Track & field does not do a very good job holding itself together. The layout of some track & field stadiums makes you wonder if the builders realized they were supposed to build one facility for a single sport.
College track & field teams rarely travel together to compete as a team, or even as a squad with representation across all events. Teammates may compete at four different meets over the course of a weekend. This model is replicated in the few post-collegiate “enclaves” that have track & field athletes from multiple disciplines. The post-collegiate scene is producing more single-event mini-meets every year. That’s great for fans who love watching shot put, pole vault, miles or 10,000m’s over and over and over again, and the athletes in those events, but not for anyone else.
All those little fissures contribute to the state of track & field, and shape our ambitions, strategy and plans here at NALathletics. As we looked at what we could do most directly, we took aim at the first one. No, we’re not building new athletics stadiums yet, but we are least doing what we can to make it easier for athletes - especially in the field events - find a place to jump, throw or run.
We recently visited Nazareth College outside of Rochester, NY, and it’s a great example of how facility design fragments the sport.
From one side of the track, you can see a throws cage on the other side of a soccer and field hockey field. Someone sitting in the top row of the bleachers could probably see a thrower in the circle, but not enough to see who they are or how their throw went. And even then, only if they turned and looked 90 degrees to the left - you can’t have an eye on both the circle and the track.
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That throws circle at ///reaffirmed.wriggling.prouder is only a few yards behind the outfield fence of the school’s softball diamond. If a track meet and softball game were going on at the same time, the softball fans would have a better view and chance to cheer for the thrower than the fans in the track stadium!
But that’s only one of Nazareth’s throws circles. A couple hundred yards or so behind the grandstand is a field with another throws cage, two shot put circles and - best of all - a standalone javelin runway at ///pester.harmless.downswing!
This throws complex has a prime location directly in front of the Golden Flyers’ sports performance center, along one of the main campus roads and in view of a few dorms. But throwers and fans at this complex cannot see any action on the track.
If a coach, fan or teammate wants to cheer on two athletes whose events are at the same time, they are out of luck. Most people will stay in one location for the duration of the meet: if you start by watching the throwers at ///complies.awakening.bicycle, you’ll probably only watch the throwers. If you go to the stadium to see the high jumpers at ///bounced.snipped.pens, you’re not going to see the throwers. And those fans and throwers at the isolated circle by the softball diamond? They’re the loneliest ones of all.
The scattered layout of the throws facilities creates poor experiences for fans, coaches and athletes who want to take in the entire sport, or at least more than one discipline. And it creates needless difficulty and frustration for any local thrower who shows up looking for a place to practice. If they go to the stadium and look around, at most they’ll see the cage in the outfield. They could easily drive into campus, walk around the stadium, assume there’s nothing there for them and head out.
This is why we built the NALathletics map, so athletes can know where to go. Javelin throwers have enough difficulty finding a place to train, so making it easier for them to find a well-maintained runway and a spacious landing area could make a positive difference in their motivation, progress and desire to stay in the sport.
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Nazareth’s throws cluster could be a great place for throwers to come together in the Rochester area. The school is already (or should be) on the national throws map. Despite being a small Division III school, Nazareth has had regular representation in the USA Track & Field National Championships over the last few years thanks to hammer and weight thrower Luis Rivera (whose records still stand at these circles).
Bringing athletes together is Goal #1b for NALathletics (finding a place to train is 1a). While we’d prefer that all disciplines can come together in the same place, if we have to start with a throws squad gathering around ///modesty.popular.spouting a few hundred meters out of sight from the jumpers and runners, so be it, as long as they all go out together afterwards and share the same colors.