Complete Track and Field

High School Sports are Dying?

An interesting point was brought up in the discussion section of my last article on 400m training. A suggestion was made that if you (as a parent) don’t have faith in your high school’s coaches, pull the athlete from the high school team and have them compete for better coaches in a more appropriate environment.

That made me start thinking about an idea that seems to be gaining traction. High School sports are dying. And here’s why…

Most high school athletic departments are amazingly antiquated and Socialist institutions. Their inability to see outside the confines of their own insulated world has them grasping tenuously to a losing belief system on how to both develop young athletes, as well as adapt to the many opportunities athletes have in addition to being on the high school team. These athletic departments don’t realize that their own inability and/or refusal to adapt stands as the source of their own destruction.

The youth sports landscape has changed and as evolution has taught us, we must adapt or we will die.

There is a growing trend here in America that has more and more athletes abandoning, or, at least, downplaying the importance of their high school sports team to compete for AAU and Club teams and get quality, individualized coaching from superior coaches outside the confines of their public school coaches.

Additionally, young athletes with great athletic potential are bypassing their hometown schools in favor of private schools with superior traditions for developing athletic success.

And lack of coaching education is to blame.

Let me give you an example:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked in a program where some kids’ wildly positive and successful experience on the track team caused them to give up other sports in order to train for track and field. Due to ignorance in the true sense of the term (to be uninformed or unaware) other coaches lobbed accusations of ‘recruiting’ and ‘stealing’ athletes.

No such thing ever occurred. The results did all the recruiting.

I was told (and this is a direct quote):  “Kids quitting the soccer team might be good for the track team, but it’s bad for the soccer team.”

What a fatally flawed and inherently Socialist line of logic. The ‘forced parity’ argument does not work in The Real World. At least not for long. Such a rule of governing stifles innovation and hard work. It is, in essence, a bailout for the mediocre.

Let me put this in business terms:

If the Soccer Coach does not provide a product/service (competitive program and individual improvement) that the consumer (athlete) wants to buy, it is the right of the consumer to purchase what they perceive to be a superior product/service, i.e the Track Coach. The Track Coach has the right to improve his/her team as long as no laws are being broken (as there must be regulations in the market). It is not the fault of the Track Coach that the Soccer Coach chooses not to invest in the resources (Coaching Education) that will allow it to continue to earn a competitive share of the market (athletes).

Following the basic principles of Free Market Capitalism (that we hold as fundamentally American as apple pie) the Soccer Coach has one of two choices:

1. Adapt to the situation by providing a better product/service (become a better coach thus providing a better experience through better individual and team results) and regain market share.

2. Die (complain about how unfair it all is because they don’t want to work as hard as the Track Coach or the Football Coach, etc.) and then go out of business.

Most athletic departments will simply bail out the soccer team by inventing regulations to limit the success of the Track Coach even though the Soccer Coach has access to the same opportunities.

Therefore, this hurts both the Soccer Coach and the Track Coach. Now you have a mediocre Soccer Team and a mediocre Track Team where if you simply allowed the Free Market to balance itself (again, not an unregulated Free Market, but it still must be Free) the Soccer Coach would be forced to invest (educate him/herself) in order to provide a better product/service.

In that instance, investments (education) by the Soccer Coach would yield better results forcing the Track Coach to invest (educate) more and competition would lead BOTH programs to greater profits (results in competition and fun for the kids).

This is what is called a ‘win-win’ situation.

But, of course, this isn’t what is happening. The Soccer Coach cries poverty or badmouths the Track Coach out of a stubborn, but psychologically predictable, refusal to acknowledge their own coaching incompetence. In response, the Athletic Department bails out the Soccer Coach.

What happens next is the point of this article.

The Track Coach (and you can substitute Track for Soccer, Football, Basketball, Lacrosse, etc.) says,

“Forget this. I’m taking my talents to South Beach.”

