day we ain’t going to be in the top 10. I think another thing to further our cause is I would like to see more colleges give more scholarships rather than placing kids into a very narrow box of elites. The idea that a kid is a sure Olympian at age 17 is nuts. The benchmark is too high. Do not any of these college coaches think back to when they were kids?

  • Kim Libera

    You nail several points. Geographically speaking, some school missions are simply about participation & building a roster. In others with tradition there is more commitment to keep the program strong. What I find as the big change since I coached in the 80s is that coach selection is basically a political choice. It is not based on one’s coaching education. I get my info from national clinics, not stupid state required modules which are only designed as revenue enhancers for the state. Then there is the issue of they don’t want someone so competent because they believe they are going to take over one’s program.

  • Kevin R

    Here’s what I think. In my area club and AAU aren’t very big,
    So chances are you’re stuck with your high school. There is no problem joining a club, though I think it is better to run for schools as they will meet better competition at the regional and state levels, but it is not okay to be on the school team, then after practice drive on over to your club coach. You made a commitment to your school, and going behind their back isn’t right. Now That doesn’t include asking a friend or coach your friendly with about advice, or doing your own workouts after practice, but I think that if you want to pay a coach to train you then you shouldn’t disrespect your school coach by pretending to be involved. There is nothing wrong with club, and even great benefits for the right person, but you can’t be half in and half out. Pick a side and stick with it for the season.

  • A Club Sprint Coach

    Good article Latif; the pieces I would add are the dreams
    of athletes to be D1 competitors on scholarship and thus the fiscal component of HS to collegiate sports. Scholarships.

    There are 2.3+ Billion USD in D1 T&F scholarship money being contested for in the US each year. Source here:

    you, mentioned that HS coaches are wrong and right and Club coaches are wrong and right. Let me change focus away from coaching competency to structure. Note: I agree 100% with the educational piece that is spot on. The coach that offers the best services/coaching competency to help the athlete reach THEIR goals (and is qualified to help them reach their DNA potential) is the right coach for the athlete.
    BUT even if the HS coach is better technically – HE CANT DO
    HIS JOB. How can a HS coach do that in only 12 weeks with no coaching
    contact the remaining 40 weeks? This is a fence HS coaches built NOT Club coaches. Can a top sprint coach (Shavers, Veney, Seagrave, etc.) coach a 12.30 HS girl to 11.70 in 12 weeks?

    The HS coaches are the ones in many states who’ve created
    rules that limit athletes from moving from a school to another school to work with a better coach (often the penalty being the athlete sits for a season).
    If a student wants to move because of a better math department, a better arts program, a better band program, they can move without penalty. They don’t sit from band for a year (where yes there are scholarships and money being contended for). BUT ONLY in HS athletics are there multiple barriers (rules created by the HS coaches themselves and their AD’s) stifling athletes from getting what they need. Who created these rules? HS coaches. Not club coaches.

    As a club coach I’m free to simply make my athletes faster year round.

    Common scenario every year
    Each year our Club HS group (12-15 athletes) has sub 12 girls and sub 11 boys. All of these kids come into the program looking to reach their
    own goals of being collegiate athletes. ALL of them have come into the program over the last decade running 12+ and 11+. Through hard work and a solid yearly training plan our staff has moved many of them to see their goals a reality. Each year some of the athletes – try HS track. AND EVERY TIME with the exception of 4 athletes only over the last decade the HS coaches want the athletes to do it their way. Could you imagine the HS math teacher saying you need to work with your math tutor from Sept to Mar 1st and then I will teach you math from March 1st to June 1st
    BUT I’m not interested in what your math tutor taught you at all – because it’s not about your development and growth and needs it’s ALL about what I want to teach. Also I’m going to teach the same thing to all students in the school – so you may be needing calculus but I don’t
    care about your developmental needs I’m going to teach division to everyone – because that’s what I want to do. And if you work with your tutor to help you get what you need in the way of advancing forward to reach your goals and help your family financially – me and my fellow HS math teachers have created a set of rules preventing you from moving to another school’s math department for at least a year and my own classroom rules prevent you from working with your tutor during that 12 weeks. Now I don’t care if that impacts your progressive development in a negative way because I’m not here for that – my actions and rules obviously prove that to be true. LMAO!!! BASED ON THE CURRENT HS RULES this is EXACTLY what happens 99.99% of the time.

    Question to HS coaches: If an athlete is training from Sept 1st to Feb 28th in preparation for the coming outdoor season how do you know what to do with them unless you are speaking and working IN DEPTH with the
    club coach whose been training them for the last 6 months?

    Question2 to HS coaches: If there are 2.3 billion USD on the line; how can you help the kids get some of this money if you only coach
    them 12 weeks and can’t coach them the reaming 40 weeks?

    Question3 to HS coaches: Just like the counseling department in a HS would try and help a gifted math student with a 3.8+ to get grant money from various schools to reduce the financial burden on a family and
    student – why are your HS athletic departments creating rules and behaving contradictory to helping the gifted athlete to get scholarship money and reduce that family’s financial burden?

    Can you imagine the counselor in a HS saying to the 3.8 math student – I can only help you develop your gift 12 weeks out of the year, I cannot have contact with you the remaining 40 and if you choose to transfer to
    another school with a better math department we will not allow you to do math for 1 year. But this is EXACTLY what HS coaches and their AD’s have created. Note: Latif was generous saying it’s not the 90’s. Guys it’s not the 1950s!!! Do you know how stupid this sounds? Because it is!!!!!

    ANY RULE. That stifles a student’s ability to reach their potential is garbage. I have never read an AAU rule, USATF rule, IAAF rule that
    prevents an athlete from reaching their potential. I have read multiple HS
    rules that serve coaches, schools, leagues and districts and that hinder the athlete’s development – just read the transfer rules. A coach’s job is to EMPOWER kids and young adults. Don’t set up rules that prevent kids and young adults from to reaching their potential to help YOU “keep athletes from transferring” so YOU can win and reach YOUR goals. Drop all transfer rules immediately across the nation. Drop all rules saying HS coaches can’t coach out of season – note: dropping this rule would allow an INTEGRATED training program.
    Question: Is a yearlong INTEGRATED math plan best for the math students in HS or is it better to have no integration at all and teachers that are hostile to parents and students who use tutors and resources to reach their students potential or advance to higher levels in math?

    This is not a critique about HS sports. It’s a slam on the RULES that prevent athletically gifted individuals from getting what they need to reach their highest potential. IT IS a slam on anyone who has voted for and supported those rules.
    Now what happens in my discussions with HS coaches after I make the above case – is: I’m not going to address anything you just said. Because the HS system is actually indefensible – so I’ll get emotional; here we go. “The athlete should have a HS experience” – if I have trained a HS girl for 6 months and I know based on her fly 30 (in my Brower timing system) that she can run 11.75-11.62. Why on God’s green earth would I recommend that she compete in HS track with a coach that does not communicate with me so we can work together for an integrated year long plan – note: Each year CI call and email HS coaches and have done so for years saying I look forward to working with them on a particular athlete’s development – of all those emails and calls only 3 HS coaches have ever responded. Thus the HS coach does not have any idea of where she’s at what she’s needing in her training cycle etc. So now
    I’m facing a situation as a club coach; she has come out of her indoor season with a 7.5 low 60M and knowing if she runs her projected 100M time and 200M equivalent she’s going to get 100% from multiple top D1 programs. Or for the next 12 weeks prior to NB Outdoor Nationals. Great Southwest Invitational, AAU Jo’s, USATF JO’s where she runs for the money against the country’s best. If I advise her to run for a HS coach that is unwilling to communicate with me, and has voted on rules that are hostile to her development to reach her season potential based on her Max Velocity times. Note: the lack of communication that shows they don’t care about the athlete. What math teacher in HS would not
    check a transfer students transcripts to see what the best class placement
    would be for the incoming student and if unsure asks the student to test so the appropriate curriculum can be given – because redundancy would be a waste of a semester or possibly year. Often parents are consulted in placement as well. This 12 weeks constitute 28+% of her entire training window. Now if the HS coach is off by 2.5% 11.70 becomes 11.99. ZERO MONEY from any top programs. So now if she chooses HS and runs that 11.99 – she’s had an “experience” that slowed her down and will cost her and parents 100,000’s of dollars over the next 20 years. Or take a D2. Without communication the 11.70 is doomed. So I don’t recommend giving up a 250K free education for “an experience” unless of course a trust fund is available for educational costs.

    The HS coaches have set up a labyrinth of rules that serve not the athlete but themselves. BURN THEM DOWN!!! IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.

    Whether HS T&F and sports for that matter grow or die will not be determined by club coaches. We will do what we do – coach within
    AAU, USATF & IAAF rules. It will be determined by you the HS coach’s
    ability to grow your RULES and EDUCATION LEVEL into the 21st century. Throw your beepers away and buy a modern mobile phone –
    Adapt. EMPOWER Athletes and families to reach their dreams AND ALLOW THEM TO DO WHAT THEY SEE IS BEST – or as Latif said – Die.

    Free Money: A discrimination lawsuit is waiting to happen against
    multiple school districts across the country. Schools and districts cannot
    create and enforce rules to target one group of individuals while not enforcing those rules for all the other groups. Penalty for transfer is only an athletic rule and not enforceable to any other student group; Arts, Band, Academic. So athletes are being discriminated against based on their particular talent and/or participatory choice. It’s a violation of civil rights. But then again Socialism and Communism always trampled civil rights for the good of the group (uh I mean team – uh sorry – state).

    A Club Sprint Coach

  • Michael Baugh

    I have coached track and field at the collegiate and high school level for over 30 years. I have seen it all. I am in complete agreement with this article. I presently coach in an urban setting local to Coach Thomas and I see his team on a regular basis. Last year my son got hurt in football and I took a year off from my coaching job in the city and wiggled my way into an assistant job at my son’s school. I did this because I wanted to make sure than when my son was cleared to train, someone who knows what he was doing could get him back to near where he was the year before. I became the sprint coach and I was floored by the ignorance that I witnessed and the fight I had to make to get basic principles of sprinting to be a part of the workouts that were decided by the head coach. It was ugly. Luckily, the boys coach let me alone and with that and a lot of research, I helped the boys win a second in our D3 Championships in the Spring. The girls coach fired me because I didn’t give enough distance workouts to his sprinters. He did apologize later when his girls failed badly. My son regained his speed and had a great season. I wanted to say this as well. We lost a very good hurdler because as a basketball player, he saw that he was not getting the training he needed to get to the next level. He quit track to go to a club team. The problem with club teams here in our state is that there are so many of them, that the talent is diluted and only one or two players on any team are of any quality at all.

  • Nic Bolken

    I will say that these problems Latif has sighted with coaches are concerning issues. Coaches, or programs, that don’t make education a major part if their programs are doomed to stagnation and ultimate failure. I think that making the assumption that this applies only to high school coaches is majorly faulty. Latif is a USAFT certified coach and obviously has put in the time to improve his coaching skills and make himself a valuable tool to his teams.

    I have been coaching for about 13 years and have coached both club and high school volleyball and high school track. I have seen knowledgeable coaches at both the club and high school levels. What I have found is that often times, clubs get the benefit of having a system in place where kids can play with the highest level kids from other schools, raising the level of play for everyone. This is terrific and definitely one of the things that is a bonus about club. For young athletes and parents however, often times this is confused with a higher level of coaching occurring. Parents and kids think that because the team is better, the coach must have been better, ignoring completely that the team was inherently better because it was made up of superior athletes. This is not to say that there is no coaching occurring at the club level. In several cases, highly qualified club coaches have helped many of my athletes improve greatly in the off season.

