Athletics can bring out lifelong dreams, national pride, and strong emotions. The Beijing Olympics has been very successful for many people on the USA Track and Field team, including my former teammates Stephanie Brown Trafton and Kerron Clement. Stephanie won the discus, and Kerron got the silver in the 400 meter hurdles. Congrats!
However, athletics can also bring heart aches, dreams that come crashing down, and many tears. There were many athletes that were supposed to do win, but didn’t. In many ways, USA Track and Field really had a hard time in Beijing. The shot put got a silver medal from Christian Cantwell, but they were supposed to sweep the event, and then there is the case of Jeremy Wariner and Sanya Richards– both were heavy favorites in the 400 meters, but the got the silver and bronze medal in their finals. And then there is the case of the 4×100 meter teams for the USA– where both the men and women dropped the baton, and did not make the finals. The new CEO for USATF, Doug Logan, mentioned in an article that having both teams drop the paton will make people think of the athlete’s performances as “disasters.” I think that the athletes involved feel not so good about their performances already, and I think that it might have been better to strategically position USATF in recognizing that yes, there is some work that needs to be done, but to have a positive but realistic message to go along with it.
What does this mean for the USA? Well, it means that they have some work that they have to do. It was announced by USATF that they are going to “review” all of their programs after the Olympics. Okay, but what does this exactly mean? Does this mean looking at the athletes specifically that are associated with USATF, or do we look at the coaches and senior management? What USATF needs to consider is the entire package, you can’t blame everything on the athletes– that’s the easy way out.
If USATF does an in-depth review, they really need to develop a strategic long term plan that focuses on getting track and field more active in US athletics, and to put a lot of resources behind repairing their reputation and rebranding track and field in the public’s eyes. What has really impacted track in the US is the number of PR Nightmares that have happened in the sport– especially when it involves high profile athletes who were considered to be the “face” of track (ex. Marion Jones and Justin Gatlin) admitting to taking performance enhancing drugs.
The thing is about this situation is the fact that USA Track and Field can only go up from here. But it is going to take some time and hard work on both USATF’s part and the athletes to work together for the common goal.
Hope you all are having a great day!