Now the best coaches in your public school leave the stifling public school and start/join the Club/AAU Team that actually supports concepts like ‘education’ and ‘winning’ and ‘success’ and ‘working as hard as you expect your athletes to work’.

(If your argument is that winning shouldn’t be a focus for teenagers then you haven’t spent much time with them because they’ll choose winning over a weekly pizza party ten times out of nine. Winning doesn’t mean ‘be the Champion or I’ll punch you in the face’. It means be the best you can be because you work hard as an athlete and I put you in the best position to succeed with safe, effective and contemporary coaching techniques.)

So now, in 2011 and beyond, parents and athletes have a larger range of choices. They can go to the public school that lives, coaches and competes in a bubble, doing the same crap they’ve always done and doing nothing in terms of athletic development other than just play soccer (because most HS sports teams don’t develop biomotor skill as a part of the program, they just play and scheme for soccer/basketball/football for 2 hours and then call it a day) OR they can join that progressive, cutting edge AAU/Club team/coach that competes against better competition, gets them better access to college scouting and develops them into better athletes which, of course, makes the whole experience exponentially more fun.

If you were an athlete, which would you choose? If you were the parent of a talented athlete, which would you choose?

When I was in high school, I was an extremely raw, but reasonably talented sprinter. But I went to a Socialist high school where one of my coaches taught me to, I shit you not, clap my hands together in front of me when coming out of the blocks. I also never did a dynamic warm up, a speed drill, a speed workout, lifted a weight, got a race plan, etc.

Back then (and I’m dating myself here) there was no such thing as the Internet, so I couldn’t go to a site like this to get information or invest in a program like Complete Speed Training 2 in order to train around the outdated training that is the norm at the developmental levels. (As I’ve said countless times, this doesn’t make them bad people. Some of them are wonderful people, just not effective coaches.)

Preventing this from happening is, in fact, the primary reason Patrick Beith and I started CTF in the first place.

To this day my mother still feels guilt that she couldn’t do anything or find anyone to help a talented, hardworking, but directionless kid. But I know this for a fact:

If there was a ‘Latif Thomas’ like coach at the private school one town over (like there is today) she would have sold a kidney (which is probably what it would have taken since we had no money) to get me into that school to work with that coach. And if I was my parent, I would have yanked me from that public school and done the same thing.

And that is exactly what is happening today. When coaching in that galaxy far, far away I heard a “coach” say:

“I only go to clinics and conferences that the booster club pays for.”

Direct quote. And he said it with pride. And that, my friends, is the epitome of the problem.

I regularly hear public school coaches cry about ‘recruiting’ and ‘stealing athletes’ and ‘AAU is the devil’, even though badmouthing another school or coach to prevent a kid from going there is the order of the day and just as morally reprehensible as actively recruiting a kid to private school or club team, but I digress…

My friends, this is 2011. Your athletes (and their parents) are reading articles like this, going to sites like this and investing in their education while some of you stand there and cry about it.

They know that you don’t know what you’re doing. And that’s why your athletes are quitting the school team for the Club team. That’s why your athletes are leaving practice to go right to their personal coach to get real coaching. That’s why parents of 13-18 year olds are the second biggest group of purchasers of resources on this site (behind high school coaches). And that’s why I get dozens of emails from young athletes and parents each week asking me how they can train around their high school coach.

I know I’m mostly preaching to the choir here. But I’ve worked at three different high schools and they’ve all been the same.

If public high schools, coaches and athletic departments want to keep their head in the sand and wax poetic about the good old days, that’s their choice.  But, right or wrong, the youth sports landscape is becoming more specialized, personalized and professionalized every day.

Athletes have a right to good coaching. Parents have a right to safe, quality coaching for their kids. Coaches have a right to conduct their business in an environment that is friendly to their commitment to using sports as a means of developing self esteem and teaching life lessons to young athletes, as well as winning some Championships.

But I know one thing for sure, coaching education is the key to adaptation.