    As a high school coach, many of my problems come from club coaches, however. Assuming club coaches are more knowledgeable is faulty, and is a mistake many athletes and parents make. As a high school coach I was USA Volleyball Level II certified, which was a certification very few coaches in the area had, most club coaches were people who had played volleyball for fun or in high school and stopped their education there. Most of our girls would think they got more out of club because they would be playing against higher level competition, but their skills and athleticism didn’t progress nearly as much as they should have. In track, I have only had 1 year, where an athlete came back faster, or as fast, as when they left. That didn’t stop the coaches from claiming to every other athlete that they were the reason for our team’s success in the high school season and attracting more kids, and more money, to their club. Again, it depended on the coach. Many club coaches are great, and I try to guide my athletes to them whenever possible. However, big talk often draws young kids regardless of whether or not there is a foundation for it.

    The main misconception that many club coaches push is that the athletes get better and are much more likely to get college scholarship with club. In the past, that may have been true, and even now it is certainly easier for a college coach to come to a large tournament that is not during their season to see a large number of athletes. The odds of a coach walking by and picking an athlete out at random as slim to none. In this day and age, with hudl, atheltic.net, dyestat, and a myriad of other online resources, it is much easier for athletes to market themselves to coaches. Ultimately, if an athlete is good enough and a coach is interested, the coach will come see them regardless of whether it is in club or high school. Does this mean an athlete shouldn’t do club sports? Absolutely not! Playing in a club season, which is routinely longer than a high school season, can double an athlete’s playing experience. If they are only doing one sport, they do lose a small advantage of become a more well-rounded athlete, but that can be compensated for with some training in the gym in many cases.

    My main problem with club coaches occurs with the control they feel they need to exert over their athletes. I’m not sure if it’s the money, or that some of the coaches value the name of their club over the well-being of their athletes, but I have run into some pretty bad experiences. Coaches telling players they need to show up at a practice instead of going to a track meet are commonplace, even though they are taking away the advantage their athletes would get from some individual competition. Last year was my worst experience with a club coach telling our athlete that if they missed a soccer game for the Regional Championships in track, the coach would call their future college coach and have their scholarship taken away. Clearly this coach doesn’t have the best interest of the athlete in mind at all. What is worst, because of the brainwashing that young athletes receive about club being better or more important than high school sports, my athlete had no second thoughts about believing their club coach would do such a thing. Would any college coach actually listen to a club coach who did that? Absolutely not, but the “club is most important” mantra has been instilled so deeply, young athletes and parents don’t know any better.

    Ultimately, all coaches need to be dedicated to improving their knowledge and coaching every year, whether they be club or high school. Both club and high school have advantages and I think that claiming one should prevail over the other, is closing your eyes to half of the argument.

  • Scott Jones

    I loved this article….LOVED IT! I get it Latif, but most people don’t. I’m not the best coach, never will claim to be, but I appreciate you and what you do. I just sent this to all of the coaches in my school and I know I will get blasted by some, but its true in that, those coaches that are part of the team, willing to cross boundaries, work to make all sports better, and are willing to educate/learn/advance knowledge of their sport do attract kids to their programs because they show results. Its why the football coach at my high school hired me, to help build speed and quickness, he saw that my track kids were getting better and my programs worked (I use many of yours and some of my own) and others want that because they see their kids flocking to me. No one is ever 100% right or wrong, and I’m easily able to admit my faults, but no one can debate that my athletes show continued improvement (girls track team top 4 in the state 5 straight years and boys program now battling for annual top 10 ranking). Sometimes its hard to hear the ‘truth’, but like the old quote says, the truth can set you free.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Jim Sanderson

    Great Post! As specialization in all areas of business move to more intense specialization (and education is a business, a big business) we must adapt or be left behind. I strongly agree with you that kids want to be successful in what they do (not just average or mediorce). Much of what I learned as a high school athlete, has been the difference between doing my best in life or just settling for average. Whether it’s in the classroom or in athletic pursuits, everyone benefits by each individual doing their best. Whether sports clubs or public school athletics are the best avenue for an individual to become their best is a decision best left to parents and their children. Things are changing rapidly in our world. Embracing change, applying correct principles and then making appropriate decisions for our individual circumstances and goals will be the anchors of success in any of life’s situations.

    Latif, thanks for your straight-forward opinions. “What gets watered will grow”.

  • David

    Good discussion. My quote to my own kids and the kids I coach is “Give your High School Coach 100% when on his time. Give yourself 100% when on your time.” Meaning when your leave the field house at your school go do what you need to do to get where you want to go. Go get private coaching, join a club team, go to clinics, go to combines. I have a son playing Division I NCAA football and track. I have another son playing NAIA basketball & cross country. Neither had great High School careers. Neither were All State, or All Region, neither were even first team All District. In fact my son play Division I football was not even Honorable All District, his coach did not even nominate him. Both boys wanted to continue to play in college so both went to club teams for more experience. They also went to whatever combines and showcases they could get invited to. I have no real complaints about my boys High School coaches. What I am saying is take care of your own business and do what you have to do on your own time

  • Brian L. Vincent

    I have been a HS track coach now for 8 years, which I know is much fewer than most people on this comment list but I have seen both the good,and ugly of Club teams and HS coaching. I have screwed up some kids early on in my coaching and regret things after I have learned more and wish I could go back and redo things. I know I could they have had better results. I have also seen a club coach, who was knowledgeable on technique and skills, but coaching wise did not have a clue and messed up kids emotionally and sometimes physically.
    I try to keep up with training materials and change up my practice methods as I learn more but never having a good mentor or example to follow makes things difficult. Not to mention that the men’s coach “thinks” he is the best coach in the universe when he really does no coaching at all and then blames the kids because they don’t improve.
    I would love to purchase the programs that this website offers, but living off of 1 income in a 4 person home and having a mid-west teachers’ salary makes things tight.
    Thank you for providing this website, which I use a bunch, for getting me up to speed, pun intended,.

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  • Kenny

    These are great conversation points and some interesting perspectives. I have been a coach for 13 years- at the collegiate level for 3 years and the high school level for now 10 years. I was a high school and college track athlete myself, have attended numerous clinics each year, continue to read up on training methods to stay current and communicate with coaches in the hs level, Div. III level, and Div. I level. My wife and I are track and field enthusiasts and have had a chance to go to the Prefontaine Classic, Div. I national meet, and US track and field championships. Whether or not I qualify as an “educated” track coach is probably in the eye of the beholder but I continually try to perfect my craft as a coach to improve the athletes I work with, to help them learn the sport, why we do the things we do so that they understand their training (it’s a part of how you create buy-in), and to help them find some success as a hs athlete. I do have USATF Level I certification and am trying to find a chance to do Level II. I may not reach all of them (we have 85 girls on our hs team) but our hope is that they will have a great experience, learn about the sport, and carry some wonderful memories with them. With that being said (so that we don’t sound like some rose-colored team with no ambition) – we are a top 10 program annually at our state meet; we’ve won our conference and regional meets 4 of the 5 years we’ve been coaching (my wife and I are co-head coaches); and have sent athletes to college to compete at the Div. I and III levels. I am fortunate that my employer allows me to coach in the Spring and for that I feel blessed to have that chance because I love the sport and what I do.
    I have a club coach in town who works with an amazing young lady. Most of his training methods are old school (more of the volume, volume, volume with minimal rest/recovery). The athletes that he has seem to buy into that UNTIL they get to high school – he does not have many high school athletes (for whatever reason) in which his club program can pull athletes from our quad city area. A young lady he coaches is potentially Olympic caliber (and her sights are set on that – she ran 2:10 this Summer going into her sophomore year). Unfortunately this coach has suggested to other parents that we don’t know what we’re doing; has suggested so to our boys coach, and appears to take credit for every athletes he coaches. I check their results ever year and even the athletes I have now at my school – they do not improve over the summer and I’ve noticed more improvement amongst them in their results during the hs season. It is somewhat insulting to generalize the hs coaches don’t know what they’re doing and to assume club coaching is better. And most of the club kids once they’ve gotten to hs have quit his program to focus on our track program and to focus on other sports. I understand not all hs coaches know what they’re doing; some are asked to coach because there’s no one else in the school/community who will do so, as an example. But maybe that’s why the best coaches/programs consistently have the best teams in the state. This runner I’ve mentioned – I even passed along info to a friend at LSU to get her on their radar screen (and if they’ve done some homework maybe she already is). Now, this club coach has asked to be on our staff to impart his wisdom because he knows how to coach 400 runners. This coming from a coach with a swim and military background. We are willing to consult and gather ideas (and there are other issues in which we would not allow him to work around the girls we coach anyhow) because he knows this athlete and has worked with her prior to joining our team and want to respect the work he’s done to promote the sport in the community. It’s a sticky subject and there are many layers to Latif’s argument and others. Keep the conversation going…in the end, it’s about giving the kids the best chance to succeed and to fulfill THEIR goals.

  • Guys, Check your spelling. Unless your spell check has gone rouge, look over your work. It looks silly to say you teach with typos all around. Just sayin’

    • Joe

      Gotta love people bashing others for their spelling/typos while misspelling a word. Unless he really meant to suggest that “your spell check has gone… red?”

      • Geoff Hennessy

        Joe. I’ll eat it. Should be rogue.

  • I coach fastpitch softball both as a club and HS coach. This topic has been on my mind for quite some time. I believe that sports have changed so dramatically from when I played high school sports that a lot (maybe most) of us don’t quite know what is the best solution to this issue. I have my opinions of course. I firmly believe that both club and HS sports are important, and the ideal situation is that the club and HS coaches work together toward a common goal. Yes, they will have different philosophies and styles, but WOW, isn’t that a great thing to teach the athlete? Learn to deal with the coach for whom you are currently playing? Also, it would be great if the two coaches don’t pit the athletes against the other. Then the coaches need to lay out the potential future of each athlete to them and help guide them to a decision that is best for the athlete, NOT WHAT IS BEST FOR THEIR PROGRAM THAT YEAR. One thing that I feel I should mention here is that HS coaches have certain limitations that club coaches do not. They are fairly heavily regulated as to when they can and cannot have official contact with their athletes. So to some degree, they are limited in how much time they have to teach the foundations discussed here. Yes, there are ways to deal with that, but the fact is, those limitations exist.

    • @Gregor:

      I agree that would be the ideal situation. Additionally, take that same approach to the different sports within the same school system.

  • Coach T

    It’s all about parents and athletes and coaches trying to make a name. AAU has nothing to do with great coaching,it’s dollars and cents first, point blank! Parents don’t support high school sports anymore, they govern it. Athletes hate to put in the work to go to the next level, it’s a shame an athlete would prefer to go to a big name AAU camp instead of summer school to catch up on his or her grades,that’s the parents fault. I get so tired of the blame being laid at the feet of the high school coach. I talked to a college recruiter a few days ago and he was very angry at our high school basketball coach because he allowed a basketball player to play on the football team, what place does he have in that child’s life to say he can’t play football. High school sports are suffering because of adults that are hungry after a name and the children are the pawns. I coach at a school with 1200 students we have to share student athletes,it’s a must, but if the football coach keeps all the linemen, we have no heavyweights for the wrestling team, it does not mean the wrestling is bad,it’s more of the football coach being selfish, AAU and it’s greed can at times be a flat out joke.

  • Ben

    Although you make some valid points, I think you are missing one side of the argument. Full-disclosure – I coach in a public school and have had a lot of success (and some failures). My main issue when it comes to club and AAU teams is that I feel they prey on ignorant parents seeking the almighty “college scholarship” for their children. I see a number of average athletes leave a public school programs for AAU under the guise that they will receive a full-ride. I see marginal soccer players give up basketball, track, cross-country,…etc, to pay thousands of dollars to clubs b/c they are convinced that they are DI athletes and parents view these programs as an investment. I am sure that I am biased to a point, but my experience has been that the majority of HS coaches are good, educated coaches who are in athletics for the right reasons. When I see club/AAU coaches treating their programs as their sole means of income, I feel sometimes the line gets foggy.

    • @Ben:

      Absolutely! Two years ago I had to kick a really talented kid off the team (we don’t get a lot of Jamaicans at Catholic schools in New England!) because he and his dad thought he was going to the NFL and needed to focus on that. What’s he doing now? Nothing.

