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  • National Governing Body - Track and Field

    Opinion:

    USATF is not structured to be an effective national governing body for track and field in the United States and should be replaced by a different organization.

    The primary purpose of an NGB is to administrate all aspects of a sport with the supposed outcome being success at the international level. From a practical position, this means administrate from the top down. Conducting national championship events, selecting national teams, supporting national teams, overseeing the rules of play, and representing the sport to the international governing body are the primary duties that fall under the governance of an NGB. In order for these tasks to be accomplished there needs to be people assigned to seeing that these duties are executed. These individuals need to be accountable for seeing that their responsibilities are met. This means individuals need to be accountable to other individuals. Someone has to be in charge. I feel this is what makes USATF unsuitable to be the national governing body of track and field in the United States.

    We cannot continue to administrate our sport by committee. If everyone is in charge then no one is in charge. Administration must be conducted by individuals, individuals who can be held accountable for their actions. We can govern our sport by committee. I am not suggesting that we should appoint a "king for life" to rule over the sport. The individual in whom we place the most responsibility should be directly accountable to some form of council or committee and that council should be elected by and from a qualified electorate of members. But there is a very distinct difference between administrating and governing. Administrating is making sure things are getting done. Governing is making sure that individuals are doing them.

    My opinion does not stem from any animosity I have toward the individuals who have volunteered their time and energy with USATF. As a grassroots organization USATF has done a good job of promoting the sport "from the cradle to the grave" and our participation numbers have never been better. I envision a very important role for USATF in the future of track and field in America. Much like the AAU has continued to serve our sport through their youth athletics programs, I believe USATF should continue to sponsor youth, masters, and club programs across the country and to provide support to these programs through their membership dues.

    We need an organization to take over the role of the NGB for track and field that is structured so as to have one person at the top of the flow chart. This person should answer directly to a governing council for all aspects of the NGBs performance. Conversely, all other positions on the flow chart should answer to the individual in the top position. I feel that until this level of accountability and control can be achieved for our national governing body, we will see our national teams with fewer and fewer medals.

    Michael Bartolina

  • #2
    Michael, as husband and coach of one of our current Olympians, your words have weight and value, far exceeding most of ours here. My question is why do you think that USATF cannot be the things you say we need? Cannot Logan become this 'governor' you seek? Can they not reorganize themselves in a structure with accountability? I'm asking because I don't know, but I fear that any new organization, no matter how well 'invented', could fall into the same old political entity.

    There's an election for USATF President being discussed on another thread. I take it that you've read that and feel that it's for an impotent and irrelevant position? I'd like to hear some specific proposals from you that you think could bring tangible results. You are in a much better position to identify the weaknesses of the current structure and propose a 'radical' new vision. Plus, you don't seem shy, so that's a plus!!

    Comment


    • #3
      Barto raises a good point but any successor to USATF would have the same problem unless the USOC changes significantly as well.

      Last time I looked, the USOC had a staff of about 300 people in Colorado Springs and an Olympiad budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It does not operate a single sports program, having discontinued the US Olympic festival in the early 1990's.

      Meanwhile, USATF as one of the largest NGB's has a staff of about 35 employess, an annual budget of about 15 million (+/- depending on the year in an Olympiad) and operates numerous sports programs - having to rely on volunteers to do so. I bet is you add up the staff and budgets of all the NGB's, it is far less than the USOC.

      Does the above make sense as a business model? I think not. It makes much more sense for a business to put more resources in its operating units which serve the customers than in its headquarters.

      Too often, Colorado Springs reminds me of Washington, D.C. Even when they mean well, they are too top-heavy and get offer little of value to the athlete. They collect a lot of money, dole out meager amounts to the sports and boss the sports around. I'd rather they cut the USOC staff significantly, give the savings to the sports, and let the sports beef up their staffs. That would be athlete-friendly.

      Comment


      • #4
        I think that I disagree with the notion that everything comes from the top (i.e., OG medals). With this emphasis there is no Master's T&FHS and youth programs should focus on only the top 1-2% of T&F athletes.

        I think that this is wrong. If you look at track and field and soccer, they are probably responsible for the health of our youth being better than it would otherwise be. When I go to my daughter's school, what I see is a range of kids and the soccer/T&F subset look much healthier than the rest. They also out-perform the other subset in school and related areas, although probably not in computer games.

        The value of this contribution to the nations welfare is much greater than medals from a small subset of Olympians (who in turn, are an extremely small subset of serious athletes).

        And there would be no Walks group (too unlikely to medal), etc.

        Now, I am probably mis-interpreting what you are saying, so threat this as a comment about the topic and NOT a critique of what you have taken the time to voice here.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: National Governing Body - Track and Field

          Originally posted by Barto
          If everyone is in charge then no one is in charge.
          USATF has no choice. It's a democracy (kind of like the United States used to be.) But your arguments are thought-provoking and sincere.