You can adapt or you. will. die.

To your success,

Latif Thomas

P.S. I know a lot of good coaches at the public schools are losing talent to outside influences. And that sucks because we actually know what we’re doing. Trust me, even though I’m at a private school, I still lose good kids to other sports. I also know this is a controversial stance on a controversial subject. And I purposely took a controversial tone in order to stimulate conversation on both sides of the aisle.

So leave your comments below and let’s talk about it!

ADDENDUM (September 16, 2011 9:13AM)

As you can see below, this article has stimulated lots of discussion from opposing points of view.

My main problem with where a lot of this discussion is going is this:

Peoples’ personal bias won’t allow them to see the alternative viewpoint. Public school coaches dismiss any validity of the argument made *for* ‘Club’ sports or why parents/athletes choose the ‘Club’ sport alternative.

‘Club’ sports coaches often (I said ‘often’, not always) ignore the value and community aspects of the public school season by coercing kids into year round ‘Club’ involvement out of selfishness and greed instead of doing what is in the best interest of the kid.

Here’s the truth:

Public school coaches are right. And wrong.

‘Club’ coaches are right. And wrong.

The inability to see past our own personal viewpoint (and in some instances hypocrisy) is the first and largest stumbling block to having an open minded discussion or facilitating any kind of long term change.

Try to see both sides of the argument and then express your opinion. But I can tell in the first two sentences of a post (or diatribe) who the ‘public school’ coaches are and who the ‘club’ school coaches are.

Your personal opinion is no more right than mine. And my personal opinion is no more right than yours. If you can’t see or accept that then you are part of the problem.

===================================

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About Latif Thomas

Latif ThomasUSATF Level II and USTFCCCA Event Specialist (Sprints, Hurdles & Relays) Certified High School Track and Field coach specializing in the sprint events. But I know a thing or two about the jumps and hurdles as well.
View all posts by Latif Thomas →
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  • Kenny

    These are great conversation points and some interesting perspectives. I have been a coach for 13 years- at the collegiate level for 3 years and the high school level for now 10 years. I was a high school and college track athlete myself, have attended numerous clinics each year, continue to read up on training methods to stay current and communicate with coaches in the hs level, Div. III level, and Div. I level. My wife and I are track and field enthusiasts and have had a chance to go to the Prefontaine Classic, Div. I national meet, and US track and field championships. Whether or not I qualify as an “educated” track coach is probably in the eye of the beholder but I continually try to perfect my craft as a coach to improve the athletes I work with, to help them learn the sport, why we do the things we do so that they understand their training (it’s a part of how you create buy-in), and to help them find some success as a hs athlete. I do have USATF Level I certification and am trying to find a chance to do Level II. I may not reach all of them (we have 85 girls on our hs team) but our hope is that they will have a great experience, learn about the sport, and carry some wonderful memories with them. With that being said (so that we don’t sound like some rose-colored team with no ambition) – we are a top 10 program annually at our state meet; we’ve won our conference and regional meets 4 of the 5 years we’ve been coaching (my wife and I are co-head coaches); and have sent athletes to college to compete at the Div. I and III levels. I am fortunate that my employer allows me to coach in the Spring and for that I feel blessed to have that chance because I love the sport and what I do.
    I have a club coach in town who works with an amazing young lady. Most of his training methods are old school (more of the volume, volume, volume with minimal rest/recovery). The athletes that he has seem to buy into that UNTIL they get to high school – he does not have many high school athletes (for whatever reason) in which his club program can pull athletes from our quad city area. A young lady he coaches is potentially Olympic caliber (and her sights are set on that – she ran 2:10 this Summer going into her sophomore year). Unfortunately this coach has suggested to other parents that we don’t know what we’re doing; has suggested so to our boys coach, and appears to take credit for every athletes he coaches. I check their results ever year and even the athletes I have now at my school – they do not improve over the summer and I’ve noticed more improvement amongst them in their results during the hs season. It is somewhat insulting to generalize the hs coaches don’t know what they’re doing and to assume club coaching is better. And most of the club kids once they’ve gotten to hs have quit his program to focus on our track program and to focus on other sports. I understand not all hs coaches know what they’re doing; some are asked to coach because there’s no one else in the school/community who will do so, as an example. But maybe that’s why the best coaches/programs consistently have the best teams in the state. This runner I’ve mentioned – I even passed along info to a friend at LSU to get her on their radar screen (and if they’ve done some homework maybe she already is). Now, this club coach has asked to be on our staff to impart his wisdom because he knows how to coach 400 runners. This coming from a coach with a swim and military background. We are willing to consult and gather ideas (and there are other issues in which we would not allow him to work around the girls we coach anyhow) because he knows this athlete and has worked with her prior to joining our team and want to respect the work he’s done to promote the sport in the community. It’s a sticky subject and there are many layers to Latif’s argument and others. Keep the conversation going…in the end, it’s about giving the kids the best chance to succeed and to fulfill THEIR goals.