      The only ‘disagreement’ I have to anything you said is that I don’t agree that ‘majority of HS coaches are good, educated coaches who are in athletics for the right reasons.’ Though, if you take out the word ‘educated’, I have no disagreement. But you really bring up a good point about AAU type programs preying on kids who are not scholarship material.

  • Latif, as a club coach for the past ten years I’ve seen this situation come up many times, especially for a club that specializes in field events. I’ve know many good technically sound high school coaches that I’ve worked with over the years. However, they tend to be the exceptions, the majority of high school coaches today do not have as deep a background as I believe they should in order to train young athletes in these specialized events. It has always been easier to train runners (no offense) than field people. The time necessary to be put into the training of a young high school athlete is quite significant and most T&F coaches running a major program do not have that kind of time to do it. The worst part is that often they give this responsibility over to another teacher or some perhaps volunteer that may have no knowledge what so ever or perhaps competed 10+ years ago to coach these kids. My biggest concern is that even the athletes I see coming to the club lack serious basic motor skills. I’m not sure what their PE programs are focusing on but the lack of such basic skills just simply amazes me.

    Again, the lack of knowledge in how to properly setup a program and instruct your athletes correctly becomes an issue. I know we get a large number of athletes each year coming to us from various schools round the state; and I train them all equally an try very hard to stay away from their individual school programs unless asked by the current coach. I personally feel that it comes down to “control” not of the program so much as control of these kids. I know that in our state (NJ), PA and NY State clubs provide a significant amount of coaching in the specialize events (Pole Vaulting/Hammer throwing, etc). We started our program to provide the technical skills required to compete at a high level but, also to provide a quality atmosphere for them to learn and become better citizens. Not everybody is going to win a state championship but, the ability to work hard and achieve the highest personal level each individual can is and should be the overriding goal in my opinion.

    Al Berardi: Heights Unlimited Vault Club

    • @Al Berardi:

      Great points! We throw the word ‘coach’ around these days so loosely that there is no distinction between the English (or whatever) teacher who runs a team for a few grand because they once saw a track meet when they were in HS and the coach who invests in coaching ed clinics/products, etc. multiple times each year and actually knows what they’re doing.

    • High School sports have an inherent double standard. The ball sports (and hockey) are under the tutlege of the best coaches that can be found. There are search committees, interview boards, you name it. When has any of us in the “tracks” sat in front of an interviewing team for a track coaching position? Probably never. That’s problem #1. Second problem. A nurse, teacher, police officer, you name it, must continue their education just to keep their license. Not so in coaching. The fish rots from the head down. Some ADs are not current in their education, so why should a coach. We often get the “warm body” or coach from a ball sport who wants to pad the wallet (damn little padding I might add). So this situation trickles down to the kids. Problem#3. Everyone out there in club-land wants to offer “a better box of chocolates”. They don’t approach the mediocre kid or the late bloomer. They go after the superstar. And the superstars parents. Every parent has dollar signs in their eyes for their ball sport kid to get a scholarship. Some, I’m sure are not remotely educated in the world of Title IX and gender equity to know that track and cross country also offer scholarships and that a kid has a better chance of being a doctor than a professional athlete. My high school coach was Lou Tozzi. He convinced me to never stop learning. I’m at every clinic. I make no secret of it. I bring back stuff to give to other coaches – even the ball sport ones. I go to the state Phys Ed conventions and do the same thing. My hope is that some kids and parents will talk and say “that guy knows what he’s talking about”. I post in my classroom a saying that everyone should remember in this society where everyone claims to be a victim. “We can’t control the wind, we can only adjust our sails”. So do the best you can. And keep talking and learning. I’m out!

  • Kirk Sharrock

    Years ago when We moved to WI from Ohio I went to football coaches meeting on Sat night to see the friday game film. When the film was over I asked the head coach how the players graded out. He said he doesn’t have the time to grade the players as he is 1st a parent 2nd a teacher and last a coach. I wanted to say “then stop coaching right now”. The football team never won any more than 3 games a year and they still only win 2 or 3 games and this is after 25 years and the athletic dept. still doesn’t see any problems with the program.
    A few years ago my nephew was on a ohio state hs football team that won the state title on a Thursday, On Friday they had their awards dinner, and on Saturday as he was a cocapt. for the next year he and the other cocapt.s started the team workouts for the new football season.
    I think there is a problem with coaches who need to coach 1st, Athletes who need to motivate themselves, and Team Capts that need to lead, and parents who need to support their kids. The parents must also make needed improvements in the school athletic dept. by being involved in and demanding a commitment to being the best the can be. This doesn’t mean winning every game or meet but reaching the athletes potential and giving them the opportunity to exceed even their own expectations

  • Hey Clarence,

    I agree with most of you comments. Specializing in high school according to the research that has been done taking place over the last 7 or 8 years because of the explosion in adolescent injuries that until 10 to 15 years ago were the types of injuries that you typically only saw among active adult athletes, torn ACLS, knee blow outs, and blown achilles just to name a few. The body needs to have down time and it also needs to work muscles, tendons and joints in ways that are slightly different and provide additional strength and stablility. The common medical and psychological term is call overuse training syndrome.

    The research is showing that adolsecents who are specalizing in sports and also at a younger age being subjected to stress, strain and overuse of muscles, tendons, joints and energy systems that have not completely developed or are being overworked which is creating situations where athletes are putting themselves at significant risk of injury or burnout because of overuse.

    As you have pointed out track will do a lot to help athletes in other sports this probably has to do with the fact the track and field provides the forms for many of the fundmentals of many other sports. Since track is perhaps one the oldest sports in the world and has so many events it would stand to reason that many of the “modern” sports would take form and function from it and most if not all young athletes would benefit by participating in it to learn proper technique for participating in other sports they enjoy.

  • Ed White

    Thanks for your response, Latif. I think you hit the nail on the head again, i.e., there is a big difference between what’s ideal and what happening in the real world of youth sports.

  • Joe B.

    A big problem with athletic departments that are behind the times and club sports boosters is that they allow students and parents to be trapped by the belief that doing only soccer or only track is acceptable. For all those that say club coaches are better and know more, clearly their proponents are missing the most important element of physical development – diversification of athletic pursuits at a young age will take the athlete farther, in almost all cases, than specialization. The failure to recognize this basic fact is a failure shared equally by club proponents and hs athletic departments alike.

    • Ed White

      A critical question that is often overlooked in any debate over early specialization in sports is: when IS it APPROPRIATE OR even NECESSARY, to specialize in a sport if a student athlete intends to pursue their “primary” sport at the collegiate or higher level? I have my own thoughts on this, but I would be interested to see what other people think, because I have concluded that what may be best from an athletic standpoint may not be what is best from a recruiting standpoint. And I think this poses a problem for many parents who want their kids to become the best athletes they can be but who also don’t want to see them lose out on scholarships or playing opportunities at higher levels. What does everyone else think?

      • @Ed White:

        Almost all studies that show/prove that athletes who engage in multilateral training and who play multiple sports while they’re young as peaking higher are all geared toward national level and professional athletes, i.e. people who didn’t peak and/or stop playing sports until they were well into their 20s.

        My belief is this: Here in the real world in 2011, kids are going to specialize. No point in talking about what isn’t realistic. My belief is that kids should play multiple sports at least until they get through their freshman year of high school and experience what multiple high school sports are all about.

        If you’re talented and want to specialize in one sport, I tell kids to wait until their sophomore, but preferably junior year. If I had a talented kid, I would let them specialize after their freshman year.

        At the same time, playing multiple sports is all well and good from a developmental standpoint if the coaches in those sports are doing an appreciable job of developing biomotor skills. Chances are they aren’t. So I’d rather see a kid specialize with a progressive soccer/track, whatever coach than play 3 sports of running around playing the sport and not doing any athletic development.

        • Kerry Taylor

          I am pulling my younger child from the school district’s program. We moved into the system 2 years ago when my twins were entering high school. My son played football from aged 8 on and my daughter basketball. Both are good players, reliable to do their job well, with moments of brilliance – never liabilities. We were warned by people who knew the area that our kids would be lucky to set foot on the field as this school system was small and they didn’t rely on the skills of the player but rather who your parents were. We ignored this, feeling quality would win out. First situation: My son, started 8 games JV football as the strong tackle. The 9th game in, the child that was “in the system” since age 7 came back after injury. Right in front of my son, the varsity coach came to the JV coach and said “start Joe.” JV coach said, “Steve has being playing the position and is doing well.” Varsity coach said “Start him or lose your job.” My son was the first back up for EVERY line position. He learned to play center in 3 days and they won the game when the center was injured – this was is a D1 school. My daughter started every preseason game in JV basketball. Season begins, they start another player. This kid’s mother is BIG alumni, child’s sister played ball with the JV coaches. So they start this other girl, play her 3 minutes and put my daughter in for the rest of the game. Now my daughter is a GOOD ball player. Random strangers, refs, and coaches come up to us and tell us how much they enjoy watching her play. She is one of the best defenders I have ever seen. Long story over, she got cut. Coach said she “wasn’t ready for varsity play.” They kept 3 girls who played a total of maybe 2 minutes a game. All had been in the system since they were 9. I have a 10 year old who is 5’7″ she plays volleyball and basketball. No way is she going into that situation. I’ll take my chances with the pay leagues. At least I feel if they say there is no talent, it will be true.

          • Dustin

            @Kerry Taylor:
            If you look through history of sports you will find many great athletes that went through the system. Starting very young and worked up. In my area it is the same old deal. If you want you child to play sports at the high school level and start you better have them working very young with a club team.
            I don’t believe it, and won’t allow it for my boys. Like I said there are many great players that went through the system, but they do not impress me like those few that walked on to a D1 college program and worked for the scholarship.
            Too much emphasis is placed on club teams that by the time they get to high school or college their bodies and minds are so over trained. The joy of sport is gone. Kids don’t want to play pick up games at a local park because they already practice countless hours during the week, and play in tournaments all weekend.
            The purity of sports has been taken away. The joy has been replaced with a parents hope that their child becomes the next great thing. All they are really doing is driving them further away from sports.
            Don’t rely on high school strength programs to get your kids in shape. Study and train with them. It will be a great time, and everyone will benefit.
            More importantly focus on academics. Good grades will get them anywhere they want to go. Focus on the positives of working hard, and reassure them that if they work hard they will get to walk on to a college team. But it takes hard work.
            Coaches will be coaches. Even when their team sucks the coach will do what they do. Work or not! That is high school sports! It is the blue ribbon societies last effort to prove that it is who your parents are and not how you play. But that goes away after high school. If they work hard regardless of the coaches choice to play them or not they will get their chance. Many colleges have student tryouts. Look it up, and contact the coaches or athletic directors of the colleges.
            Stay positive about their hard work. Always assure them that their reward will come if they want to go for it. See you set personal goals and achieve them is the best way to get them to understand. Set goals and tell them then do the work to make them happen. That is better than any club coach can teach them.

      • @Ed White: In regards to specializing on a sport in pursuit of a college degree. Depends on the sport, but before delving into the question; let’s establish that great athletes can do whatever they want to do in high school and get recruited by any college.

        Football is a sport that definitely doesn’t require specialization in high school. Having played college football, athletes win out in the end. There is no advantage to be gained in playing tackle football at a young age. Parents can easily wait until 8th or 9th grade before subjecting their kids to the rigors of tackle football, and have their kids get a taste of the game by putting them in flag football programs. Track complements football & many football players would benefit greatly from participating in their high school track programs. At smaller high schools, college football prospects can also participate in winter sports like basketball, wrestling and indoor track.

        Basketball is a sport that requires specialization in high school for the college prospect because of the club season and the skill level that is necessary to play at higher levels. However, a top rated BB prospect at my daughter’s school played volleyball in the spring. Volleyball coach was smart, recruited better athletes and taught them how to play. Flexible in working with athletes to enable them to pursue their primary dreams. Also think it’s easy for BB players to participate in spring track.

