Category Archives: Uncategorized

Changing Fundamentals

I look at the world today from politics to sports to education to city building and somehow arrive at the same thought: When a generation is born, they are born into a world already in motion. The expectation for new generations is to simply go with the flow. Except, the direction of that current isn’t always right. Sometimes that current must be redirect. If redirection isn’t possible, then new ripples and currents must take form and take on a force big enough to create change.

What am I talking about?

I look at the rules that govern track & field from high school to NCAA to USATF, and I cannot help but wonder, is it time for a reassessment? Rules are written criteria for forming organization. Rules are guidelines to protect organizations from chaos. As I look back through history, it appears some rules were written based on privilege during a time of sociological upheaval. Other rules affecting the sport originate from Football and are loosely applied to track. My guess is that the authors got lazy and felt it would be too much of an imposition to write rules specific to each sport. Whatever the case may be, the effects certain rules have had on many track & field athletes have been dire. The question is…how do you change rules that have been in effect since the days of Avery Brundage?

I look at the view from my backyard. Hollywood Park is closing. Instead of visionaries creating some type of athletic complex reflecting the City of Inglewood’s motto, “City of Champions,” the city along with developers are building homes to pack in thousands more into a tiny city. Shopping centers will be built as well. My guess, based on the new complexes built on Imperial and Century, more discount stores to further deteriorate my beloved city. Wal-Mart owns the land and has for decades I understand. The question is…how do you stop it? How do you change the tide and generate currents that reshape the landscape for the better?

There are people in this world who have redirected the flow of rivers…Inspired changed…Taken ownership…Risen to become a powerhouse despite being born into a world in motion. Without money or power, how do you create BIG changes for the benefit of others?

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Who’s the Cheat? The Athlete or The Company?

Written by: Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date: Monday, July 15, 2013
In recent news, Tyson Gay was reportedly caught using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). According to the article, Gay was unaware that he was taking PEDs. The supplements (or whatever) were said to contain traces of substances banned by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Far too many track & field athletes have similar stories. When stories like this surface, the world shines the spotlight on the athlete and asks why? Why did you cheat? What’s interesting about a spotlight is that when it shines, it shines on one area and the areas surrounding that light are left hidden in darkness.

So we are asking, what’s in the darkness?

Who manufactures PEDs? Who distributes PEDs? Why are athletes the target market for these companies? How lucrative is this market? Track & field appears to be a niche for PED companies. If this is truly a niche, why? Why are track & field athletes pursued, when most elites incomes are relatively low compared to so-called revenue sports (Football, Basketball, Baseball). Are there other markets?

During the Bush Administration, a scandal erupted concerning a company called BALCO. Hadn’t heard of BALCO prior to 2004. In 2002, the administration lead investigations to, “clean up the sport.” By the Summer Olympics of 2004, guilty US athletes were embarrassingly ousted in front of the entire world. If you are unfamiliar with this case, you can read about it here. That year I asked, “why is the President of the United States and his administration getting involved in track?” Yes, Olympic athletes are often viewed as ambassadors representing their home countries; still, the government’s involvement in the investigation presented more questions.

I later looked up this BALCO. Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. “Co-Operative.” What does Co-Operative sound like? What does it mean? Why not just Bay Area Laboratory? Victor Conte, formerly of the music group Tower of Power, was a co-founder of this technologically advanced biochemical company. He was a bass guitarist AND biochemist producing technologies the world only imagined. The purpose of these technologies were to enhance human abilities or in sci-fi terms, create superhumans. He sought to make people faster, stronger, and more agile. He enhanced people’s ability to heal and recover faster after experiencing extreme physical distress (i.e. practice). His platform: the athlete. He used his products on the world’s best as a measurement and recorded the effects of his products on the human body. Why? Did he and his associates simply want to know at what lengths the human body could be enhanced?

For the most part, his PEDs were virtually undetectable by the USADA. This allowed him to sustain convert operations for 20 years. BALCO’s was eventually shut down in 2004. Conte however was not. After serving a sentence in 2005, he established another scientific company called: Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning (SNAC).

At least this name sounds more athletic and nutritional.