  • http://quincytrackclub.wordpress.com Geoff Hennessy

    Guys, Check your spelling. Unless your spell check has gone rouge, look over your work. It looks silly to say you teach with typos all around. Just sayin’

  • http://www.PredatorSports.net Gregor

    I coach fastpitch softball both as a club and HS coach. This topic has been on my mind for quite some time. I believe that sports have changed so dramatically from when I played high school sports that a lot (maybe most) of us don’t quite know what is the best solution to this issue. I have my opinions of course. I firmly believe that both club and HS sports are important, and the ideal situation is that the club and HS coaches work together toward a common goal. Yes, they will have different philosophies and styles, but WOW, isn’t that a great thing to teach the athlete? Learn to deal with the coach for whom you are currently playing? Also, it would be great if the two coaches don’t pit the athletes against the other. Then the coaches need to lay out the potential future of each athlete to them and help guide them to a decision that is best for the athlete, NOT WHAT IS BEST FOR THEIR PROGRAM THAT YEAR. One thing that I feel I should mention here is that HS coaches have certain limitations that club coaches do not. They are fairly heavily regulated as to when they can and cannot have official contact with their athletes. So to some degree, they are limited in how much time they have to teach the foundations discussed here. Yes, there are ways to deal with that, but the fact is, those limitations exist.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Gregor:

      I agree that would be the ideal situation. Additionally, take that same approach to the different sports within the same school system.

  • Coach T

    It’s all about parents and athletes and coaches trying to make a name. AAU has nothing to do with great coaching,it’s dollars and cents first, point blank! Parents don’t support high school sports anymore, they govern it. Athletes hate to put in the work to go to the next level, it’s a shame an athlete would prefer to go to a big name AAU camp instead of summer school to catch up on his or her grades,that’s the parents fault. I get so tired of the blame being laid at the feet of the high school coach. I talked to a college recruiter a few days ago and he was very angry at our high school basketball coach because he allowed a basketball player to play on the football team, what place does he have in that child’s life to say he can’t play football. High school sports are suffering because of adults that are hungry after a name and the children are the pawns. I coach at a school with 1200 students we have to share student athletes,it’s a must, but if the football coach keeps all the linemen, we have no heavyweights for the wrestling team, it does not mean the wrestling is bad,it’s more of the football coach being selfish, AAU and it’s greed can at times be a flat out joke.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Coach T:

      Great points!