        Soccer is in the same category as basketball. Specialization for most is the path. Club and skill level acquisition are part of the equation. Depending on where you live, conflicts with other sports. In cold weather climates, soccer interferes with football season. In California it conflicts with basketball season. I’ve got a HS coaching friend in Michigan who has players who play both soccer and basketball. The sports actually complement one another quite well in terms of the angles and basic concepts. A good point guard in basketball can easily be an outstanding center-mid in soccer. Curious if Latif has many hoopers who come out for track at his school. I think track complements every sport & that BB players could benefit from a coach like Latif, however, the big problem with track and BB is that it interferes with the club program, but a flexible track coach should be willing to accommodate a great athlete whose primary interest is BB.

        Baseball is definitely a specialization sport because of travel team influence & skill acquisition, but I played college football with a few kids who got drafted in baseball. Can easily see a baseball/football combo.

        Girls Volleyball and basketball are very doable. Though, if you’re a high level volleyball player, the club season interferes with basketball. Still doable. My daughter, who is not a college level athlete played basketball at her school and then joined a club volleyball team after her season was finished. See no reason why a high level volleyball player can’t do the same.

        Participating in Track and Field or cross country in high school doesn’t require specialization to obtain a partial college scholarship. If a kid wants to do it and has a coach like Latif, then it’s going to be advantageous; but how many Latif’s are there in the world of high school T & F. Track is the type of sport where athletes win out. If I’m a college coach, I’ve got to be able to project. Raw physical tools are easy to spot. If I’m evaluating a kid who is a multi-sport athlete, who didn’t get the best coaching or training in high school, than I need to factor that into the equation in deciding if I want to recruit the athlete.

        Individual sports such as tennis or golf are specialization sports, but again, track will complement them. If a track coach is flexible & a good salesperson, they should be able to attract quality athletes into their sport. Latif lives it, but I’ve got to believe that if properly educated, parents and athletes would consider T & F as a second sport for their college level athlete.

        What track coaches did to do is have mini-seminars for parents and athletes who have college level talent in any sport of how T & F can help a kid achieve their long range objectives.

      • FRANK B

        Track season has started here and the idiocy has already begun. 2 schools that have never made it out of districts in their entire existence, passed on hiring an individual with a record of success. Another school chose to hire as a replacement a person that has NEVER done the event they are coaching or even has a clue as to what to do. Track has 16-18 events of which 14 require some mastery of good technique in order to be successful. I would not want a person teaching my kid to long jump and they dont even understand the rudimentary aspects of the event,but if it aint football,basketball,baseball or some other team sport,AD’s could care less who is coaching or if they know anything about the sport

      • Martin J Mallen

        Hi latif, i teach and coach at an all girl cathlolic school not a powerhouse at any stretch of the imagination this is my second stint there as a coach although i have tought there for the whole time. i left for a while and coached in the inner city of chicago had great kids and we improved a lot but the apathy from the Administration was unbelivable -at two differrent schools i only met the principal once the first while picking up mail from the AD’s box and was asked who are you, it was my third year there and the second because the other Principal came to the StateSectional we were hosting to sing the natinal anthem.

        Years ago I read a comment from Clyde Hart that stated he tried to learn and incorporate 20% new things every year I took that information and try to do the same. Its great to go to the Level 1 conference, especially now that its an on line test, but with the internet you can get so many articles ideas videos to help you improve. Geez to the lazy coaches many of the clinics I attend i use for my continuing education CPDU’s. This season one of my former athletes is starting as a new coach and I asked her to learn about the jumps and hurdles, she asked how? i gave her videos, albiet vhs, some newer dvd’s i bought over the summer my link to Tony Verney’s hurdle site….

        As to clubs some are great but some have the same coaches that the athlete has in their season or their frends and are more about those coaches augmenting their own income. many have no backround in biomachanics, exercise physiology… they just know certain aspects of their sport so they are an expert. If an athlete would attend a College camp over the summer they would gleen more and better info in a one or two week period. Also the clubs cause student athletes to only concentrate one sport and then burn out and never participate in athletics ever again.

        Respectfully ….track love track pride- create the atmosphere that students want to be in and they will come. Include everyone, from the stars to the ungamely frosh who knows they may become a stud or your assistant.

  • BF

    Posted at 05:00 AM ET, 09/18/2011
    How sports can help high schools
    By Jay Mathews

    Education writers rarely examine high school sports, but something is happening there that might help pull our schools out of the doldrums.

    In the last school year, a new national survey found, 7,667,955 boys and girls took part in high school sports. This is 55.5 percent of all students, according to the report from the National Federation of State High School Associations, and the 22nd straight year that participation had increased.

    Despite two major recessions and numerous threats to cut athletic budgets to save academics, high schools have found ways not only to keep sports alive but increase the number of students playing. We have data indicating sports and other extracurricular activities do better than academic classes in teaching leadership, teamwork, time management and other skills crucial for success in the workplace.

    Coaches may be the only faculty members still allowed by our culture and educational practice to get tough with students not making the proper effort. They have the advantage of teaching what are essentially elective non-credit courses. They can insist on standards of behavior that classroom teachers often cannot enforce because the stakes of dismissing or letting students drop their courses are too high.

    I thought about this as I watched for the first time in many years my high school’s football team, the Knights of Hillsdale High, in San Mateo, Calif. It was an exciting, high-scoring game, even though we lost 49-35 to a team of behemoths from Mountain View. I understood why that sport is still number one for boys. Last year it had 1,108,441 participants, almost twice as many as number two track and field, which draws 579,000 students.

    The other top ten boys’ sports, in descending order, were: basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, cross country, tennis, golf and swimming/diving. (I was a nerdish poor athlete, but participation helped me. I got a letter jacket I wore everywhere I went.)

    The influence of sports on girls is growing even faster. Their participation is up 63 percent in the last 20 years compared to 31 percent for boys. Their top sport is track and field, with 475,265 participants, followed by basketball, volleyball, fast pitch softball, soccer, cross country, tennis, swimming/diving, competitive spirit squads and lacrosse in that order. (The survey missed some smaller schools which account for about 4 percent of the U.S. high school population, according to federation official Elliot Hopkins.)

    We Californians can grumble about pigskin worship making Texas number one, beating us in participation 786,626 to 774,767 even though the Golden State’s population is 42 percent larger. (Virginia ranks 15th with 175,435 participants. Maryland is 22nd with 114,223.) But the fact is that all states would benefit from more after school activity.

    The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has published a list of what it calls life and career skills, including flexibility and adaptability, productivity and accountability, leadership and responsibility. Many teens find the most congenial way to acquire such competencies is after-school activities.

    A 2008 paper by Christy Lleras in the journal Social Science Research said students who participated in sports and other activities in high school earned more 10 years later, even when compared to those with similar test scores. A 2005 paper by Peter Kuhn and Catherine Weinberger in the Journal of Labor Economics found similar results for men who occupied leadership positions in high school. They cited evidence that leadership is not just a natural talent, but can be learned by participating in extracurricular activities.

    Students do better in activities they choose. If we provide more of them, led by committed adults, maybe even part-timers or volunteers, that can make a difference.

    We know the bad news about American education. SAT scores are down. Drop-out rates are high. But sports participation is going up, despite pressure to cut it back. Let’s cheer about that, and look for a way to draw more students in. With more depth on defense, for instance, Hillsdale might win next time.

    By Jay Mathews | 05:00 AM ET, 09/18/2011

  • cyp

    @J Allan Peoples I wonder what our school AD and Principal would say if we as parents, asked for USATF certification for coaches (as a way to assure our kids were properly trained…avoid injury, etc) and if parents offered to cover expenses or fundraise so that coaches could get certified. They already haven’t listened when we complained (through a series of 18 meetings) about the poor coaching and requested that good, volunteer, willing coaches assist.

  • sonya

    Last time I checked it was still a free country. Stronger programs/better services will eventually always win out. The very idea that weaker coaches even use such a negative word as “poaching” in order to describe someone’s right to choose what they want out of their athletic life is a sad reflection of said coaches ineptitude. God forbid anyone should want the best for themselves or their child.

  • Why can’t we all work together and make the coaching profession better as a whole?

    I am a professional coach in both the public and private sector. I own a company which trains athletes privately and I coach football at a public high school.

    So I see things from both sides of this discussion…

    But it seems to me (granted I didn’t read all the posts), all we are doing is complaining back in forth about the problem. I think the problem is clearly spelled out at this point, but what about a solution?

    For example at our high school, I held a free series of clinics to educate all the coaches at the school on body mechanics, coordination, and force application to help the part-time coaches better understand and apply these concepts to their sport.

    If all of our end goals are the same as coaches (give the kids the best opportunity to succeed on and off the field), we should share our knowledge and not bicker back and forth about who knows more.

    (This probably already exists, but…) My suggestion is creating an online forum where coaches pool and share their knowledge. Videos, articles, diagrams etc. A Wikipedia/Youtube of coaching concepts.

    Latif, you have the following and the website to get this started, is it a possibility to open up this type of forum on your website? Creating more coach to coach interaction and increasing the collective pool of knowledge

    Just a thought, I know it has to make sense business wise for you, but seems like we’ve identified a problem and usually there is some kind of profit if you put together a good effective solution

    Would definitely be interested in chatting further…

    C.J. Easter
    President | PSTI

    • Micheal

      Unfortunately Latif, you are right on! If it’s not football, it’s probably already dead. Keep it coming.

  • Miguel Smith


    From: http://www.nfhs.org/content.aspx?id=5752

    Participation in high school sports increased for the 22nd consecutive school year in 2010-11, according to the annual High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) … Cross country and outdoor track and field gained the most participants in boys sports last year … Among girls sports, the emerging sport of lacrosse led the way … Outdoor track and field was close behind lacrosse …


    From: http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/public/ncaa/issues/recruiting/probability+of+going+pro

    Estimated Probability of Competing in Athletics Beyond the High School Interscholastic Level:
    Percent High School to NCAA : Men’s bball 3.1% ; Women’s Bball 3.5% ; Football 6.0% ; Baseball 6.4% ; men’s ice hockey ; 10.8% ; men’s soccer 5.6%

    Just go to class and do your homework. Play sports for fun.

  • Coach J

    I feel one of the biggest problems with our sport of track and field dying is not the coaching ability of the track and field coaches, but an underlining belief in the sports world that anyone and every can coach running/speed. Many high school football teams do not allow their athletes to go out for track and field because they say things like you’ll get hurt running in all those meets. Your pull a hamstring and may not recover in time for the football season. Or, they’ll claim we’re doing speed training which is for football, and thats different type of speed than track and field stuff. Ours is geared for football success. Same with basketball, soccer and the like. Everyones a speed developer these days, and that just ain’t true.

    • SKR

      @Coach J: True. Track has always taught speed development. I have yet to see any other sport teach speed. At the professional level those who teach speed development are former track coaches, hummmm I wonder why!
      The fastest man in the world is a track athlete.
      There may be some truth to getting hurt from running all those meets. This is an example of where club and high school coaches can also be ignorant of the realities of coaching.
      Pulling a hamstring in any sport is about not warming up properly or doing to much or the wrong type of motion.
      One of the oldest sports in the world is bound to be the whipping boy for the much younger sports. Those sports forget they take much of their forms from the sport of track and field.
      You comments go back to the fact that we as track and field coaches have to be the best educated on proper training and coaching techqniues so that our counterparts in other sports can see we know what we are doing and we can help your athletes perform at a high level by learning what we can teach them. We also have to help other sport coaches see how are help can actual help them to be better coaches.

