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

My Thoughts on the World Relay Championships

Jun 21st, 2014
4:21 pm PDT

Conway Tyson PicFocusing on coaching my high school kids, I missed discussing the early season to date, primarily the Diamond League and the World Relays Championship. That’s a lot of action/discussion, so will tackle one then the other and will start with the World Relays Championships since the subject has already come up.

While I think that having some sort of relay championship sounds like a great idea in principle, with everything done by this sport it really comes down to execution – and in my opinion the execution was horrible. Yes, I said horrible. I know that will incite some people to call me negative – because I don’t just praise everything done by the sport. But I have to say that one of the biggest problems this sport has is the inability to be critical of itself. Everything the sport does is supposed to be applauded, when in reality the sport makes a lot of mistakes. And in my humble opinion many were made with this endeavor.

For starters, calling it a World Championships was just wrong. Perhaps calling it an "Invitational" or "Meeting" would have been more appropriate, because for the most part the attendance was not indicative of true global championships quality. We didn’t get the "best" relay squads that most nations could have put forth – certainly not the ones we would have seen in an Olympics or at a World Championships. That in and of itself says much about how these "Relays" were perceived by those charged with putting squads together.

That could start with the fact that it was being held at the beginning of the year! Very difficult for any country to really put their best people together so early in the season. For one, the truly elite are either waiting to really be hitting their stride around Nationals time; or they are focusing on making money in the off season as there is nothing to really peak for – and clearly no one saw this as an event that required a peak. IF this were a true "World Championships" it would have been held nearer the end the season, giving countries, and their athletes, the opportunity to at least get through their national championships and select their best foursomes for the competition. After all, at the end of the day "championships" are only as big as the people that are competing in them – and this one was missing far too many big names!

It was also missing a proper television distribution – at least here in the U.S. Only a handful of American fans had access to this meet, as Universal Sports is NOT available through most major cable carriers. To make matters worse, it was blocked here via normal Internet channels. AND to make it even worse, most of the videos available are not downloadable here in the U.S.. Meaning only we true die hard fans would scour the ‘net to find clips of the event after the fact. This is NOT how a "global championship" is supposed to be presented. A global event needs to either be on one of the major networks or ESPN. Am outlet that reaches the masses. There also needs to be concessions that allow Internet access in this country.

There was also the attitude shown by USATF regarding participation in the event. No offense to the athletes that participated, but for the most part the selections came across as the afterthoughts of a group looking to fill slots with warm bodies instead of the world’s preeminent track team looking to display it’s best wares. We used entry level elite athletes in many cases, indicating that we saw this as a development quality and not championship quality competition. And it showed with yet another set of botched handoffs! Personally as a coach I’d rather leave a lane empty than put an inferior product on the track. We continue to come across amateurish in that regards. Visions of athletes in Beijing taking the track in handwritten race bibs came to mind as friends twice texted me that the U.S. failed to complete another pass.

I would love to see relays run much more often on the global stage. The Diamond League should have relays, but then they have enough difficulty getting athletes on the track as it is. Certainly a global relay championships could be one of the most exciting events to hit the planet. What took place however in this case didn’t fit that description.

Hopefully the powers that be have had, or will have, a list event meeting to go over the meet and discuss the meet; what worked and what didn’t; and look at how to improve the meet overall. Because it is an idea that needs to be continued.

Speaking of championships, it’s nationals time. So going to take a look at Nationals before putting in my two cents on the Diamond League to date.

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15 Responses to “My Thoughts on the World Relay Championships”

  1. Waynebo says:

    I pretty much agree with your observations, except I don’t see it as a big of a problem because this was the first year. It seems like everybody from athletes to the USATF to the networks to the media was kinda taking a “lemme see if this is gonna work” position. For the most part, all of the athletes who ran had positive things to say about the event. The crowd was small, but very energetic. And given that it was held in May, the competition was solid. Not spectacular, but worth watching. Now I’m eager to see how it will progress over the next 4 years or so. I expect more elite athletes to participate as word gets around that this is a legit event – especially if they can get larger sponsorship and more prize money.

