Editorial 2

The Update

Press here to return to the index

They didn't take me up on my offer, but I've now spoken with several of the principals involved with organizing the U.S.A.T.F. Nationals. After several conversations I now understand we have a complete difference in philosophy in the organization of our sport. One fact of life is clear and agreed upon--the current state of our sport is a failure.

One philosophy feels that Track and Field needs to pay its own way. We have the same fanatical group of participants who should be thrilled that someone has made the effort to put on a meet for them. For the privilege of participating in that meet, those few participants should pay heavily. They point to sports like Softball, where individuals pay over $100 each to join a team and there are lines forming behind them for the opportunity to participate. Over and above this, they expect to "infuse" more money by selling ancillary items, most notably T-shirts, other souvenirs, banquets, tours etc. The participants should behave like other sports and eagerly pay for these items just to show thanks for the efforts of the hard working organizers. And since these organizers are doing so much work for so little money, the organizers should expect to set the terms of their participation. They can't understand why participants can't plan their participation far in advance. There aren't many meets so if the meet is important to you, you obviously know if you will be at the meet.

Obviously that is a consolidation of the opposing viewpoint. I've actually had several similar conversations of that tone. If I've misstated any of that position, I welcome any corrections (I've given my page address to all the individuals I've spoken to).

This type of position absolutely blows my mind. It is completely contrary to everything I've ever done in my 27 years around Track and Field. I look at the sport as a charity, and a desperate one at that. I've donated countless thousands of hours to organizing and officiating. I don't say that to pat myself on the back, I know many other officials who work much harder than I do--those are the guys who are officiating while I take my time out to participate. I treat the rare participants like gold--I do everything I can to encourage people to participate (including operating this web page out of my own pocket on my own time). I've never made any money from the sport except for the money I've made working on television crews, which is what I do professionally and I do it at a reduced rate because I know they need the help. Perhaps I am overly sensitive because my main event (400IH) has so few participants that I have to go to Nationals in order to have a race with more than two competitors. Certainly I feel we should never do anything to possibly discourage a participant from coming out. We all need to get the word out that participation is open to anyone (healthy enough to participate--a legal issue here) 30 years or older. Period. Fees should be reasonable for the rare opportunities to have a meet--just enough to pay for the expenses of the meet. And most important, artificial excuses to discourage participation, specifically complicated, restrictive or confusing registration requirements should be eliminated.

I've spoken to so many people who agree the logistics of organizing a meet like this (with day of event entry) should be no problem that this shouldn't even be an issue (see previous editorial at http://www.trackinfo.org/editorial.html). I suspect they will make it an issue.

So which philosophy should rule our sport? The first one described is apparently prevalent in the current power structure.

The San Jose Sports Commission is a "Non-Profit" organization paid by the City of San Jose to bring amateur sports to San Jose. While I visited their high rent office in the city's financial center (O.K., I made it a point to register at the last possible second), I saw their activity board listed no less than ten current events they are organizing. Perhaps this is why their (apparently) paid staff needs so much time to organize our meet. Their previous recent experience was the Youth Championships, where they had a similar early registration policy and were deluged (they expect the same from us Masters). They claimed they were swamped then, with the wrong kids being registered, ineligible participants in the wrong age groups and entered in wrong events. I ask if this is a result of the participants confusion, the confusion caused by having to guess at registration a month before the event or THE ORGANIZER's confusion of those entries.

An interesting side note I learned about that successful event was that it supposedly profited over $20,000. The $20,000 figure was significant because that was the amount the San Jose Sports Commission took to donate to charity. The remaining few hundred dollars went to the local club who provided the volunteers (other than the officials who always volunteer their time) and did the hard legwork to make the event happen. What charity did the $20,000 go to--the San Jose Hotel Owners Association (the same impoverished organization whose members had just rented hotel rooms to the over a thousand participants, parents, chaperones and coaches of the meet). I think this makes the financial picture of this event quite clear. It is probably a blueprint for the financial situation of our Master's National Championships. That's your's and my money they're playing with. I have asked for a copy of their operating budget of this meet when it becomes available--I'll post it here, obviously with my comments.

The final issue I've heard repeatedly through this process from all sides of the issues is: there is no written contract between U.S.A.T.F. Master's Committee and the group that has had their bid to host the Championship Meet accepted. The organizers smugly say they can do anything they want; the U.S.A.T.F. Master's Committee who politically should be our vehicle to control this has no legal means to exert any control. This year's meet is a lost cause, but we must prevent this from ever happening in the future. So our first issue must be to establish and legislatively require such a contract to be used for all future meets. Within that contract we should establish some specific terms, first requiring an allowance for day of event entries (O.K., I want to go for the load). Secondly, regarding the budget of the event, it should specify how the money is to be used, limit the fees to be charged to cover the actual reasonable costs of the event. Obviously nobody will want to operate too close to the edge, so a reasonable pad should be included in the budget. If there is an incidental profit from the meet's operation, that should be given to the club organizing the meet with the caveat that the money be used to promote the sport of Track and Field.

While our sport isn't the most important thing in the world, apparently we are big enough to provide opportunities for abuse. After many years of being a loose and friendly group of well meaning athletes, we are now just a source of revenue and we need to protect ourselves. Please join my voice at the U.S.A.T.F. Masters Committee (political) meeting which I expect to be held sometime during the National Championships in San Jose (I don't know when, the schedule has not been announced). Feel free to write to me at: info@trackinfo.org