  • Renee Henderson

    I was fortunate in that my high school coach and club coach COOPERATED with each other. I ran Indoor with my club (my high school did not compete in Indoor track) and ran Outdoor season with both my club and my high school. This was mostly due to my high school coach being a teacher who volunteered so the school could have a track team. My high school coach was ignorant about track, realized it, had no ego and was willing to learn. My club coach had no problem with my high school coach getting credit for State champions in the 4 x 100m and 4 x 400m relays, even though he was the one who worked with the relay teams and perfected our hand offs. Both coaches worked towards helping the athletes. I had no idea back then what a unique situation that was. Now some thirty years later I have had to pull my daughter from her high school track team after her first year of running. She literally suffered from a coach who is ignorant about track but doesn’t realize it. Unfortunatley I held my tongue when she came home from practice with reports of the moronic workouts they were doing. Her season ended early with a stress fracture (she was not the only one). Once she is cleared by her doctor she will train with me. I am not a coach but a masters athlete who has used sites like this one to become more knowledgable about the sport and gained several World titles and American Records in the process. I would rather my daughter have the experience of running on a team instead of unattached, but I am not willing to see her injured again. At the end of the day, the decision of whether the athlete runs with a club, or school, should be made on a case by case basis. But the parents should be informed enough to make that decision. In my daughter’s case, I should have known better.

    • Mike Bober

      After reading this and having coach at the middle school , high school and club level since 1979 I felt offended by the idea that most in school coaches have little or no knowledge of the sport and only club coaches are the educated ones. I have coached my athletes and other schools coaches for FREE. I do it to help the kids and in most cases it was because the team coach said to seek me out. Now I am far from the expert club coaches claim to be, but I have read , gone to some clinic when I could. I am also a certified HJ official in Oregon and have worked meets for the U/O and our state association state meets. BUT I have never High jumped in my life and before 1979 had never coached the high jump. I have found that 1. a number of private clubs coaches will take any one who can pay and do promise they will get better and it is the only way to be seen by colleges 2. a number of club coaches are nothing more than ex – athletes with little or no training on not only how to handle 13-18 year old but what is safe or worse yet parent want a be coaches and are doing it to give their child a team to play on or because they were a track athlete they know what works. I started a club to get kids more meets at a younger age and a for the most part ran it by myself – every event but the Pole Vault. I tried to help kids out by reading, asking questions , yes even the internet or trying to get coaches to come in areas I did not feel competent and asked their advice and to show us – athletes and coaches how. I did this for 8 to 18 year olds and all for free not only my school district but from the whole country and even schools within our own conference. Unlike most private coaches , I paid my own way to meets , did not charge to belong to the club , helped those that needed it ,by paying entry fees , travel fees and bought kids uniforms and other equipment so they could compete. Some times this was out of my own pocket sometimes I went to friends who owned companies and ask for donations.

      This club idea with coaches / family is done in track , baseball (all dads have play baseball) ; softball (mom’s or dad’s both here) , soccer ; volleyball ; and even football at the lower levels. In our area we even have club teams sponsored by local area merchants so their kids make a team. So the all mighty club is not always the answer but to say that is the best place and that parents should take their kids away from High School teams is not right. There are the families who sent their children to private coaches in tennis , basketball , baseball and gymnastics where the kids do not even live at home and this puts parents sometimes so much in debt the kids have to get a college scholarship and still they do not come out ahead. Are all coaches at the high school level ones that should be coaching – NO, are some just there for that little bit of extra pay yes. Being retired from teaching most of my great salary goes back into the track program by buying books , DVD’s equipment (less expensive type – stopwatches , shoes , spikes for shoes) for the kids to use,

      One final note if you actually get this far – both our throw coaches at our high school are former athletes of ours , both were State Champions in the Javelin one was a State champion in the the discus and shot as well (won all 3 her senior yr.) – she was also the JO National Champion , Junior National Champion and went to the World Championships in Korea her senior year and threw at Oregon as well. The other one competed 4 years throwing at a Division II school. Both have been with us 10 or more years. Our vault coach – vaulted in high school and just retired after 25 years coaching the vault as well as LJ and TJ at the high school level. One of our hurdle coaches who volunteers was a state placer in the hurdles in high school at another school in Eugene. Our main hurdle coach is one who has worked his way up from middle school and now has been with us at the HS for 20 years and was selected Assist. Coach of the year for Oregon in 2010. Our Sprint coach is the baby of the group he has been with us since he graduated from high school 8 years ago first as a volunteer that the last 5 years a paid assistant. Our distance coach is a former wrestler and runner from Eastern Oregon – even though he has been with only 2 years he has and is coaching cross country as well. He has been with cross country program as an assistant for 10 years and a wrestling coach of our 5 time state champion wrestling team since 1992. Our head coach in his 5 year and 2 as an assistant is a former track athlete in the jumps and sprints. In his words my wife was a better track athlete than me. In all we have 8 paid coaches and on any given day 4 volunteer coaching working with the 140 kids we have out. Our average numbers over the last 10=15 years has been 110 to 120 athletes in grades 9-12. Our 2 middle schools average 80-90 at each school grades 6- 8 with 4 paid and 2 volunteers at each school.

      Sorry for the band wagon the comments made just hit me wrong – Oh in 2111 our boys were second in the big school state and the girls 5th with 5 state champions and all told 11 state placers between the 2 groups with 3 state champion groups returning. Thank you , I do lke the information you send out just do not agree with this.

      Mike Bober Assistant Coach
      (former Head Coach)
      Roseburg Senior High
      Roseburg , Oregon

      • @Mike Bober:

        I welcome open minded posts of any length (even if you disagree with me!) and appreciate your comments. As I’ve said, there is no ‘right’ answer for either the pro-public school or pro-club people. Well, I would say the *right* answer is to compromise. To meet in the middle. But as we can point to in many important arenas of life ‘compromise’ has become a dirty word.

        I don’t mean to imply that ‘club’ coaches have the ‘coaching education’ market cornered because that is certainly not true. In my area, the club (mostly soccer and basketball) coaches are *no* more knowledgeable on athletic development than the high school coaches. But because kids pay to play, they are coerced into year round participation in order to be on the team. I find this morally reprehensible.

    • @Renee Henderson:

      It takes an extremely evolved person to be willing to ‘share’ credit and work with outside forces for the betterment of the kids. Most are not willing to do that. I chose to leave my HOMETOWN high school because my ‘colleagues’ were so threatened by the rapid success (and allegiance of athletes/parents) of my athletes that the environment became too toxic for me to stay involved.

    • Rain

      @Renee Henderson:

      Renee I know you will do great and far more than what has been given.Please update me on your journey. Congrats on your amazing Masters Track Journey I am a fan 🙂

  • Thought-provoking. We’re a successful high school program in a high school of 900 and a town on 14,000. Please consider these points:

    1. Your capitalist metaphor might be more appropriate if you consider the parents, college coaches, and the community as the “customers” instead of the athletes as customers. Athletes are the “products” of your program and your success derives from their quality. That quality is defined and measured by your customers.

    2. High school sports teams create a focus of activity and source of pride within the local community. Our community ebbs and flows with the rhythm of the high school sports season. Our most loyal supporters are parents and alumni. They want a positive experience for the athletes and team success. I would propose that this is not the primary motivation for privately-coached athletes whose parents are willing to spend money with the hope of an athletic scholarship or selection to elite teams and programs.

    3. We encourage our high school athletes to compete in at least one other interscholastic sport. Our school does not have enough athletes to field competitive teams without multi-sport athletes. We extend this philosophy to our track athletes – every one is required to train for at least two events. We accept the challenge of training our athletes and building a competitive team at the district and state level within the confines of a high school season. Of course, we know we could make the kids more competitive individually if we could implement a year-round program.

    4. Good coaches and good programs can work within the framework of public education, build consistently consistently competitive programs, and meet the needs of their customers. Since taking over our program, we’ve won our league every year, won state championships 2 of the last four years and been second twice. We’ve set 5 school records and trained 10 individual state champions.

    5. I’ve trained athletes in summer programs, but miss the challenge of building a team.

    • @Mac McIntosh:

      1. Great point!
      2. I agree. But lots of ‘public school’ coaches have the same selfish intentions, but where the private coach is financially motivated, the public school coach is Ego driven.
      3. It is proven time and again that athletes who compete in multiple sports at a young age and engage in multilateral training within those sports peak higher than those who specialize. We just focus on the Tiger Woods or Serena Williams and forget about the million kids who burn out. I tell my athletes that if they really want to focus on one sport, they should make that decision going into their junior year of high school.
      4. Agreed. I just don’t think that most coaches are good coaches. Doesn’t make them bad people, just not good coaches.
      5. That exact reason is why I coach on a track team and do not deal with short duration ‘facility’ type situations or do any 1:1 or small group training.

      Great post.

    • Ed White

      The trend in other states, particularly California and increasingly in PA very recently, is for top high school athletes to play only on top level club or AAU teams and not on their high school teams, for the reasons stated in the article. I can see this happening in certain sports in the Allentown schools, including Allen, Dieruff, and Central. Kids may leave their high school teams – not to play for another high school but to play for club teams where coaching is often better and where skills are actually developed and players are marketed. That is NOT happening in all sports at Allen, unfortunately, and we’re starting to lose kids not only to other schools, which has happened for years, but to club and travels teams where kids have access to better coaching and more exposure. I see this as a growing trend, and I think it’s up to the high school coaches to figure out why and do what is necessary to retain their best players, even if that means attending more coaching clinics, spending more time with their players, and actually cutting kids who can’t play and teaching higher level skills and refining those of the kids who can. I know this is being done by some coaches, but sadly not by all. I think you hit the nail on the head. And with how far behind California athletes ours are here in Pa, parents and kids are looking for how to get better and get noticed and increasingly they are concluding that it is not on their high school team but on a top club team. Many top coaches don’t even allow their players to play on their high school team because they tend to play down to the level they are coached at or play with and against (i.e., monkey see, monkey do). I think a number of club teams are really trying to advance their sport and are attracting better coaches than the local high school programs and are actually competing with the high school teams for the best players. If this trend continues, high school teams of the future will be mostly for recreational players while the best players will leave for the club teams. I think this is unfortunate, but if the high school teams are to remain competitive and survive, high school coaches and athletic directors need to evaluate what they are doing. They are either a part of the solution or a part of the problem. Right now, I think they are a major part of the problem – only time will tell if they will become a part of the solution.

  • Frank Bacon

    @ Brandon- go with reason # 2 -They dont want to look or look in the wrong place

    @ Rain- Continue to do what is in the best interest for your child. I fight with some parents constantly about this. Just last year the starting guard for our basketball team transferred to a private school-why- because that coach is more accepting of the club team he plays for….same thing happened the year before with our other starting guard. Both young men are academically and athletically gifted,but “hand cuffed” by the HS coach. If the schools in your area do not provide the level of coaching necessary to properly nuture and guide your daughter, let her continue to run with her club team…..she’ll probably get noticed by colleges at lot quicker.

    • @Frank Bacon: This is Rain’s Daughter: http://cgscoutperspective.blogspot.com/2011/06/do-no-harm-weekend-story-of-child-track.html
      Trust me on this 1, she’s not going to have any trouble being noticed by College recruiters. She’s a 7th grader & I’m sure she’s already on a few college coaches radar screens. Who knows, if she continues developing, she might just adopt the Allison Felix model, go to college while Nike & Gatorade paying her & the college.

      First things first is finding the right program for her from 9th to 12th grade. Knowing Rain, she will find the right fit.

      • cypress

        One thing we are dealing with is that our HS Varsity XC coach is incredibly inconsistent in his decision-making criteria on who races varsity and goes to the state meet. He uses different criteria depending on the kid, and provides inconsistent vague goals and makes selections that demonstrate biases that have little to do with performance. This behavior causes frustration and considerable emotional stress for our runners. For this reason, working with our club coach is far preferable…he had the proper intuition about training and recovery, he provides clear goals and race strategy and he doesn’t play favorites. If the situation was reversed, then we would be happy with the HS coach. Coaches need to be smart, intuitive and consistent. You aren’t owed instant respect just because someone gave you the coaching job, you still need to behave with integrity.

