The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

Why We Compete Post Olympics

Sep 2nd, 2021
9:05 am PDT

It’s very difficult to find a single day event that will be more engaging than Prefontaine. But, there are a few more meets on the table before this season ends. Two of them, Lausanne and Paris, just happened within two days of each other. And there are two more Diamond League meets – Brussels and Zurich – before the season actually comes to an end. These two meets actually set up to crown the Diamond League Champions.

Now, I’ve seen several people online decrying the fact that the season IS still going. Many saying that the season should end with the Olympics – just like the NBA and NFL end with their biggest games of the year. The folk that say that, do not understand how track and field is structured, because we are not remotely structured the same way that other “professional” sports are.

The NBA, NFL, MLB and others are sports LEAGUES. These leagues have teams that play a round robin type of season. These seasons having a singular goal – to select a champion. So their season ends with a PLAYOFF schedule, that eliminates teams until there are only two left. These teams play to determine a Champion. So for them, that final championship game ends the season! This is not how track and field works.

In our sport, we do have what we call a CHAMPIONSHIP competition nearly every year. This competition is designed to select individual champions in various events. The meet itself is a playoff system of sorts, that includes the top 3 individuals from the nations of the world. As such it is a LIMITED event! In many respects this is where our championship is different – the limitations as to who gets to compete. So, it is NOT the culmination of a season long quest for everyone!

Being limited in scope, where does that leave the rest of the athletes that compete in the sport? Well, everyone else continues in OTHER competitions. Some of these are before the “championship” meet. Some are after. Yes, we do pause, while those that are participating in the championship compete. But the meet itself is just another competition. Certainly the most important in terms of prestige, but for those that do not get to attend or compete, they must continue on. Why? Well, to make money! Because in this sport in order to get paid you have to run, jump, and throw as often as possible.

This is critical, because in other professional sports, your earning potential is determined by your contract with your team. So, even though your team is eliminated from the championship chase, you still get paid your salary. In track and field however, you are essentially an INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR. Getting to the championship meet will certainly earn you more money. No doubt about it. But if you do not qualify for this meet, you MUST continue to compete in other meets if you hope to earn a living this year! As you do not have the security of a “team contract” to sustain you! Now, this is partially true, because if you are one of the superstars of the sport, you may have a substantial contract with a shoe company that pays you whether you go to the championship or not – and pays you more if you do. But the “average” athlete must compete for appearance fees and “placement” money to continue to make a living in the sport!

It’s this convoluted system, that confuses a lot of people. The average fan wants to compare us to other sports. Teams draft and hire athletes and pay them based on contracts. When in reality while we are a “professional” sport, that only means that the athletes can accept money and get paid! We are not “professional” in the way that other sports are set up and organized. In many respects we have retained the same amateur system that was in place 100 years ago. So, we don’t have teams and team contracts. We have athletes that get “paid” in several ways. Some have contracts with shoe companies. Some receive payments from meet promoters. Some get money from their federations. It’s a patchwork of trying to put together a living as opposed to the security of a single contract that one can count on. This is why you hear of athletes working other jobs and doing other things in order to make ends meet.

It’s why you often in today’s world hear of athletes with “Go Fund Me” accounts set up to help them with training, travel and other expenses. Rather ironic when you consider that track and field is the centerpiece of the Olympic Games which is the most watched athletic event on the planet. Even more so when you take into account that it is one of only two sports on the planet that are truly global in scope. And ridiculously ironic when you consider that many of the things I mentioned regarding how athletes struggle are in reference to several right here in the United States – one of the wealthiest countries on the planet. The nation that dominates the medal count at the Olympics, has athletes struggling to survive. Because we’re the nation that does the least for its track and field athletes!

So, we NEED these post Olympic competitions so that our athletes can attempt to make ends meet! It’s part of the earnings process. When we have a system in place that allows everyone to earn a decent living, then perhaps we can restructure things so that the year’s largest meet becomes the definitive end of the season. Until then, there will be competitions after the Olympics.

Prefontaine Highlights

Aug 22nd, 2021
7:16 am PDT

This was easily the most anticipated single meet of the year outside of championships and it lived up to the hype! Nike put its considerable wallet into play, producing Olympic quality fields across the board. Oh to have Nike’s money. That said, let’s discuss the elephant in the room. The matchup between Sha’Carri Richardson and “The Jamaican Medalists” Read More...

Tokyo Recap

Aug 14th, 2021
11:53 am PDT

I have to admit, I didn’t realize just how tough it would be to watch the Olympics live! Here on the West Coast, that meant getting up at 3:00am. Watching the Games. Then a full day of work. Then more track and field. Then bed long enough to get some rest before repeating - for a week and a half. Literally track and field Nirvana Read More...

First Stop Women’s 100

Jul 31st, 2021
11:59 am PDT

And we’re off and running, literally. As the first few rounds of events have taken place and we’ve had our first couple of finals. The first actual final was themes 10,000 meters. Won by Ethiopian Selemon Barega. An interesting race given the heat and humidity as it turned into a wait and kick affair Read More...

The Games Have Arrived!

Jul 29th, 2021
3:46 pm PDT

It’s here. The Tokyo Olympic Games have finally arrived.We've had several sports already take place, and now it's time for the heart of the Olympics, Track and Field, to take to the stage! The world has been waiting for five years, half a decade, for the next week and a half. And while there have been World Championships and other championship meets that have taken place in the time in between, for track and field the Olympics are IT! Read More...

Pre Trials, Trials, Next the Games

Jul 20th, 2021
11:51 am PDT

This has been one of the most exciting years ever for track and field. Thank you Covid-19. After all, the Covid virus has had an affect on everything that has happened on this planet for the better part of a year and a half - and continues to do so! It basically shut down the 2020 season of track and field Read More...

It’s Prediction Time – US Trials Relays…

May 30th, 2021
6:06 pm PDT

This season has been moving along so quickly, that it's been too fast to keep up with - pun intended. Literally every few days something extraordinary has occurred. Athing Mu, Trayvon Bromell, Allyson Felix, Kenny Bednarek, Gabby Thomas, Terrance Laird, and this is just the tip of the iceberg! It's now mere weeks from the NCAA Championships and the Olympic Trials - and time to start to spec out who's going to be taking that trip to Tokyo Read More...

MtSAC and the Journey Begins

May 10th, 2021
8:15 pm PDT

I've been quiet for a bit. Just watching all of the exciting results pour in. After all, its been “early” in the season, and while it's been fun to watch, the real running hasn't quite begun. Now however, college conferences are beginning - signaling that the end of the collegiate season is just around the corner Read More...

Up and Coming

Mar 14th, 2021
7:18 am PDT

One of the hottest indoor seasons in recent memory, is coming to a close. As we get ready to head outdoors, I wanted to take a look at a few athletes that have proven worthy of being on someone's watch list - mine. Every Olympic year, there are athletes that emerge that no one thought about the year before that become good enough to go to the Games Read More...

And They’re Off

Jan 26th, 2021
9:12 pm PST

Yes, the Road to Tokyo has begun as the 2021 season is now under way, with all indications being that this year is going to be as HOT as lava in a volcano! Two weekends, two indoor world records. An American record. Several moves into the all time lists. The start of a US track league. And just a rash of outstanding performances Read More...