  • Ben

    Although you make some valid points, I think you are missing one side of the argument. Full-disclosure – I coach in a public school and have had a lot of success (and some failures). My main issue when it comes to club and AAU teams is that I feel they prey on ignorant parents seeking the almighty “college scholarship” for their children. I see a number of average athletes leave a public school programs for AAU under the guise that they will receive a full-ride. I see marginal soccer players give up basketball, track, cross-country,…etc, to pay thousands of dollars to clubs b/c they are convinced that they are DI athletes and parents view these programs as an investment. I am sure that I am biased to a point, but my experience has been that the majority of HS coaches are good, educated coaches who are in athletics for the right reasons. When I see club/AAU coaches treating their programs as their sole means of income, I feel sometimes the line gets foggy.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Ben:

      Absolutely! Two years ago I had to kick a really talented kid off the team (we don’t get a lot of Jamaicans at Catholic schools in New England!) because he and his dad thought he was going to the NFL and needed to focus on that. What’s he doing now? Nothing.

      The only ‘disagreement’ I have to anything you said is that I don’t agree that ‘majority of HS coaches are good, educated coaches who are in athletics for the right reasons.’ Though, if you take out the word ‘educated’, I have no disagreement. But you really bring up a good point about AAU type programs preying on kids who are not scholarship material.

  • Martin J Mallen

    Hi latif, i teach and coach at an all girl cathlolic school not a powerhouse at any stretch of the imagination this is my second stint there as a coach although i have tought there for the whole time. i left for a while and coached in the inner city of chicago had great kids and we improved a lot but the apathy from the Administration was unbelivable -at two differrent schools i only met the principal once the first while picking up mail from the AD’s box and was asked who are you, it was my third year there and the second because the other Principal came to the StateSectional we were hosting to sing the natinal anthem.

    Years ago I read a comment from Clyde Hart that stated he tried to learn and incorporate 20% new things every year I took that information and try to do the same. Its great to go to the Level 1 conference, especially now that its an on line test, but with the internet you can get so many articles ideas videos to help you improve. Geez to the lazy coaches many of the clinics I attend i use for my continuing education CPDU’s. This season one of my former athletes is starting as a new coach and I asked her to learn about the jumps and hurdles, she asked how? i gave her videos, albiet vhs, some newer dvd’s i bought over the summer my link to Tony Verney’s hurdle site….

    As to clubs some are great but some have the same coaches that the athlete has in their season or their frends and are more about those coaches augmenting their own income. many have no backround in biomachanics, exercise physiology… they just know certain aspects of their sport so they are an expert. If an athlete would attend a College camp over the summer they would gleen more and better info in a one or two week period. Also the clubs cause student athletes to only concentrate one sport and then burn out and never participate in athletics ever again.

    Respectfully ….track love track pride- create the atmosphere that students want to be in and they will come. Include everyone, from the stars to the ungamely frosh who knows they may become a stud or your assistant.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Martin J Mallen:

      Great post! Your last paragraph really sums it up!

  • A Nemaric

    The above comment about most coaches being cherry pickers is true.
    I have rarely seen a coach turn a ‘lump of clay’ into an outstanding athlete.
    Coaches swoon when a gifted individual wanders into their stable.
    Then it is all too easy.
    However, before we get too excited, let us remember, that sport was never invented so that people can get to play it professionally. Sport, is an adjunct to life, it is NOT life itself.
    People who make a living from sport, find that it is in their interest to over emphasise the importance of it. It is called ‘talking through your hip pocket.’

  • http://www.quincytrackclub.wordpress.com Geoff Hennessy

    High School sports have an inherent double standard. The ball sports (and hockey) are under the tutlege of the best coaches that can be found. There are search committees, interview boards, you name it. When has any of us in the “tracks” sat in front of an interviewing team for a track coaching position? Probably never. That’s problem #1. Second problem. A nurse, teacher, police officer, you name it, must continue their education just to keep their license. Not so in coaching. The fish rots from the head down. Some ADs are not current in their education, so why should a coach. We often get the “warm body” or coach from a ball sport who wants to pad the wallet (damn little padding I might add). So this situation trickles down to the kids. Problem#3. Everyone out there in club-land wants to offer “a better box of chocolates”. They don’t approach the mediocre kid or the late bloomer. They go after the superstar. And the superstars parents. Every parent has dollar signs in their eyes for their ball sport kid to get a scholarship. Some, I’m sure are not remotely educated in the world of Title IX and gender equity to know that track and cross country also offer scholarships and that a kid has a better chance of being a doctor than a professional athlete. My high school coach was Lou Tozzi. He convinced me to never stop learning. I’m at every clinic. I make no secret of it. I bring back stuff to give to other coaches – even the ball sport ones. I go to the state Phys Ed conventions and do the same thing. My hope is that some kids and parents will talk and say “that guy knows what he’s talking about”. I post in my classroom a saying that everyone should remember in this society where everyone claims to be a victim. “We can’t control the wind, we can only adjust our sails”. So do the best you can. And keep talking and learning. I’m out!