If you want to know why athletes take PEDs, don’t look at the spotlight, shine some light on the darkness. BALCO was just one company known for “superhuman advancements” through biochemistry. To find more, follow who receives payment in exchange for the product. Research who funds the scientific findings of these biochemists. Most elite athletes are not biochemists, so why interrogate them with questions? Follow the money trail.

PEDs has a long history dating back to the 1930s and the World War II era. We’ll look into later. In the meantime, consider how these products come to be and you’ll find the answer is bigger than the athlete.

Train for What You Do

By Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Written July, 8, 2013

When athletes train, they train for their sport.  The movements they do from strengthening exercises to drills are performed within the context of their sport.  If a track & field athlete swims as a workout, they swim to reduce impact and improve strength/conditioning for their event.  If a football player like Herschel Walker takes ballet lessons, he does so to improve their agility, strength, flexibility, and timing on the field.  If a soccer player enters cross country, they run to improve their endurance and wind.  Fans have seen this type of cross-sport integration for decades.  I myself use gymnastics, bar calisthenics, and aquatic sports to work on my flexibility and strength.  The combination of sports and movements seems to be working pretty well for my body.

Lately, I have been thinking about athletes and employees.  Those of you reading may ask, what is the relationship?  Why the thought?  Well, take a moment to consider how the workplace is regarded.  For many, the workplace is just work.  However, from a business perspective, the workplace is a huge production.  Each employee plays a part and occupies a position that is linked to a team.  The owner/CEO expects each employee to perform at high productivity levels to maximize profits.

However, few workplaces are configured to encourage high productivity from people.  Most employees sit all day in front of a computer typing away their health.  Over time, their posture slumps and body becomes form fitted to the demands of that position.  Consequently, as their physical sustainability wanes, their productivity levels gradually fall.  Those who recognize their health is being impacted, are sometimes seen walking in the mornings or after work, in zumba classes or doing the latest workout fads.  While this move is fine, these workout attempts are not chosen within the context of their performance.  Let me explain:  If you are sitting all day, your work plan should be written to support that lifestyle.  Your workout should involve exercises to build your back, your abdominals, your glutes, your hips, and your groin to stay fit and reduce the likelihood of injury (i.e. back injuries and sciatica).  If you have to shelve papers, boxes, or books, your workout should include exercises that build your arms, shoulders, neck, quads, hamstrings, claves, and feet.  In other words, employees, like athletes, should train according to their performance.  If you do a lot of walking during or outside of work hours, you need to include strengthening exercises that support that type of movement.

Train with the mindset of an athlete.  The Insanity program, Herbalife beach runs, and Zumba classes are all great outlets.  However, to sustain fitness and a lifetime of good health, approach these programs knowing the shape of your body is also related to your performance.

 

Every Generation Needs a New Revolution

Written by:  Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date:  January 31, 2013

What do you do when the laws of the land become outdated and the rulers who enforce these laws refuse to acknowledge this change in order to preserve the old guard?  History has shown that those astute to this change have risen in protest spreading awareness to all those negatively impacted by old world fundamentalism.  The collective efforts of advocates most often results in Revolution-mass movements recognizing the need to fundamentally upgrade systems, practices, and constructs affecting societal behavior, philosophy, and government to reflect the changing world.

Why talk about revolution in a track & field blog?  Well, as Thomas Jefferson once said, “Every generation needs a new revolution,” in order to progress and fulfill ideals projected by each generation.  The 21st Century ushered in a new generation of athletes.  Thanks to the phenomenal athletic and business efforts of athletes such as Michael Jordan, A-Rod, Magic Johnson, and David Beckham, the new generation has come to understand that Athletics at the elite level is a Profession, not a hobby.  Now, when this same generation looks at track & field and views the rules governing the sport, their understanding is suddenly confounded.

Allow me to explain.

