Over the years I’ve been involved in elite level coaching or player development in several sports. I’ve always had an appreciation for just how amazing are athletes are who make it to the medal stand. With a recent change in sporting focus, I have just increased my appreciation of this fact. Consider these facts:
- Track and Field is the second most participated sport in the world following soccer.
- Unlike any other sport, only the very, very best are considered truly elite (perhaps the top 20 in any given event) and are afforded to make a proper living doing the sport. Compare that to a sport like baseball where no-name pitchers are paid millions, or soccer where 100s of countries have not only leagues of their own (with multiple players at a given position) but often times these countries have second and sometimes third tier leagues as well. The 20th best long jumper in the world is doing amazing things and likely making a fraction of what the 1,000th best midfielder in the world is making.
- There are almost no socio-economic barriers to participating in the sport. Polo needs a trained horse and a field. Swimming needs a pool. Bobsled needs a track, cold weather, and a bobsleigh. Even basketball requires a court, a hoop, and a ball.
- Many of the events, especially the running events, are the most simplistic and innate of activities to participate in. This means great coaching, while very important, is not as big of a deterrent as it might be in other sports. It’s not like you could just go out and do synchronized swimming by yourself if you wanted to. With running though, if you want to see how good you are at it there’s little barrier for entry. So it’s relatively easy for the genetic cream to rise to the top (rather than go undiscovered).