          I just wish taxation without representation (membership fees not dictating clout within USATF) were a bigger issue. Masters pay a lot, get little in return.

          K E N
          K E N

          Comment


          • #6
            The points raised by the responses so far reinforce my point. USATF is not structured to succeed at administrating the highest level of the sport. That is why is should be replaced. I am not criticizing the efforts of the national staff or any other employees or volunteers within USATF. I would probably look to those individuals first to fill positions within any newly formed organization. They have the skills and the experience to accomplish most of what needs to be done. It is my opinion that in order for our teams to succeed in international competitions there needs to be a vertical flow chart of authority and responsibility within the organization. This will never happen within USATF; however, it could happen with another organization.

            Comment


            • #7
              [quote="26mi235"]
              And there would be no Walks group (too unlikely to medal), etc.[quote]

              Poor choice here. We showed that a minimal investment w/ a very small group of athletes (6) can produce medals in the US. Clausen's 99 bronze was a result of this. USATF refused to further fund this effort or create other opportunities to fill his place. It can be done in this country & has been.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by MJR
                Originally posted by 26mi235
                And there would be no Walks group (too unlikely to medal), etc.

                Poor choice here. We showed that a minimal investment w/ a very small group of athletes (6) can produce medals in the US. Clausen's 99 bronze was a result of this. USATF refused to further fund this effort or create other opportunities to fill his place. It can be done in this country & has been.
                Thank you for hitting that softball MJR. That is exactly what I meant; these other events can produce but not on the level of the sprint core which would get the lion's share of the focus.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Marlow
                  Michael, as husband and coach of one of our current Olympians, your words have weight and value, far exceeding most of ours here.
                  Mike and Erica have also been very involved with the AAC and with USATF for many years. He's not just an armchair quarterback.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    pony the issue for me is why are distance coaches hired more. It is not about their ability but the ability of coaches from "other" disciplines.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Mike,

                      Excelent piece.

                      But to be even more constructive, perhaps you might offer an opinion or 2 given the current realities. USATF will not be disbanding and the USOC saber rattling of late is not likely to lead to de-certification.

                      So do you and the Mrs. find Ms. Hightower to be an acceptable option for replacing B. Roe?

                      Do you support (at least the suggestion of) D. Logan's initative?

                      Would you or Mrs. Barto care to comment on the performance of :

                      B. Johnson.
                      S. Hightower
                      J. Chaplin
                      S. Humphrey
                      USATF HP support of M & W PV
                      Effectiveness of AAC

                      The above should keep you busy til our next drink...

                      PS: On-going congrats on E's Trials performance.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I would not want to speak for my wife as she is quite capable of doing that for herself.

                        I am not ready to concede that it is not possible to spin the NGB duties off from USATF. I think that is a very realistic possibility.

                        As to the performance of individuals within USATF, I think it is very difficult to evaluate who has done what because the organization is inherently flawed in its structure. I do want to make it clear that I have no axe to grind with anyone currently working within USATF. I believe most of them could do their jobs better if they were allowed to work within a better structured organization.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          As I posted earlier, part of the reason for the structure is because so little of the Olympic movement's resources trickle down from the USOC to the NGB's. That issue will remain no matter what organization is NGB of our sport.

                          USATF was not created in a vacuum. Another reason for the structure is that USATF must follow the Amateur Sports Act which is the federal law and that law requires all sorts of things. The law and USATF (f.k.a. TAC/USA) were created in reaction to the AAU/NCAA/RRCA feuds of the 1960's and 1970's which had made the Olympic sports in the USA totally disfunctional.

                          TAC/USA worked very hard to get everybody under the umbrella in the 1980's but the result was a real mish-mash of committees and a Board with about 100 members. It was impossible to even create an organizational chart. In the late 1990's, USATF was actually ahead of the USOC in restructuriing, reducing the Board to about thirty members, and streamlining the committtees and budgeting process. But it still needs to rely on volunteers a whole lot because of its level of resources.

                          Of course, major structural changes need a 2/3's approval to change bylaws. And getting a consensus on a more perfect structure is no easy task. But I tend to think that more dollars for a bigger staff would solve a lot of problems.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Instead of having Committee Chairs of the Sport Committees, have a paid employee for each (MTF, WTF, RW, MLDR, WLDR). The volunteers should not be national heads, only the local reps.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by MJR
                              Instead of having Committee Chairs of the Sport Committees, have a paid employee for each (MTF, WTF, RW, MLDR, WLDR). The volunteers should not be national heads, only the local reps.
                              That would be a very good first step. It would need to be followed by many others.

                              Comment

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