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Geoff Hennessy:

      Well said, sir!

  • cypress

    One thing we are dealing with is that our HS Varsity XC coach is incredibly inconsistent in his decision-making criteria on who races varsity and goes to the state meet. He uses different criteria depending on the kid, and provides inconsistent vague goals and makes selections that demonstrate biases that have little to do with performance. This behavior causes frustration and considerable emotional stress for our runners. For this reason, working with our club coach is far preferable…he had the proper intuition about training and recovery, he provides clear goals and race strategy and he doesn’t play favorites. If the situation was reversed, then we would be happy with the HS coach. Coaches need to be smart, intuitive and consistent. You aren’t owed instant respect just because someone gave you the coaching job, you still need to behave with integrity.

  • http://www.heightsunlimited.com Al Berardi

    Latif, as a club coach for the past ten years I’ve seen this situation come up many times, especially for a club that specializes in field events. I’ve know many good technically sound high school coaches that I’ve worked with over the years. However, they tend to be the exceptions, the majority of high school coaches today do not have as deep a background as I believe they should in order to train young athletes in these specialized events. It has always been easier to train runners (no offense) than field people. The time necessary to be put into the training of a young high school athlete is quite significant and most T&F coaches running a major program do not have that kind of time to do it. The worst part is that often they give this responsibility over to another teacher or some perhaps volunteer that may have no knowledge what so ever or perhaps competed 10+ years ago to coach these kids. My biggest concern is that even the athletes I see coming to the club lack serious basic motor skills. I’m not sure what their PE programs are focusing on but the lack of such basic skills just simply amazes me.

    Again, the lack of knowledge in how to properly setup a program and instruct your athletes correctly becomes an issue. I know we get a large number of athletes each year coming to us from various schools round the state; and I train them all equally an try very hard to stay away from their individual school programs unless asked by the current coach. I personally feel that it comes down to “control” not of the program so much as control of these kids. I know that in our state (NJ), PA and NY State clubs provide a significant amount of coaching in the specialize events (Pole Vaulting/Hammer throwing, etc). We started our program to provide the technical skills required to compete at a high level but, also to provide a quality atmosphere for them to learn and become better citizens. Not everybody is going to win a state championship but, the ability to work hard and achieve the highest personal level each individual can is and should be the overriding goal in my opinion.

    Al Berardi: Heights Unlimited Vault Club

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Al Berardi:

      Great points! We throw the word ‘coach’ around these days so loosely that there is no distinction between the English (or whatever) teacher who runs a team for a few grand because they once saw a track meet when they were in HS and the coach who invests in coaching ed clinics/products, etc. multiple times each year and actually knows what they’re doing.

  • Kirk Sharrock

    Years ago when We moved to WI from Ohio I went to football coaches meeting on Sat night to see the friday game film. When the film was over I asked the head coach how the players graded out. He said he doesn’t have the time to grade the players as he is 1st a parent 2nd a teacher and last a coach. I wanted to say “then stop coaching right now”. The football team never won any more than 3 games a year and they still only win 2 or 3 games and this is after 25 years and the athletic dept. still doesn’t see any problems with the program.
    A few years ago my nephew was on a ohio state hs football team that won the state title on a Thursday, On Friday they had their awards dinner, and on Saturday as he was a cocapt. for the next year he and the other cocapt.s started the team workouts for the new football season.
    I think there is a problem with coaches who need to coach 1st, Athletes who need to motivate themselves, and Team Capts that need to lead, and parents who need to support their kids. The parents must also make needed improvements in the school athletic dept. by being involved in and demanding a commitment to being the best the can be. This doesn’t mean winning every game or meet but reaching the athletes potential and giving them the opportunity to exceed even their own expectations

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Kirk Sharrock:

      Amen!