    Now, it will be a VERY big disappointment if this meet doesn’t grow into more than it was this year. Maybe the U.S. could host it every other year. Relays are huge in this country and we should be great at putting on a world relay event. I say every other year because I don’t think we should try to push the Bahamas out of the loop. They did a good job.

    Also, as I hinted at on your other post, I think the sprint medley and distance medley should be part of the event because they really need to develop an identity for this event that is completely different from the olympics and world championships. I LOVED seeing the 4×200 run on the elite level. Also, I really didn’t like the 4 x 1500 (what little I got to see) because of the positioning of the exchanges. Just do a 4 x 1600 and make the exchange zone simple.

    I can’t end without saying this…
    The U.S. did, in fact, treat this like a global championship. Right on cue, they failed to move the stick around while Jamaica ran a WR. smh…

    • CHill says:

      But you see, what other sport would put siding together with so many ways for an event to not work and then take a wait and see attitude about it??

      The first World Championships of Track back in 1983 was put together to succeed!! Every little detail of the Olympics was copied – almost too closely – to ensure success.. This was almost haphazard in its preparation..

      And here we are near the halfway point of the season and I’m probably the only person seriously discussing it.. It’s already an after thought for most people.. Minimal impact..

      Of course the athletes liked it, it was a trip.. So doesn’t like as trip – to the Bahamas no less..

  2. Ron says:

    Too much negativity. It was an attempt to enhance the image of track and field, a sport that needs major surgery. I’m not going to criticize any attempt to promote the sport short of a circus, and clearly, this was not a circus. The participants, for the most part, found the experience rewarding. If there is a second, third, etc., edition, I believe you’ll see more and more world class participants, and more countries sending teams. I thought that it went off pretty good for a first time event. Time will tell.

    • CHill says:

      It was fine for a first time event… I have no problem with that… But if you’re going to call it a World Championship, then it fell far short..

      Like I said, call it an invitational or something similar… If you’re going to tout it as a championship then it needs better treatment.. It was a good meet, but an amateurish championships..

      And this is what I meant about the sport not being able to be criticized… People are happy “something” was done – no matter how poorly… That not how you get better… And you admitted yourself we have a lot of work to do..

      Everyone I’ve talked to has said “it was ok, but at least they did something”… That’s like saying cards chicken wasn’t burned to a crisp and at least he tried..

      • Ron says:

        It WASN’T called a World Championship; those are your words. I believed they called it the World Relays, which is fine, given there were several countries who participated. It wasn’t touted as a “championship” meet; again, your self-serving word.

        You can criticize the meet all you want. I simply do not agree with your assessment. I watched the meet and there were some great performances; something that I hope to see again. How many times do you get to see guys run 3:32? I did not see anything that I would have described as having been done “poorly.” For a first time meet, it was better than most. I hope it becomes an annual meet, and I believe it will, because the athletes enjoyed it, and I’m not so sure it was because it was a free trip to the Bermuda.

        • CHill says:

          Why do you begrudge my opinion, I don’t deny or put yours down?? Why does it hurt you so?? I’m glad you watched it… It wasn’t available to me or A LARGE part of the populace.. Part of the problem..

          I’m glad the athletes liked it, but it takes more than that to build a meet… It said IAAF and WORLD in the title, that gives the implication of HUGE…

          It was a good meet, but not what the word WORLD indicated… It was short on many things and the things I brought up all true… Funny that the thing everyone is focusing on now is “it wasn’t A World Championships”… LOL.. Any port in a storm…

          Real simple, that meet souls have been more… The IAAF at the very least should have a template for putting together a meet of this caliber… One of the FIRST things that should have been done was secure sufficient television coverage… The CIF (California Scholastic Federation).. Doors better in this regard… Scheduling should also have been at the top of the list to ensure a better representation of top talent… It was supposed to be a showcase of global talent regardless the title of the meet… I could go on…

          You were satisfied… You got what you expected… I’m happy for you… I was not.. I’ve seen and expected better… It’s really that simple..

