There seems to be no shortage of thoughts for improving the sport of Elite Track and Field (ET&F). For example, a very good article in Outside Online ( link ) offers timely ideas for its growth, based upon observations of the recent USATF Championships in Sacramento. The concepts that I present on this site are intended to show due respect for the positive efforts going on in the sport’s management, while still arguing for fairly fundamental structural changes. I see many constructive comments in Adam Elder’s article, even if its title (“How Track and Field Can Save Itself”) implies that it is circling the drain. To me, ET&F is what it is: a relatively small collection of disconnected events and efforts that under-perform in their efforts to create a lucrative professional enterprise. It can go on like this for a long time, simply with incremental improvement from time to time. It is not really near-death, or in need of “saving”. Like any challenging transformation, however, it will require invested stakeholders to try something truly different, when and if they decide that they want to enact change.
I understand and like many of the ideas raised by by Mr. Elder. He correctly mentions an inhospitable environment, and a visually unappealing venue. As a viewer and competitor at Hornet Stadium on many occasions, I cannot agree more. This is not Centre Court at Wimbledon! Other ideas speak about a misguided focus of broadcast TV, and a level of athlete media relations skills that may not be good enough. I agree with all of this.
The current views expressed on this site ( link to white papers ) cover many of these points. Respectfully, I would stress that Mr. Elder’s recommendations cannot precede the more significant structural changes that have been discussed here. Timing is important. Not until a single, structured ET&F Tour is put in place, with many more annual offerings of full-format/full-field meetings, and dedicated semi-annual major meetings that the sport itself controls, will worrying about the details of TV coverage (as an example) be particularly valuable. As always, there is nothing wrong with incremental improvement. All ideas for this are welcome, and the best ones deserve immediate consideration. My opinion, however, is that applying only small perturbations will not drive ET&F to the much higher level of (business) performance demonstrated by other professional sports. I do hope that nearly everyone can agree that this is the real goal. In any event, keep thinking, reading, and writing! And, check out Adam’s article.