        • A Nemaric

          The above comment about most coaches being cherry pickers is true.
          I have rarely seen a coach turn a ‘lump of clay’ into an outstanding athlete.
          Coaches swoon when a gifted individual wanders into their stable.
          Then it is all too easy.
          However, before we get too excited, let us remember, that sport was never invented so that people can get to play it professionally. Sport, is an adjunct to life, it is NOT life itself.
          People who make a living from sport, find that it is in their interest to over emphasise the importance of it. It is called ‘talking through your hip pocket.’

  • parent of a high school runner

    How about coaches who insist that they are all knowing and omnipotent? As in “I can develop high school runners from sprinters to distance runners” when you its obvious that their strength, and interest is in shorter distances (sprints) and they insist on training the distance runners (800 up) the same way they train sprinters?

    You’re forced to seek an alternative option out of fear….as in fear that your child is going to get sick and/or hurt!

    • coach carpenter

      You’re so Right

      • SKR

        I liked your comments and your right about both club and high school. Instead of finding ways to continue to take shots at each other about what they do or don’t this or that do right. Club and HS should take the opportunties to figue our how to find common ground and work together to accomplish tasks that ultimately help out the athlete.
        Many club as well as high school coaches do not take advantage of training, mentoring, clinics and a plethora of other ways to increase their knowledge and become better coaches. Interesting that clubs think they are the source for most contacts with college coaches but what is interesting is college coaches almost without exception turn to the high school coach for recommendations. I do not know very many athletes who get recurited out of high school that their high school coach was not involved. I do both club and high school and have great relationships with the high school coaches I work with.
        To much ego from club and hs coaches and not enough sense. I see way to much from both of doing all the wrong things and have athletes do really well and coaches think it is because of them that these athletes succeed when in fact it is inspite of them that these athletes succeed.
        I happen to live in an area that puts out a lot of great sprinters. USATF Level 2 was here this summer and I would have thought that many local coaches would have taken advantage of the opportunity. Out of over 200 participants maybe 20 local coaches participated. Education is power and lots of coaches are not taking advantage of it.
        Need less lip from coaches and more attention paid to educating themselves about how to coach athletes correctly.
        When most coaches begin coaching athletes based on their current devleopmental level and what type of work and which energy systems to use when then perhaps the conversation can turn to who does what better. Until then keep your mouth shut.

        • SKR

          The other piece that many clubs are missing out on is that academics is becoming a more important part of the student athlete equation at most universities with the Academic Progress Report, and other potential changes that the NCAA is getting ready to implement the bar is about to go up on the academic side for freshman and transfer students specifically. Schools and clubs may need each other to accomplish the task of getting athletes prepared and ready to compete at the next level.

  • My main problem with where a lot of this discussion is going is this:

    Peoples’ personal bias won’t allow them to see the alternative viewpoint. Public school coaches dismiss any validity of the argument made *for* ‘Club’ sports or why parents/athletes choose the ‘Club’ sport alternative.

    ‘Club’ sports coaches often (I said ‘often’, not always) ignore the value and community aspects of the public school season by coercing kids into year round ‘Club’ involvement out of selfishness and greed instead of doing what is in the best interest of the kid.

    Here’s the truth:

    Public school coaches are right. And wrong.

    ‘Club’ coaches are right. And wrong.

    The inability to see past our own personal viewpoint (and in some instances hypocrisy) is the first and largest stumbling block to having an open minded discussion or facilitating any kind of long term change.

    Try to see both sides of the argument and then express your opinion. But I can tell in the first two sentences of a post (or diatribe) who the ‘public school’ coaches are and who the ‘club’ school coaches are.

    Your personal opinion is no more right than mine. And my personal opinion is no more right than yours. If you can’t see or accept that then you are part of the problem.

    • Frank Bacon

      @Latif Thomas: My friend,you have no reason to doubt anything you do thru this vehicle. I know full well about the politics and acronyism that exist in HS sports and I know about the deceit and lies in club sports as well( for sake of this discussion I am only speaking of track). There will always be those who dont “get it” . As someone who was a late bloomer in track,I was ignored by my coach for three years. It wasnt until a coach from a rival school took my aside at a meet and showed me what I needed to do to be a better long jumper and sprinter. I never forgot that. You are not a hypocrite my young friend. You speak your mind and tell the truth…..how do I know its the truth? Dr Leroy Walker,Wilbur Ross,Dr Edward Temple,Stan Wright, Barbara Jacket,Fred Thompson,Brooks Johnson, Anthony( Tony) Veney,John Smith, Bobby Kersee,Nino Fennoy, Norris Stevenson,Houston “Keg ” Chandler…….have all said the same things about track at one time or another. Some of these gentlemen(and lady) worked miracles under less than ideal conditions-no track,no budget, segregation-but produced young men and women who icons in our sport and in the real world as well.

      No this was a topic that needed to be discussed and should continue to be discussed. Nuff said……..keep up the good work Latif,I got your back

  • Frank Bacon

    @cyp,Latif & Damian

    Damian my friend I think you are missing the point as has been so aptly presented by cyp and Latif. HS coaches that are classroom teachers will take staff development courses because if they want to keep their job, it is required. Those same HS coaches will not get off their “lazy”( I’m calling them lazy ) derrieres and take any type of course that will make them a better coach. Why…..they think they know it all. If a coach a calibre of John Smith can say in a recent interview that he has to go back to the drawing board,tear things down and build them back up…….who the hell I am not to try and listen and do the same thing. Yes our public school system is a sham, I doubt that yours is one of them,but not all private schools have all star staffs either. Most of them suffer from the same malady as their public bretheren.

    I want to leave you with this-John Wooden said that the mark of a good coach is one who gets to know his athletes as people first.Know their family friends likes,dislikes..etc. I know from experience that once you do that there is NOTHING they cannot accomplish. And my friend that and coaching education are sadly lacking I see it all the time. Whether you like it or not this article is the the truth and just maybe it will set someone free.

    • Reddog

      Latif. This article was right on point. Your words were accurate and very true. We have decided to give up high school track here in Illinois do to the high school training in our area. There are some schools with coaches that are also tied to AAU and USATF and its clearly noticeable why those schools are successful. Otherwise, Club track is the best way to go for my USATF & AAU National Champion

  • Gary

    Not too long ago ylu were railing agaibst club sports. If club teams are so much better why can’t team USA rarely get past the quarters in soccer. They always seem to lose to a bunch of guys from third world countries kicking home made soccer balls in the dirt. I have seen sone of tbe worst coaching in my life at tbe club level( as well ad the high achool level). I am not a high school coach. I am a pe teacher and a golf pro andI have noticed more injuries from tbe club athletes than ever before and it is a concern to me. Club and high school are practically one in the same in CA anyway. Most of the hs coaches run the local club program. Seems like a huge conflict of interest to me.They charge crazy fees and will not let you pkay on the hs team if you do not play club. Not all can afford tonplay clu or go to private school like you suggest tbey should. This lack of inclusion seems suprising coming from a partner of the IYCA.

    • @Gary:

      That’s right Gary. I have. And I probably will again in the future. And I’ll be a Champion for public school sports. And I’ll rail against them. I can see both sides of the argument because there are valid arguments for (and against) both arguments. I don’t like the way public school athletic departments are run and I don’t like Club Sport hustle. I like what public school sports provide for kids, particularly kids without the means to go to a private school or expensive club team. I like the alternative that club sports provide, particularly for talented kids or kids who can’t get appropriate coaching at the HS level.

      I can see past my personal bias and hear the merits of the opposing viewpoint. I would challenge you to do the same.

      • cyp

        In our case, local running experts, with widely known success and experience, offered to voluntarily, at no cost, assist with coaching the XC and track team (Varsity runners), and that offer was rejected by the school and head coach who saw this as a threat to his position and “team bonding”. The athletes (top 5 varsity runners), after working with the HS coach for 4 years, preferred working with experienced guys and knew they were getting the best coaching from them after working with them over the summer. They asked the HS head coach to allow them to continue working with the experts during the HS season, and the HS head coach rejected that request and said it was his way or leave the team. The athletes chose their right to good coaching over representing their school because they felt the benefits (being more motivated in workouts, higher performance, happier, better understanding of pacing and race strategy) were important…even though they still want to represent their school. Dedicated athletes should not have to make this choice…especially when other teams at the same school are allowing experts to assist as volunteers and as coaches and this is improving performance of these other teams.

      • cyp

        Here’s the thing…there are also parents and kids involved as stakeholders making public school athletics happen. 20+ years ago, parents did not have to volunteer so much to make the public school sports happen. Now with severe budget cuts, school sports depend heavily on parent support…including transportation, helping at meets and fundraising. In the last season, due to school construction, parents for our team had to volunteer countless hours to transport kids from school to workout every day. They did this without complaining. Consequently, parents come to feel they have a stake in the program (at the very least, that their kid is not berated by the coach every week for pissing away the future state meet and not provided strategy or training for not pissing away the state meet)…and if they provide constructive input (is it possible we could add some timed intervals so they have a better idea of their pacing), they should expect to be at least treated respectfully rather than as a threat. Also, the runners have to be dedicated. XC is hard work, and training is very demanding. If you have dedicated runners, their constructive input should also be treated respectfully. Also, in looking at things from the “stakeholder” perspective…the argument comes back around to the issue of marketing…are you meeting stakeholder demand not just for good coaching but an overall good experience for the stakeholders who are giving up their valuable time to contribute to the overall team success.

  • Frank Bacon

    @ r-kroetch- My friend I dont know what article you were reading but it obviously wasnt this one. I too sit up countless nites on the internet searching or go thru a myriad of information that I have accumulated over the years. Why? So the young people I work with can be the best. Yes High School Sports are Dying,especially at the public school leveL for the very reasons stated in the article. I saw no reference to HS coaches being lazy or stupid-NOWHERE.Lets face facts here,you know that there are some coaches who will not invest ANY time in getting better,no matter what the sport.This is a free market society,you either keep up or exceed the competition or fall flat on your face and fail. You have public schools all over the country crying foul that private/parochial institutions are recruiting students……….well isnt that what over 4000 degree granting colleges/universities do and have done for a century or more?
    The Marines have another motto,that is another mantra of mine-ADAPT,IMPROVISE and OVERCOME….If you are coaching developmental athletes in any sport and are not willing to what I just mentioned in the previous sentence………you should not be coaching

  • Nemaric

    Yeah but! I don’t much about that soccer team or those track and field athletes that you refer to, but I do know that GREAT ATHLETES make the coach. We have here in Australia some highly credentialled coaches, who are lured from club to club, and always have an open cheque book. That is, they buy the star players and that’s a part of the deal. You gotta problem, and you throw enough money at it, and presto, problem gone.
    You referred to socialism , and the free enterprise system, and yup, that’s the free enterprise system at work.

    Recently I was working with some Indian students. The country India has over one billion people, and I asked them why they didn’t do better at the Olympics, The Asian games, world track and field, international soccer, and the response was that the place was in such a parlous state of poverty that after a hard day’s toil, no one wanted to expend anymore energy running around.

    Today in my local Australian newspaper it is revealed that 9 percent of Americans are unemployed, and FORTY SIX MILLION Americans live below the poverty line.
    Also we hear the GFC 2 is imminent. (And believe me it wasn’t socialism that started GFC1)
    Also there were a bunch of other stats that painted a most unappealing picture of our good neighbours. I also have often heard it said the Americans are the most obese of all people. Well when you assess all these facts, then the reason High School sports are dying is the same reason as those poor wretches in India. And did it all come to this.
    Well I’m still scratching my head, and it is a worry, because invariably where you go, we follow. Yup, it’s a worry.

    • Michael

      As was said earlier, the athlete frequently makes the coach. There was a private coach in our community who took top level high school athletes because he told the parents that their high school coaches were not knowledgable. He was a great runner and could provide lots of individual attention. He once told me peaking in XC was easy and anyone could do it. His athletes qualified for Foot Locker nationals, and he looked awesome. I am a high school coach, which apparently makes me dumb. Even though I constantly read, buy DVDs and attend clinics. My teams have qualified for the State meet and even won a few state championships. But, in your world Latif, he would look superior to me. But then, the private coach got the opportunity to take over a local public school XC program.