          Expectations tend to drive performance and improvement… Ergo the lack thereof in this sport… So we disagree…

          • Ron says:

            Mr. Hill,

            I’m not begrudging you anything. We have a difference of opinion. Maybe it’s partly due to the fact that I viewed the meet and you didn’t. Maybe you would have had a “softer” opinion of the meet if you had had my experience watching the events. Just having the opportunity to watch participants like Brenda Martinez, et al, was a definite positive for me. Being obsessed to T&F for over 50 years, makes any event a positive for me and difficult to criticize. I go to meets where the participants are junior high school students, and enjoy myself immensely.

            Whatever the case, thanks for the site, and I’m formally calling for a TRUCE!

        • CHill says:

          You know, I’m sitting here watching the NCAA Championships (taped and put on DVD, and Larry Rawson just said “at the recently concluded World Relays only 4 nations ran faster than the A&M women just covered the 4×1″… There are so many things wrong with that starting with the implication of” World Relays”, the implication that they were inferior to the NCAA championships, the fact that most of the audience probably didn’t have a clue what he was talking about but assuming it was A Big track event that was inferior to the College Championships, and the fact that undoubtedly more people are watching the NCAA’s than even had access to the World Relays… I’m just saying

          • Waynebo says:

            Interesting… I didn’t take that statement in that way at all. I took it as an observation of how good the competition is on the NCAA level. They made almost the exact same statement in the men’s 4×400. They were pointing out that the times were so good that these college kids could compete with the best in the world. It was a praise of the level of talent in the NCAA not an insult to the World Relays. At least that’s how I heard it.

          • CHill says:

            Well, how would you feel watching March Madness or the BCS title game and the announcer said only 4 NBA/NFL teams are as good as the teams we’re watching today (based on whatever statistic they care to apply)???

          • Waynebo says:

            Actually, they do say things like “this guy is ready to dominate on the pro level right now”. There are statements made about college players ready to make an impact and star as rookies in the NBA & NFL. They don’t say it about teams, but they do say it about individual players so I think we’re talking about very similar statements.

          • CHill says:

            But they only say it about truly elite athletes like Carmelo Anthony in college.. Not average… And with respect to teams, which was the point, never… They would be laughed at… The point being, and why you avoided the question my friend, is that we are talking about an average competition…

            There’s nothing wrong with that as long as we don’t pretend like it was more… That and it was advertised as being more..

  3. Bob Hersh says:

    You say “For starters, calling it a World Championships was just wrong.”

    The IAAF did not call it a World Championships. The name of the competition was the IAAF World Relays.

    • CHill says:

      When you put the IAAF title and the WORLD together the implication, especially to the general public that we claim to want to entice is Championship..

      Look, I’m happy to see something being done with relays… Would have been nice if I were able to watch it.. But my point is that most have zero expectations of the sport… And hey excited when they give us anything… We don’t hold the sorry accountable… And that is why we get what we get..

      No different than raising a child or coaching athletes… The successful programs have A Plan in mind and expectations.. MJ, Rupp, Moses, Ashford, the greats didn’t get that way because they expected nothing..

      This sport made huge moves in the 80’s because Carl Lewis and the SMTC had expectations… No one is holding the sport accountable for anything any more… We accept what we get and day thank you..

    • CHill says:

      I’m sorry that people get upset when I am critical of this sport.. I find it funny however that everyone that does says in the next breath how the sport is dying and “needs whatever it can get”.. Therefore I’m supposed to praise.. Sounds like someone raising a bad kid..

      Everything I said about this meet is true.. What I get is, it was a good start and maybe in another half decade it will be better… Well maybe in another half decade it will be dead just like the Carson meet and the Modesto / California Relays… Because IF this sport doesn’t get its crap together it will be deader than it is now… Good starts don’t work in this sport…

      And where to begin with the sport here in the US… Thriving at the high school level, damn near dead at the elite… We can either enabled the sport to be less than mediocre, or we can speak up and try to make it become more accountable… I choose to speak up..

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