As the high school track & field season is winding down in Texas, I’ve thought of a few ideas that might make it more interesting, more watchable, and more popular.
- Shorten the length of meets. This is a killer for a lot of people. Imagine you’re the parent. If you have no preference either way, would you want to spend all day at a meet waiting for a few moments of your child’s competition? Or would you prefer they chose to be at a 2-hour baseball/softball game or maybe a 90-minute soccer game? Why do meet have to be so long? What is the point of having a 20-team meet on a Thursday or Friday night so that kids (and parents) are up so late? The Houston area coaches have a great system with JV meets usually on Thursday and varsity meets on Friday or Saturday. There are no endless heats of JV and varsity races in one long, long meet.
- Don’t host every event every week. Another way to shorten meets is to simply don’t host every event. Why not race the 100 one week and the 200 the next week? Why not split the 1600 and the 3200? How about one short relay and one longer relay? What’s wrong with alternating long jump and triple jump or shot put and discus?
- Stop athletes from doubling each week. That brings me to another thing that would greatly improve the sport. How about if coaches stop throwing kids in multiple events each week. It drives me crazy to see athletes doubling in the distance races each week. I understand when the championships meets come around, but having kids double each week is nuts. World class athletes don’t do it. College athletes don’t do it. The best high school athletes don’t do it. So if it’s unwise for these older, mature, and highly trained athletes, why do so many high school coaches at every level think that it’s okay for high school kids to do it every week? If you want to run kids off, kill the fun of the sport.
- Use field event performance boards. Keep people interested at field events. How hard can it be to have even the simplest of performance board at a field event letting people know a distance or height? Even a white board written in dry erase marker is better than nothing. I’ve been to lots of meet where the official measuring distances doesn’t even announce what they just measured.
- Show field event standings. I remember watching east Texas pole vault Carl Erikson over 20 years ago as he kept up with every miss and make of pole vault competitions. Sitting with Carl allowed me to know where every competitor stood at every moment. Almost no one has any idea who is in what position as competitions progress. How about a large whiteboard at a field event venue that at least shows the position of the top 6 or 8 along with their marks. One student can update the standings after each jump/throw, if necessary.
- Have athletes keep up with field events progressions. I remember watching east Texas pole vault Carl Erikson over 20 years ago as he kept up with every miss and make of pole vault competitions. Sitting with Carl allowed me to know where every competitor stood at every moment and it allowed me to see the real drama of competition unfold just as clearly as if I was watching a 1600 race. I started having athletes keep up with every field event competition as it went along at our meets. For instance, a distance runner might be watching the long jump competition and recording the distances of each competitor. As I was the only coach on the staff, it was a huge help as I moved from event to event and could immediately know how my athletes stood. Even more useful was that the athletes who were keeping up with the event became deeply involved in the competition. They were able to see the drama that occurred in each round, with each jump, as athletes moved up or down in standing. Quickly more of my athletes wanted to keep up with field events to the point that I had more volunteers than needed and I began to use them in teams of 2 or 3 at each venue to satisfy everyone’s deserve to “work” at a field event. (This was at small 2A school with a building program, not a large 5A team with lots of athletes.) Soon we had a host of teammates at each venue cheering for our team’s competitors. I was also able to train them in what to look for (such as long jumpers being over or short of the board) and let the athlete know how much to adjust their approach.
These are just a few ideas that I think would make the sport a little better for all. Please let me know your ideas through your comments.