Many of the rules governing the sport still favor amateurism over professionalism.  I say “still” because the rules were written at a time when amateurism reigned as the supreme doctrine of sport.  Take a moment one day and look back through time.  Back, back, way back to the 1880s.  There, you will find a great and noble man named William Buckingham Curtis also known as THE FATHER OF AMATEURISM.  This is the guy who established an organization called the Amateur Athletic Union.  To establish this association, Curtis wrote a set of rules reflecting his views on sport, socioeconomics, and well…the ideologies of his class.  If you recall, economist Thornstein Veblan explained sports as an unproductive demonstration of status and wealth already attained through productive professions.  (See past blog).  Translation:  Sport then was (and still is in many ways) regarded as a leisure activity reserved for the upper-class.  This activity was designed to flaunt social status.  Sport, at the time the AAU was established, was not a socially acceptable means to acquire wealth.  For athletes to demand compensation for engaging in an “unproductive” or leisure activity was frowned upon and greatly discouraged.  Curtis shared these sentiments like most noblemen of his time.  The rules he wrote reflected this ideology and defined the infrastructure of many sports including track & field.  Consequentially, track & field can be said to be a sport originally designed for nobility.

Let’s now speed up time and look at the 1960s.  By the 1960s, the participants in track & field in the US had changed.  Track was made available to people of all classes, races, and sexes.  Although track grew in diversity, the rules of the game still reflected the philosophies of 19th century aristocracy.  Amateurism was a belief strongly upheld by governing bodies under the direction of leaders such as Avery Brundage.  The well-to-do Brundage fought to preserve the ideals of amateurism to…well…exclude non-noblemen (to put it extremely mildly).  The rules they upheld were not adapted to the socially changing world.  Consequently, many athletes who had not yet acquired wealth through “productive professions,” had to begin thinking about turning track into a profession in order to finance their athletic pursuits.  The time and costs it took to train, fuel, and compete would impact their pockets.  Unfortunately, emerging governing bodies that adopted AAU rules as their own would make it difficult…That plus the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.  Just look at the stories of Wilma Rudolph, Tommy Smith, John Carlos, Lee Evans and other athletes of the 1960s, 70s, 80s…

Today, the philosophies of Curtis and his 19th century associates can still be read to some degree in the rulebooks.  The definition of amateurism has changed a bit to include people of all classes but the idea of sports for leisure, sports for fun still remains.  For athletes who wish to make a career out of track & field, this philosophy impacts their livelihood.  To accommodate career level athletes, a change must be made.  Rules must be added to support the purity of professionalism.  As history shows, this change will not come easy.  As long as governance values amateurism over professionalism, many competitors will struggle to start, keep, and build a career in track…and if the athlete struggles, the sport struggles.

So, perhaps the track & field world should follow the advice of President Jefferson.  A little revolution is good every now and then.  Amateurism is fine and has its place, but so does professionalism.  In order to progress and grow as a sport, rules must be updated and reassessed to determine how they impact the athlete especially if there’s athletes who wish to have a real career as a professional.   Given recent events with pro-runners fighting to gain visibility, marketing opportunities, contracts, etc, the governing bodies can no longer take an, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” approach to managing the sport.   It’s time for an upgrade.

Many Questions – No Answers

What is the reasoning behind:

…someone who is unwilling to run against others in front of a crowd but is receptive to the idea of running at a gym showing off on a treadmill as they workout with others in front of a crowd?

…someone who wakes up religiously to run with relentless dedication and vigor in the dark of morn at 6:00AM but refuses the idea of training?

…someone who runs in competitive marathons year after year but rejects the idea of competing?

…some young/old track star who quits track and looks back at the sport eyes of longing?

…that same track star who becomes defensive or fearful when asked to return to the sport?

…people who do not like running or feel you must like running to run?

…RUNNING for charity rather than simply giving from their pocket?

…people who regard all professional athletes alike when it comes to income when K0be Bryant’s net worth is 6 times greater than Usain Bolts and Bolt is track’s highest paid athlete?  (Kobe- $200M, Usain- $30M…most T&F prof- athletes $50K to $1M)

…the vision of 1950s track & field rule makers when they drafted the rules that set up the infrastructure of track governing bodies and track & field today?

…applying rules clearly intended for team sports such football, basketball, and baseball to track & field when track is an individualized sport?

…track policy makers today as they continue to uphold those 1950s ideals and apply them to a 21st century audience?

…Nike, Adidas, New Balance, and other athletic gear manufacturers when companies opt to use everyday models to market their running shoes & gear instead of track & field athletes?

So many questions…are there any answers?

What is a Runner? Who is a Runner?

