Saving the Sport of Track & Field — Part 1: Buy Running Shoes
These days there is a lot of talk about how to save the sport of track & field.
I am all for an influx of new and novel ideas to improve an already fantastic product.
There have been bold efforts recently to get track on network TV, to create more compelling team competitions, and to repackage historic meets into the shorter timeframes.
However, while those all may work and be possible short-term solutions, I don't think any are the ultimate cure. The answer is more complicated than simply increasing exposure on TV, capturing the attention of a wider (but fickle) audience, or changing up what a track meet is about all together.
Instead, I think small actions by a passionate, core constituency could go along way. It is an audience of diehards which track and field already has, and I often wonder why decision makers don't double down on efforts to further engage the informed parties who already care deeply about, and support, the sport.
This is part one of a multi-part series where I'll offer thoughts regarding ingredients, which mixed concurrently, could help the sport of track & field thrive in coming decades. I don't pretend to have all (or any) of the answers, simply my aim is to put actionable items on offer for consideration and follow through.
One of the first steps towards saving the sport is the purchasing of more running shoes.
In our capitalistic society, the public votes with their wallet. And running shoes are the currency of the track & field industry.
If more running shoes are bought, at full price, from your local running store, a number of positive outcomes results.
First, you're investing dollars into the local economy and retailer which directly supports, at the grassroots level, the sport of running. Nowadays, only local running stores sell track spikes, mostly to high school kids, and by helping keep the local running store's doors open you allow more high school age athletes access to proper instrument for scholastic competition. A kid's first pair of track spikes is a right of passage. And if you're like me, once the kids buys a pair, they're hooked on the sport forever.
Second, if more running shoes are purchased at full price, the annual revenue of running brand increases, which increases their marketing budget. Robust sales means more budget dollars to spend. Running brands, wanting to stay authentic and make an impact, will sponsor more athletes and races, which means more athletes will be able to live, train, and compete as true professionals as contract allowances and prize money at races go up.
Additionally, the increase in density of professionally sponsored athletes will elevate the competitiveness of American track & field as a whole, which in turn will elevate global competitiveness, resulting in more national and world records set and more exciting performances at premiere and championship meets.
If the sport gets more exciting through more compelling performances, more people will want to watch it, and it will appear on TV more often.
Also, more professional athletes means more professional coaches, who will be able to lend their intelligence and knowledge full time to improved training methods, which will result in safer and more refined preparation techniques that will trickle down to scholastic and youth coaches who will then employ such with younger athletes. This will make for better youth marks, and more importantly, safer training practices all around.
Finally, the purchasing of more running shoes means better running shoes made. Designers and technology will advance to make better equipment for the sport since there is a high demand for the various types of running shoes (trainers, flats, spikes, etc.) by the consumer.
So, if you care about saving the sport of track & field, your choice is easy —
Buy running shoes, from your local running store, at full price.
And if you're really passionate about the sport then buy a pair not only for yourself, but one for your mother, father, romantic interest, and friend.
Who knew saving the sport of track & field could be as simple - and fun - as buying new shoes?
Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. // jm