Written By: Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date: December 17, 2012
Enough is enough! How many more athletes have to suffer at the hand of coaches and their personal politics? How many?! For over 30 years, talented young athletes from USATF who enter high school track & field have had to endure the egos, emotions, and superiority complexes of incompetent, male chauvinistic, power monger coaches who don’t give a damn about the dreams, goals, and lives of the athletes they coach. And for over 30 years, many athletes have been forced to abandon track & field to escape politics, protect their physical development from inferior track programs, and preserve peace of mind during this period of adolescence. Track & field is supposed to be about becoming your best self! Exercising one’s God given gifts to the fullest. Running the fastest or farthest. Jumping the highest or longest. Vaulting new heights. Throwing further than anyone has thrown before. Track & field is not about man (coach) asserting absolute rule over man (athletes) to become a god among sport by suppressing athletic development and achievement.
…especially at a stipend of only $800 – $3000 a season. Not a month, but a season!
I’m tired of hearing about athletes fighting to cross the finish line because their coach decided to place a brick wall with an electrified fence to blockade the progress of young athletes. Soccer, volleyball, basketball, baseball, and tennis all encourage athletes to join clubs and camps or get trainers during and after the season to improve skills and conditioning. Yet, track strongly prohibits athletes from even mentioning the idea of training with a club, personal trainer, or other track & field specialists. Why? Politics.
What has triggered today’s Track Rant? I recently received news of the achievements of a local high school freshmen and her blind-sighted coach. She was the only athlete out of her entire team to advance to state in cross country. Yet, her high school coach denied her of a team MVP award. To make matters worse, the award was given to a girl who came in second to last in CIF-Prelims and cost the team a bid to go to CIF Southern Section Championships. The freshman athlete (whose name shall not be mentioned) entered high school from a club background. She has worked exceptionally hard every day running across town trying to get the training she needs to keep her skills up. Thankfully, the Sunshine League was wise enough to recognize her as League MVP. But, if the league recognized her achievements, what does this action say about the coach?
For legality sake, not all high school coaches are guilty of exercising such politics. Some have good intensions and care for the athletes they coach. Still, far too many are guilty and have no awareness of how they affect the landscape of people’s lives each day. In this era of change, this issue must be brought to the table. How many more talents does the sport have to lose before this issue is addressed and examined?
In 30 years time, can you imagine just how much heartache, mental and physical pain, these athletes have undergone just to survive politics? Look back at the record books. Notice the names of all the runners listed at the top. Now ask yourself, where are they today? Are they running? Did they ever get a scholarship? Why did they stop running? Do they ever look back and say what if? Do they ever get caught looking at footage of athletes past and present? Do they get excited when they see track & field on TV? Do they have their children in track and field and live vicariously through them? Are they ever sighted at meets gazing upon the track with eyes of longing? Are they ever heard saying, “I used to run…But that was a long time ago.”