      Six or seven years later, he has not had one team qualify for the state meet and no individual state champions. Did he lose his touch as a coach? No. He is still a knowledgable and hard working man. But, now he takes what comes through the door, rather than hand picking from the local high schools.

  • Jim Kessler

    The mind set that some money hungry prestige seeker knows better how to coach young people than the professional educator who in most cases works with and sees the young athlete everyday in the school environment is what’s wrong about youth athletics, AAU, and the like.

    I have been told, “My AAU coach knows me better than my H.S. coach–talk to him.” Let’s see the guy who your parents pay to work with you is they one I should trust. Yeah, right–you mean you don’t want me to talk with the guy who sees you in the hallways and the class room and the cafeteria and in practice having to work with and play with those lousy bums who aren’t a good as me. My faith remains with the educational professional–at school.

  • Dan Murdock

    Public school teacher, high school track coach, a Democrat – who voted for Obama – so does that make me a Socialist? 🙂

    • @Dan Murdock:

      Well sir, I would say that I can’t speak to your personal political ideology based on those facts alone. My discussion was of ‘Coaching Socialism’ which, for our purposes, is a vastly different topic of conversation. But, to answer your question, if you believe that programs/teams/coaches that become too dominant within a school district should have limitations placed on them specifically to prevent poorly coached teams/teams with disinterested coaches from losing athletes who no longer want to compete on that team, then, yes, I would argue that you are a *Coaching* Socialist.

  • Roger Pedrick

    Living in Australia I am unable to comment on your observations on High School track, but I will comment on your bringing elementary politics into the discussion. This can result in this site becoming as toxic as the Letsrun site, ie, full of ill-informed bile. My only comment on the merits of the Free Market is that you examine the reasons behind the GFC.
    I must emphasise that I am not anti-American having spent some of the best years of my life on a track scholarship in Texas in the 1960’s.
    So Latif, stick to your usual excellent articles.

    • @Roger Pedrick:

      This site will not turn into Letsrun, I can tell you that with abject certainty. I have complete control over what gets posted. I would argue, however, that I did not bring politics into any discussion, but, instead, made an analogy using an economic principle/theory as the basis. The principle/theory, I would argue, is not inherently political unless/until one injects a political ideology into the discussion.
      That said, again, I have no intention of allowing any line of discussion to devolve into an argument over politics.

      • Frank Bacon

        @ Jim Kessler- As someone who got their start coaching at the USATF/AAU level,99& 3/4 % of us DONT GET PAID,so if the club coaches in your area are let me know where it is and I’m there. I n essence this discussion hinges on the unwillingness of coach at the developmental level who flatly refuse to educate and enlighten themselves,much to the detriment of the young people they work with. Just as our vaunted public educational system has been in decline for more than 30 years,HS sports are no different. And club coaches arent the only “prestige” seekers, many a HS or college coach has used an athlete or two to boost their own career. Go to Flotrack.com and listen to the interview John Smith did during the World Championships in Daegu. That ladies and gentleman is what a REAL coach should sound like……….later

        • Reuben

          @Frank Bacon: do you have a link to the interview?

          To All: as an athlete i was a throw away. I had two occurances where i chose T&F. I tried Baseball in Second grade and realized that I was in the dugout alot during the game, so my Uncle who was a track coach started to take me with him to meets. pretty soon I was at practice and getting medles and ribbons every weekend. Once i got into middle school and Jr High i got into basketball the politics started. High School Coached were coming to the games and began mappinig out the rosters. All was fine until I got cut both my freshman and Sophmore yr. That is when I found my way back to T&F. Both years i was cut I was told it was because i didnt attend / pay for, summer camps translated into my parents were not on the booster team. I them realized that while running i was not asked to pay a dime. My track coach would drive the neighbor hood and pick kids up and take us to meets. As a coach I strive to do the same. I love the fact that the Middle schools has try-outs for basketball and track. I just wait and pick up the “throw aways”. I have only been coaching T&F for three yrs and Basketball for five but every year i never have the same team because the school system steals them after i train them and I do it for free with the help from stores in the community!

          • RL

            I carefully read your article and I totally agree. My son doesn’t run track but he does play baseball. We’ve used some of the training tips to help his speed for base running.

            High school coaches better wake up and realize that parents do have options today. My son has had a professional pitching coach for years and is an above average talent. We did move to another town so my son could play baseball for a well coached successful baseball team at a school that offered great academics. My son enjoys playing high school baseball. Frankly I think my son has a better chance of being spotted by a scout playing select ball in USSSA or similar tournaments over a 2A high school baseball game. Because of that I have kept his options open by letting him play school baseball and select ball during the summer. Why limit your childs opportunities?

            The days of coaches bullying kids, playing God, and not offering a real program are over. Got a crappy coach? Just move on to another organization or school that has a better program. It was the best thing I ever did for my son – who is a freshman pitching for the varsity team now. His grades? Excellent because he has goals to work toward and getting to play baseball keeps him motivated.

      • Edwin Snell

        As a father of several very gifted athletic children who all participated in public high school sports I would agree with much of Latif’s arguments except for one thing….this is not a business we are talking about – it is the lives of impressionable 12 to 18 year old youths!
        Freshmen in high school are not fully developed physically or socially – they should not be forced to choose one sport at this age by highly driven, “focused” coaches who see the world only through their sport. My daughter was a starting center-fielder on a state-championship softball team, starting forward on the varsity soccer team and starting point guard on the varsity basketball team….as a FRESHMAN!!!! And I’m not talking about a small school, this was in a very competitive 5A school. She was told by the “Latif-like” soccer coach that if she was “serious” about soccer she should quit the other two sports…..and told the same thing by the basketball and softball coaches!!!!!! This is so wrong!!!! She liked all three sports….and was still developing skills in each one…..who knows which one she could have gotten a college scholarship for…..(probably all three if she wanted!) The point is – each of these driven, selfish coaches was lobbying for the EXCLUSIVE use of my daughters talents- they were focused on what was best for THEIR PROGRAM – not what was best for my daughter. You can not apply “free market” economics to high school sports….at least not completely….because those principles do not take into account what is best for the young athlete….only what is best for the competing sports programs!!!!
        I suspect you are one of the coaches who would have been pressuring my daughter to “get serious” about track, quit all other sports and go to track camps year-round!!!! Let these kids have some fun and play different sports for the simple joy of it….at least until they are juniors or seniors…..before presuuring them to CHOOSE ONE SPORT before they even know which one they like best or have the most potential in!!!!!
        By the way, my daughter did make a choice – SHE QUIT ALL SPORTS – never to compete again!!! Because she hated the pressure put on her to CHOOSE ONE!

        • @Edwin Snell:

          You would be wrong to make that assumption. For example, this past winter I had freshman boy in my sprints group who I think will be a very talented track athlete. But he has been playing baseball his whole life and was torn because he enjoyed his track experience. He asked me what I thought he should do. If I was selfish as you claim, I would have worked my magic and endorsed spring track. Instead, I gave him the same speech I give every athlete in this situation, “You’re a freshman. A varied experience is good for you. At the very least, play baseball this year and see how you feel. Even if you love track, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t give baseball a shot. After next winter, you’ll have a better idea of what you want to do. But at the end of the day, you have to do whatever is MOST FUN for you.” He chose to play baseball last spring and I never, at any point, made him feel uncomfortable about that decision. My primary interest is kids. That is my passion. I remember all the banquet speeches and cards that kids have given me over the years. But only a handful of the championships. And we’ve won quite a few.

          • Edwin Snell

            @Latif Thomas:
            Glad to hear that you don’t pressure students to choose one sport at early age….but why couldn’t the young man you described do both? Instead of either/or?

        • @Edwin Snell: Sorry to hear that your daughter quit all 3 sports because of pressure applied by the coaches. I went to smaller schools (private), as does my daughter & son, where kids are encouraged to be multi-sport athletes & the coaches cooperate with one another. My varsity football coach was also the head track coach. My basketball coach was an assistant coach on the football team.

          If you’ve read Latif’s stuff before, you would know he’s not the type of coach who is going to discourage a kid from pursuing their dreams. He’s the type of coach whose #1 interest is in helping a kid be the best that they can be. As we know, Latif is quite capable of speaking for himself, but I would like to think he would cooperate with coaches of other sports who have athletes in his track program. What’s hard for me to fathom in this day and age is that my coaches in various sports always encouraged me to be involved in track, because they realized the cross training aspects of the sport. Track is the mother of all sports & coaches in other sports who don’t understand how it will help their program and athletes develop are clueless. Recently I made this statement, “If you’re a coach of any sport in HS or college & you respect your track coach, spend some time learning from them. It will help your program.”

          Love your quote on Frosh: “Freshmen in high school are not fully developed physically or socially – they should not be forced to choose one sport at this age by highly driven, “focused” coaches who see the world only through their sport.” I would also add that they’re not fully developed emotionally & that they should never be forced to choose a sport at any age or year in high school.

          Your daughter started in 3 sports at a 5A school when she was a freshman & then quit all 3 sports. I find that amazing, not that she started, but that she quit all 3. Ain’t that much pressure in the world that would have made me quit a sport that I LOVED, but we’re all different. The fact that she was starting in all 3 sports, meant that her playing time would never be impacted in her high school career. Playing any sport in high school requires dedication and love. My daughter loves volleyball & plays it in high school. She played basketball seriously for the first time last year as a JV player and improved immensely, but she hates the sport. The varsity at her school needs her talents, but she hasn’t touched a basketball since the end of the season. I don’t expect her to play, but it will be her choice. I just can’t help but think there’s more to your daughter’s story, because you don’t quit an activity that you value and love just because you’re getting some “noise” from coaches. Somewhere & somehow she lost the passion and love for all the sports she played. It seems simple to me that you could have called a meeting of all her coaches & laid down the law. Look, my daughter is a talented athlete and she enjoys playing each of your sports. Back off in demanding she focus on just your sport. Let her figure out over the next couple of years if she wants to and can handle the demand of playing all 3 sports. The one thing I know about all coaches is that they’ll go out of their way to accommodate great athletes, because they’re so few and far between. Very surprised to hear that this couldn’t have been worked out.

          • SKR
          • Edwin Snell

            @Clarence Gaines: you could be right about there being more to the story than just pressure….but to this day (she is 28 yr old RN now) she won’t discuss other reasons why she quit them all….she also changed schools! I suspected some type of abuse then and still do….she just won’t talk about it!
            But I do know she was under tremendous pressure to CHOOSE one sport

          • J Alan Peoples

            Perhaps i am an exception as a HS coach, but it is not that hard to go to clinics. At my school we have 10 T & F and XC coaches. Nine of us have USATF Level 1 Certification, Five of us have USATF Officials Certification, and ten of us have NFHS Official’s certification. Several of my coaches are volunteers. When they came on, they were told that they had to be a certified coach. I raised the funds to get them certified, and then ended up with good coaches who know what they are doing. Most of us also attend the North Carolina Track and Cross Country Coaches’ association held in Greensboro each January. We have spent money sending athletes to pole vault specialists and on occasion have had a national level college coach come to our school to offer a clinic to both my throws coaches and our throwers. ( this was also offered to other coaches).

            By the way, we do not have any free meets: spectators must pay and the money is invested back into the program. Some examples include our collegiate level UCS PV and HJ mats, two jump pits, FAT system, and 3 shot circles. We sponsor large track meets (up to 600 participants) and we attend large XC and T & F meets. While there we are usually able to garner some data from successful coaches.We also are willing to travel and spend the night away several times per year. This weekend we are travelling to a XC meet in Greensboro where we expect to see over 1500 runners from several states.