Written by:  Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date:  January 7, 2013

What is a Runner?
The answer may appear obvious, but if you take into account target markets, products, literature, media, sociology, economics, and other non-athletic factors that define what a runner is, you’d be surprised at the complexities of such a question.

I know I was.

I consider myself a runner.  I’ve been involved in organized Track & Field for over 19 years.  I’ve competed all over the US among the best.  I have a cabinet full of trophies, medals, and plaques.  I can read a runner’s style and determine what areas of their body are weakest and how they can improve.  I coach track. I train people who run.  I am currently running on a team and plan to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games.  Yet, I am not considered a “Runner” according to business and socio-economics.

Apparently, the title “Runner” has been attributed to those individuals who run 5K or more.  Runners run long distances.  Runners do not have to be athletic, they just have to be willing to run for long periods of time.  Runners participate in competitive events like 5Ks or the Rock ‘N Roll Marathon, but never intend to win or compete.

Runners run for leisure and uphold the philosophies set back in 1896 by their Yale elitist forefathers who propagated sports are a leisurely and charitable activity.  Those who have leisure time are part of a unique prestigious group of upperclassmen.

Business loves to cater to this group.  If you go into a sporting goods store, most of the shoes are cushioned at the heel for long distance running rather than mid or short.  If you go into Barnes & Noble, most of the books featuring running are written for non-competitive long distance runners.  If you Google running, you’ll run into articles targeting the needs of long distance runners.  Leisure runners make up well over 90% of running.  Of the runners who compete in the LA Marathon only maybe 20 men and women combined actually compete for the gold.  The remaining 1,000,000+ run just to run.  As the powers that be say, the majority wins.  The majority defines who is and who is not a runner.

So what am I according to the Majority?  I am a track & field athlete that runs.

Sigh…

(No matter how much I study the leisure runner, I may never understand him/her.  The impact of the leisure runner is powerful and affects the composition of track & field.  Yet he/she does not understand his/her relationship to the sport or why he/she runs long distances under an ancient Ivy League philosophy.  My objective is to build spectatorship, increase athlete retention, and boost the marketability of track & field.  To meet these objectives, I need Runners- track & field or otherwise- to help build the sport.  The task ahead is great).  

We Need A Resolution

Written by:  Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date:  January 3, 2013

At the beginning of each year, people around the world set what’s become known as New Year’s Resolutions.  Resolutions are about resolving some unmet desire/need to improve one’s life or as Joel Osteen writes, “Becoming a better you!”  Track & field believe it or not fits this progressive concept.

Becoming a better you.  Has a nice ring to it doesn’t it?  When spectators and novices first view the sport, they see competitors competing against each other and assume the sport is about comparisons.  Beating others.  Conquering man! To some extent the sport does reflect these perceptions.  However, for the most part, track & field is about self-improvement.  Usain Bolt is presently ranked as the world’s fastest, yet he continues to run.  If the sport was just about beating others, his mission would be fulfilled, and he would no longer feel the need to run.  So why does he continue?  Aside from contractual agreements with Puma, he runs to better himself.  Realize his best!  Track then behaves as a chisel sculpting his life (his person) day by day to fulfill his vision of “becoming a better you.”  Track is a lifestyle not an event or activity.  With track, Usain Bolt, Alyson Felix, Nick Symmonds, Dawn Harper, and countless athletes worldwide exercise their mind, body, and spirit to PR on the track and in life.

So runners, let’s start the year off on a new foot by rethinking track.  As Aaliyah once said, “We Need A Resolution!”

For this 2013 and beyond, may our resolution be to “Become a Better You” through track & field.

Road Running with Dave the “It” Man

By Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Written:  December 13, 2012

Trotting down the blackened roads of some unassuming metropolis is a mysterious fellow sporting super skimpy neon 80s looking distance shorts, a thin partially transparent worn out singlet, the latest Nike kicks valued at $150, and yellow and black Livestrong wrist and head bands.  Each weekday morning, this runner (we’ll call him Dave) wakes up religiously at 5:30AM, brushes his teeth, puts on his running gear, and jogs out of his front door into the chilled dark frosty morn with all the seriousness of a great Olympic competitor.

