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The Death of Youth Track & Field

track & field

Oklahoma senior Running Back Brennan Clay accepted an invitation to play in the East-West Shrine Game. Clay rushed for 913 yards and six touchdowns this past season for an average of 5.8 yards per carry. The senior’s production came in bursts, as he dropped 200 yards in a win over Kansas State and another 170 in a victory over West Virginia.

-Fri, Dec 20, 2013 03:19:00 PM, East-West Shrine Game on Twitter

Brennan Clay took part in athletic after school programming from football to track and field and is now hopefully on his way to the NFL.

I had the privilege of coaching this young man and taking him to his championship long jump and 4×1 relay win at the Junior Olympics in 2006. Kids like Brennan only paid for uniforms track meets and fundraised for the travel. Olympians have been born from youth track and field specifically from San Diego. However, the death of youth track and field is beginning to sweep San Diego County. Many schools have begun to reject the popular Youth Track and Field after school programming due to adult soccer leagues.

Don’t get me wrong I love that adults can play a sport and do something positive rather than negative, in fact I would say soccer is just as necessary as youth track and field. The conflict is with funding, facilities and etiquette.

First: funding.

While youth track clubs remain non-profit many are unable to pay large annual fees for youth fitness during after school. Most school districts charge anywhere from $10-$800 for use of their facility. And even so the use is limited to track usage only and sometimes there are no restrooms open or lights to light up the track during sunset. This presents an issue, youth track clubs exist to deter criminal activities within inner-city youth and improve academic and health outcomes for the community.

If there are no local track and field clubs what happens to the health of the young community as they grow? And what happens to a legendary sport without its foundation?

Second: facilities.

Track programs often have to resort to Parks with grass instead of custom-made track fields at local high schools. There in lies the issue, these state-of-the-art track fields are being held from local kids ages five to eighteen. Children can find fitness anywhere however the thrill of individual running competitions while belonging to a greater team is rare.

Soccer and track are two completely different sports and they require two completely different environments to execute the sport. The question is why would you reject track and field after school programming for a conflict of facilities if the soccer team uses the field and the track team practices outside of the field?

Third: etiquette.

This remains a constant issue. Youth afterschool track and field clubs are being blamed for left over water bottles, trash and even vandalism. Taking on the burden and responsibility youth track and field clubs find themselves taking the blame and even having to explain where the trash and vandalism comes from. Responsibility for shared usage of facilities typically falls on the youth track and field club due to their seniority with facilities and their ability to pay for damages some of these clubs have been around for 25 years at the same school. The question is how do you prove who is responsible for trash and vandalism? And how do you discipline the liable party?

Ultimately, the sport is dying in San Diego County and your county may be next.

Children have already begun to look for other outlets to release energy and our fear is that it will affect the community negatively years from now. Youth track and field clubs can have anywhere from 10 to 100 kids on one team, thus creating a community of culture, camaraderie, respect and athleticism in youth ages five to eighteen. These clubs run 4 days a week effectively steering kids away from negativity.

So what’s next for youth track and field clubs?

I suspect they will not go down easily but they will take this fight from the schools to the district, from the district to the local papers, from the local papers to the news, to the United States of America Track & Field Association (the Olympic track and field organization) and start a movement. Because kids like Brennan Clay deserve their local youth track and field clubs.

This morning for breakfast I drank a tall, dark, strawberry protein shake with super greens by Fuller nutrition.

Author: Mark Blackshear

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