            For those who are wondering, we have put 40 athletes at some level of college athletics since 1990, and we have had 20 individual state champions since 2000.

    • AC

      You did it again! How dare you speak the truth! Far too many school systems and it’s coaches speak more of history and tradition than education and development. They live off of the accomplishments of the athletes from the past that had success regardless of their ignorance. Choose any sport in any area of the country and you will find your comments to ring true about a majority of the HS coaches. We spoke on your radio show and in emails about finding ways to work around this ignorance. GREAT POST!

  • hetch

    Yes, that is why there are some dominant programs and some chronically weak ones. But come on, does anyone really believe there are enough people out there willing and/or able to coach on all the staffs in any state? We can ignore why it is hard to recruit people into teaching and coaching, and also why most coaches can’t or won’t invest in professional development on their own, but it still leaves us with a talent vacuum. Hyping programs like CST2 is indeed preaching to the choir and probably just making the rich richer. So I guess you are right, private ventures like this are truly capitalism at its finest.

    This is starting to make me wonder if there is a connection between the political party allegiance and the quality of our coaches. We already know how most of the teachers vote. Hey Latif, I didn’t bring it up, you did.

    • @hetch:

      It’s an interesting point. I’ve learned not to directly talk politics because people freak out about it. But I would argue that yes, you could find some trends in political party allegiance and the quality of coaches. But I won’t go any further than that!

      • Frank

        I agree with you Mr. Thomas, and I’ve been saying this for years… make that 2 decades.

        The lack of quality coaching at the high school level spawned the growth in travel ball and club sports over the last 20 years. Good athletes are being directed toward these clubs which force them to specialize too young. Some advance to the next level, many seek the promise of college scholarships. Few benefit, and a lot of families pay a lot of money in this journey. Perhaps more than they recoup in scholarships. This 2008 L.A. Times article illustrates the point well: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jan/16/sports/sp-academy16

        I too miss the days of kids that join a high school sport where they are filled with school pride. It seems “that place” doesn’t exist any longer. Quality products produce quality results, and that draws the consumers. Simple.

        It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a public or private school either. They all face similar funding /resource issues, with few exceptions where quality is a priority.

        I manage to touch the lives of a number of young people every year. Many come back to thank me for the personal interest and the quality support I provide them while training. That’s my reward, watching them develop and helping them on their journey. No one pays for my coaching education and learning but me.

        • Roger Pedrick

          Latif, so you are able to identify some trends in political party allegiance and quality of coaches-please explain. I have been involved in track and field for over 50 years, both as an athlete (400/800) and for the past 35 years as a coach. I have been coached by, and coached with individuals in Uk and Australia whose political views probably ranged from far left to far right. Did their political views affect their coaching; not one bit. The reason I used the word “probably” was because we never discussed politics, we just got on with the business of doing the best for our athletes.
          I am a club coach because high school track and field is not big in Australia and the ability of our “sports science” trained Physical Education teachers is limited–to put it politely!! As a club coach I have never been paid and it costs me around $6000 a year to coach. This includes attending coaching conferences, travel etc. Plus I probably spend several hours a week reading coaching articles both hard copy and internet.

          • @Roger Pedrick:

            You’re the one who complained about bringing politics into the discussion and now you’re bringing up politics. Come on, man.

          • cyp

            Politics should not be part of HS athletics…it should be what is best for the kids (including enhancing opportunities for scholarships as stated on ESPN/Mike and Mike; promoting sportsmanship, creating a learning environment, providing athletes with positive and constructive feedback and listening to feedback from athletes). If there are no budgetary costs to accepting expert help and the voluntary assistance is considered positive by the athletes, that assistance should be accepted, particularly when budgets are already tight and coaching salaries are so low the incentive for good coaches to participate is low. When the school stops thinking about what is best for the kids, and retains mediocre or hurtful coaches, especially due to politics and good old boy loyalties (who is friends with who), the parents only choice is to request a change, and when that change is met with a brick wall, the parents only option is to take advantage of alternate opportunities, if they exist, especially if it keeps their kid from giving up due to frustration with the coaching situation. Furthermore, if the coach is giving more support to the kids who are trash talking and showing poor sportmanship, the other athletes shouldn’t have to put up with that crap if they can pursue an alternate, more positive learning opportunity.

          • norm

            @Latif Thomas:
            I agree with the comments about “politics” and “self promotion”. I was going to download the article and have a group of college class exercise science and coaching minor students. But those two tones that permiate the article prevent me from doing so.

          • @norm:

            I’m sorry, I don’t understand your point. Is your argument that while you agree with the concept behind the article, you are offended because you believe I’m trying to make some larger point about my political beliefs and also that I’m too ‘self promoting’?

  • Interesting comments and easy to tell which side of the fence they are coming from. Unfortunately with the explosion of youth sports the club level has definitely been tainted so to speak, and depending on what sport you play, all or most of the recruiting for college will be done at the club level. The primary concern is definitely the continuing education of everyone involved in any aspect of youth development. Unfortunately a lot of school systems foster the lackadaisical approach to sports for many reasons. Parents and kids complain about anything and everything, Coaches at the high school level care much more about winning and their personal accolades than they do player development, Administration would prefer a no discussion policy and hopes to just go on their merry way while the athletic teams fend for themselves, and there are still WAY to many high school coaches with no prior experience who are grandfathered into their position whether it be by length of teaching tenure or merely defeault that they are currently employed by the school and no off campus coach can be found. So many issues involved, and for each family and athlete going through the high school system, only 4 years to figure it out. At this point and time there seems to be only one logical solution, if your athlete is focused on long term success and showing the intent to earn a scholarship at the collegiate level, you have to get them with the best coaches and trainers and support their determination and development. If they are into short term accolades and living the “social life” of the high school level, than obviously there is no point in dumping money into extra training and forcing practice time on them. So high school sports are dying?, probably not, but they will continue to separate with the historically good programs growing and continuing to dominate and the historically poor programs losing good athletes and dwindling. How can you not love it, It’s natural selection at its best.

    • @Andrew:

      Great post. I think if school athletic departments simply had some basic standards of coaching education we wouldn’t have this problem. I know it is hard to find coaches. But it ridiculous to put an unqualified person in charge of a large group of kids who risk life and limb doing dangerous activities.

      • George Glover

        I will devour information that will help me coach. I have found much here. I am a HS coach. I don’t coach Track, I coach KIDS to participate and succede in track. A coach is an educator first, and sports are first and foremost a vehicle to make a better human being. Public schools will and must put the philosophy of coaching kids first, sport second. Most private coaches I know are wash-outs who could not keep a school coaching job. Most parents I have seen that seek private coaching and club teams are disgruntled and misinformed, and seem to be missing the point of sports and their place in education. The burn out rate of their children is spectacular, far outweighing the minority who succeed with the private/club model. It represents a “me first” philosophy. Fortunately or unfortunately, public school is where the masses of kids are, and public school deserves support as the appropriate place for sports as an educational experience and a shot at success. Trying to illustrate this with a business model, that athletes are consumers who will shop for the best, is just not the way it works. Once we all specialize, see youth sports as a business, and turn our backs on public education, see how many people are actually interested in sports at all…. and this comes from a lifetime track and field participant and coach.

        • Cyp

          @Sonya thank you for saying that.
          While athletes should respect their coach, their coach also has to earn their respect and has a responsibility to respect the athletes by listening to their feedback, creating a positive, motivating and learning environment, being consistent, and being well informed on best practices to enhance performance while avoiding training related injuries. If we think our child is having a negative experience with a coach, parents will do their best to find a better situation. If a school administration is supporting a coach after multiple parents express concerns, then the school adminstrators need to rethink why they work at a school rather than protecting the coach because of some church or other social allegiance. The schools responsibility is to provide a positive learning environment for our young people. Thats what parents, students and the best teachers and coaches expect.

    • @Andrew:

      Very well put…

  • Elliott Evans

    Latif et al,

    I have dealt with the club coaches for many years. I have found most of them to be cherry pickers who attach themselves to only the most talented kids. As a track coach, my biggest problem comes from the AAU Basketball people. They have sold the better “ballers” on the idea that only they have the contacts to college recruiters.

    I actually had one of these “coaches” pull a kid off the runway during a varsity meet!

    Its nice to work with great talent, I do a lot of it during the summer for no pay. But for once I would like to have a spring season without interference.

    In our area, school boards and school administrators have opened stadiums and gyms free of charge to the clubs as a token of good will. Yeah, they are tax payers– but wouldn’t it be nice to run a private business without some of that pesky overhead?


    • @Elliott Evans:

      They are most certainly cherry pickers. And I can understand why from their point of view. It is tough being a track coach because most kids aren’t introduced to T&F until they many years of soccer, football and basketball under their belts and they’ve already been sold a bill of goods. And there’s no talking to these kids, especially their fathers.

      And yes, it sure would be nice to run a business with no overhead!!

  • Lynn

    Very good article and thought provoking. One of the things I like most about your articles is that they get people to think and assesss where they are at.
    I can say that some of the things get under my collar like I am teaching
    sprinters how to run slow when they have chosen to do XC. I had a sprinter who set the scholl record in the 400m last track season, at the end of the summer program, do a 400m
    run for time race after doing our easy 30min run and 100m strides she ran
    against the senior boy who is great at pace and she ran 4.25 seconds faster than her own record. Be that as it may anyone who does not read up, go to new seminars,clinics or webnars, go back to school as it were is fooling themselves. We are suppose to learn from history and then do things better
    if possible not become stale and stagnate and rot like so many High school programs are doing.

    • Chris

      And, you didn’t even mention the growing financial issue around the “pay-to-practice” programs that have an awful TOO in a lot of situations where kids (and parents) get fed up with going to the games and tournaments just to watch their kids sit on the bench AND not really learn about the sport. That’s a huge draw to the running sports. Where just participating in the competition is a huge win for many.

      • @Chris:

        Again, I think this comes back to parents being lied to by the coaches of these programs. Study after study shows that parents consistently overestimate their kids’ athletic ability and intelligence.

    • @Lynn:

      My goal is to make people think and I’m glad I can do that for you. I’m glad that you keep reading even if I do get under your collar every once in a while!

      • Lynn

        @Latif Thomas: Not a problem making me think about it has me making sure I know what the kids are naturally good at, and I am making sure that I adjust or add to their work outs indiviually so that they may become the best they can. So that I am not completely screwing up a naturally good sprinter, just because she is a gifted all around athlete. I may not agree with everything you say, but i will always listen and try them out, as a corpsman in the Teams(old School) I might not agree but I would do as told and if it worked great if not then I would try it different. Always looking for a better way to do things if possible, because the only easy day was yesterday.

    • Andrew

      I totally agree with Latif on this one. More significantly, I have no idea why Americans run sports through the school system or why we think it should be done that way.Don’t get me wrong I am all for phys ed (in a country of obese people, this is desperately needed – not mention all the other social and academic benefits of developing sound fitness awareness and activity in kids/young adults), I won’t even object if schools want to sponsor teams as extracurricular activities. But this is not the best model for developing athletes who want to compete well and develop skills to the best of their ability. Clubs do this much better. If done properly, that is (yes there are plenty of poorly run and exploitative clubs out there, but that does not disturb the basic argument). One sport where this is definitely the model right now is soccer. High school soccer is much less important to the top players than is their club play. Much, much less. Go to any college soccer team web site and look at the player bios. They will all describe their club histories with a passing reference to the high school team they were on. High school soccer is a tolerated diversion, put up with only because so much of American sports culture is consumed with winning the school league or state championship. This is the result of the dominance that football has on our school sports landscape, but is what’s right for football necessarily right for any other sport? I think in track this is probably more true than in any other sport. Our natural season does not even fit into the traditional academic calendar, how can we train kids for success in the sport when the system doesn’t even let them prepare properly for the competitive season? I ran club track and school track, not until I got to college was my school system remotely comparable to what I got out of the club team I was on. Why do we have to stick with the football model, why must we force this square peg in the round hole?