For 18 years, Dave and his knobby knees runs 10 miles before work sometimes with a group, but most times by himself.  At the end of each fiscal quarter, Dave runs in a major marathon.  He never wins nor does he expect to win.  His best time is 4hrs, 30mins.  Once a month, Dave drives an hour or two from his home to run a 5K, 10K, or half marathon.  Like the marathon, he has never won any of these races nor does he ever come close.  Dave’s best finish in the 5K is 350 of 600.  In the 10K he has finished 578 of 1000…and in the half marathon, he’s finished 3456 of 8000.  Dave does not care much for rankings.  He just watches his time and is happy to finish.  When asked if he competes, Dave emphatically and quite snootily responds, “No!  I do not compete!  I only run for charity.”  Then he turns his head and raises his stopped up nasally pointy nose in the air as if to say, “Run to race?  How absurd!  What do I look like some low class citizen?”  Then when told that the marathons he runs in are technically competitions along with the 5K, 10K, and half-marathon, he replies with a sneer.  “Humph!”  When asked if he’d ever consider running a shorter race, he rolls his eyes.  “Where’s the challenge in that?”

Dave is a strange fellow…one that I shall never quite understand.  There are millions of Dave’s out there in the world…perhaps not as snooty, but their attitude towards competitive running reflects Dave’s rationale.  The Dave’s enter competitive events not to compete, just to participate on behalf of a charity.  More notably, the Dave’s believe their cause is more noble and humble than a competitors.

I have run into the Dave’s on many occasions.  No doubt in my quest to find runners for events, I will continue to meet more…in which case, I will probably greet them with a friendly salutation, “Top of the morning to you Dave!” as I run past them with effortless ease.

To Dave:  Competition is good for the soul.  Nothing wrong with giving to charity.  No one pursuit is better than the other.

Profiting off the Olympics

Today’s blog feature a video of a news report found on YouTube.
Title: Who Profits from the Olympics

As you view this video, consider this. Many of the rules upheld by track & field governing bodies promote amateurism and discourage the exploitation of the athlete by private enterprise. Yet, major events like the Olympic Games have proven to be BIG business for the governing bodies, corporate sponsors, and local businesses and NOT the AP runner due to their amateur status. Question: Are the athletes still being exploited? Write your comments below.

AP Class of Runners

Written By:  Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date:  September 22, 2012

The Amateur Professional – In athletics, APs are individuals who are just one cent a way from being recognized as a professional.  These athletes train with great intensity much like a professional athlete and pursue similar goals, championships.  They’ll run ladders, quarter-mile pace-work, 20x200m, cross country, hill repeats, and weight train to build their bodies to compete amongst the best.  Many APs train with the prospect of upgrading their careers to professional status and compete to gain visibility in the sight of sponsors or college scouts.  Meanwhile, others train simply for the gold and what it represents.  Those who run under the philosophy of amateurism obviously have no intent to become professional athletes.  Yet, like their other half, they treat athletics like a career.

Here’s where things get interesting.  In track & field, amateurism is actually praised over professionalism.

Some of you reading may object and I would absolutely love to read your comments.  However, if you look at the history of the sport and the rules enforced by USATF, IAAF, CIF, NCAA, AAU, IOC, NAIA, NFHS, and other abbreviated governing bodies controlling the sport, it’s easy to understand why amateurism overshadows professionalism.  These rules favor amateurism and were mainly written by pro-amateurists like Avery Brundage back in the BCE of modern sports (that’s before the common era).  See link to view Brundage areas of influence.  These author’s personal biases and ideals are preserved by these rules.  The impact: 1) limitations on the AP’s ability to gain entry into the professional world and advance their economic status even after entry.  2) companies are limited in their ability to use runners for marketing purposes.

Why did the authors support amateurism over professionalism?  There are a number of theories we can examine including race, but for now we will stick to our subjects:   early elitist attitudes towards  sports as an activity of leisure rather than a career path resulting in economic gain.  These attitudes have survived the test of time and are now influencing the creation of new rules like Rule 40 of the USOC.  If you haven’t heard, Rule 40 is currently being contested by athletes for its impact on the athletes ability to be marketed before, during, and after the Olympic Games.  See website.

Below is a video discussing the Amateur Professional.   The principles explored in the video will be examined and applied to the AP runner in our upcoming blogs.  Take a look.  Fascinating information.