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Olympic Track and Field Survey Results

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The other day I sent out a survey about USA Track
and Field’s disappointing Olympic showing and I
want to share the results.

I asked two questions, but gave you the option to
‘write in’ a vote for something I missed. In looking
at those numbers, most of the people who ‘wrote in’
their vote chose a combination of the choices.

I’m posting some of the more interesting written
responses as well.

As always, I’d like to hear your response to the

Question 1: What is the biggest reason for Team USA’s
failure at the Olympic Games?

All of the above (below)                                   27%

Talented athletes choose other sports
before being introduced to track and
field                                                                       27%

Uneducated youth coaches don’t give a
foundation that leads to future success           16%

The athletes just choked, plain and
simple                                                                   15%

Not enough support from the ‘Governing
Body’ at USATF                                                    8%

Poor planning by Collegiate and
Professional coaches                                             6%

Not enough talent in the US                                1%

Here are some of your ‘write in’ responses:

“It is both the inadequate coaching AND TRAINING
of athletes at that level, some bit of simple
“choking”, but also, the “attitude” that doesn’t
match performance…”

“I don’t know a enough about US track and field
activities to juge any of the above reasons are
correct. But is seems that the Jamacians are abel
to use the curren knowlege on biomechanics,
especially for the sprint event. The rest of the
world are way behind. Maybe they train on running
over burning coal ;-)”

“I believe our standards have fallen off, as it
is not enough to simply be our nation’s best.
Winning the USATF Nationals or Olympic Trials
with a weak performance should not be viewed as
some amazing achievement. For years I’ve seen the
sport lower expectation and quality in exchange
for participation increase. (thank you Title IX).
Today, a girl jumping 5’6 can earn a full
scholarship to some small to medium college. I
can recall the days when I’d see several girls
jumping 5’10” in a state meet, with potential for
6’0+ jumps coming regularly. Today, in my state
of CA, you could win it all if you are clean
through 5’8″! This type of expectation will
develop great participants, as we have seen in
several event areas in our Olympic teams. I
believe we can’t afford to not raise our
standards, as we are achieving an objective we
can’t afford.”

“I think you are coming on a little strong with
the term “failure.” Sweep the men’s 400; sweep
the men’s 400H, silver and bronze in men’s 200
(3 runners in final), silver and bronze in 110H.
This is hardly “failure.” And this without a
healthy Tyson Gay (who would have made Bolt run
the whole 100 — but still place 2nd). Don’t let
Bolt’s incredible performance overshadow one of
the bigger disappointments of the Olympics: Asafa
Powell. Walter Dix has no business beating him,
but he did — hardly a US “failure.” I think you
are creating a straw man and then beating him up.
So Jeremy Wariner was a disapointment, but not
LaShawn Merritt. Don’t be so negative.”

“All the above probaly, but today’s Youth are
lazy and hate hard work. All Track & Field
specialties are quite demanding.”

“I think that the athletes came in thinking that
they couldn’t be beat and were overconfident. I
think that the coaches should have dealt with
that issue. The relay teams need to practice
together more than a couple of times. There is
no excuse for athletes at that level to drop the
baton in the eay that they did. If the athletes
shared the lane, then running up on an out going
runner would not be the problem. Those are just
fundamentals. Spearmon should have an awareness
of where he is in his lane, that was a poor
excuse of a performance and unacceptable at that
“All of the above except #2, PLUS, if you widen
your view to include middle distance and long
distance, the story is even uglier. Our system of
over racing youth in HS and college for distances
is atrocious. Why was 16 year old Jordan Hasay
running in the US Olympic trials 1500m, a week
before heading to Poland for the World Junior’s ?
No wonder our team truly sucks from 800m & up.”

What do you think about what you think? Post your
reply below.

Question 2: What is the biggest reason Track and
Field is a commercial failure as a sport?

All of the above                                                   41%

Bad marketing and promoting by the
sport’s ‘leadership’                                              25%

Most athletes don’t get introduced to
track until middle or high school, long
after they’ve fallen in love with other
sports                                                                   14%

Doesn’t keep the average fan’s interest
without teams, scoring or a points race
(ala Nascar)                                                         11%

Bad overall leadership at the top                       7%

Too many different events that people
don’t want to watch (ex: sprinters don’t
want to watch distance)                                       2%

Again, here are some of your ‘write in’ responses
to the survey:

“The USA has domestic interests in revenue
generating sports like NBA, NFL, PGA (if one can
think of golf as a sport!). In Euroupe athletics
draw more interest because they do not have major
professional sports outside of maybe soccer and
basketball(on the low end). We know that the
revenue generated from media outlets that market
pro sports in america perpetuates the notion that
lack of popularity means lack of interest! So,
how can track and field survive in such a
convoluted arena as pro sports, when Kobe is on
the front page and Tyson struggles to get press
over the Marion mess!”

“All of that along with the media’s complete
misunderstanding of the sport…they focus too
much on the human interest stories, instead of
the events themselves….true track fans want to
see the competition, not just the best

“Like you said in your blog, people don’t get it.
I hear all the time, why would I want to run
around in circles, what’s the fun in that. Let
alone watch it. Track is only good during the
olympics. Everyone doesn’t love track like track
fans, therefore it’s not that big of a deal. It’s
not america’s favorite pastime. People don’t like
to jog or run to lose weight, let alone compete
in it. I honestly, as a runner, former coach, and
avid fan can say that track is something that is
marketed to the youth. In order for them to get
into college, develop dreams to be an olympian,
and then realize only a small percentage of
runners have the talent to make it

“The only time people get really excited is every
4 years when it become a “team sport” again. I
worry, however, that track athletes are just too
maverick to buy into the team idea on a regular
basis. The Golden League doesn’t help by making
it an “every man for himself” sport.”

“I coach track and most kids only know the top
sprinter that’s it, They also don’t want to train
and track is used to prepare them for a team sport.
The Kids also dont like the USATF youth format.
Example I have a 14 year old that turns 15
December 28, so he has to run against 15-16 year
olds, so he doesnt want to run anymore. FYI we
have a lot of kids in this situation so the rather
play basketball.”

A great number of interesting points have been
brought up. And I don’t disagree with any of them,
including the ones that disagree with me.

I think in the end, if track is going to gain a
larger share of the market, it comes down to two

1. The governing body has to come up with a plan
(any plan at this point) to bring more awareness
to the sport. Even track fans have to search for
information. USATF has to find a way to make track
appeal to the average fan using a format they
understand. People don’t like change. So track will
never succeed unless it is structured in a team
format or a points race like Nascar.

2. Coaching Education. To an extent this is preaching
to the choir, but we could all be more educated.
Most coaches at the youth and HS levels really
don’t know what they are doing. Not only is it sad,
but it is embarassing. People either need to get
certified through USATF or invest in resources that
promote good training practices.

If we don’t establish a strong foundation at the
developmental levels, athletes can’t maximize their
potential at the elite levels.

Just like we can trace a bad attempt in the long
jump back to a problem in the approach, we can
usually trace poor performances at the elite levels
back to substandard training at the developmental

What do you think?

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