  • Kerry Taylor

    I am pulling my younger child from the school district’s program. We moved into the system 2 years ago when my twins were entering high school. My son played football from aged 8 on and my daughter basketball. Both are good players, reliable to do their job well, with moments of brilliance – never liabilities. We were warned by people who knew the area that our kids would be lucky to set foot on the field as this school system was small and they didn’t rely on the skills of the player but rather who your parents were. We ignored this, feeling quality would win out. First situation: My son, started 8 games JV football as the strong tackle. The 9th game in, the child that was “in the system” since age 7 came back after injury. Right in front of my son, the varsity coach came to the JV coach and said “start Joe.” JV coach said, “Steve has being playing the position and is doing well.” Varsity coach said “Start him or lose your job.” My son was the first back up for EVERY line position. He learned to play center in 3 days and they won the game when the center was injured – this was is a D1 school. My daughter started every preseason game in JV basketball. Season begins, they start another player. This kid’s mother is BIG alumni, child’s sister played ball with the JV coaches. So they start this other girl, play her 3 minutes and put my daughter in for the rest of the game. Now my daughter is a GOOD ball player. Random strangers, refs, and coaches come up to us and tell us how much they enjoy watching her play. She is one of the best defenders I have ever seen. Long story over, she got cut. Coach said she “wasn’t ready for varsity play.” They kept 3 girls who played a total of maybe 2 minutes a game. All had been in the system since they were 9. I have a 10 year old who is 5’7″ she plays volleyball and basketball. No way is she going into that situation. I’ll take my chances with the pay leagues. At least I feel if they say there is no talent, it will be true.

    • Dustin

      @Kerry Taylor:
      If you look through history of sports you will find many great athletes that went through the system. Starting very young and worked up. In my area it is the same old deal. If you want you child to play sports at the high school level and start you better have them working very young with a club team.
      I don’t believe it, and won’t allow it for my boys. Like I said there are many great players that went through the system, but they do not impress me like those few that walked on to a D1 college program and worked for the scholarship.
      Too much emphasis is placed on club teams that by the time they get to high school or college their bodies and minds are so over trained. The joy of sport is gone. Kids don’t want to play pick up games at a local park because they already practice countless hours during the week, and play in tournaments all weekend.
      The purity of sports has been taken away. The joy has been replaced with a parents hope that their child becomes the next great thing. All they are really doing is driving them further away from sports.
      Don’t rely on high school strength programs to get your kids in shape. Study and train with them. It will be a great time, and everyone will benefit.
      More importantly focus on academics. Good grades will get them anywhere they want to go. Focus on the positives of working hard, and reassure them that if they work hard they will get to walk on to a college team. But it takes hard work.
      Coaches will be coaches. Even when their team sucks the coach will do what they do. Work or not! That is high school sports! It is the blue ribbon societies last effort to prove that it is who your parents are and not how you play. But that goes away after high school. If they work hard regardless of the coaches choice to play them or not they will get their chance. Many colleges have student tryouts. Look it up, and contact the coaches or athletic directors of the colleges.
      Stay positive about their hard work. Always assure them that their reward will come if they want to go for it. See you set personal goals and achieve them is the best way to get them to understand. Set goals and tell them then do the work to make them happen. That is better than any club coach can teach them.

  • FRANK B

    Track season has started here and the idiocy has already begun. 2 schools that have never made it out of districts in their entire existence, passed on hiring an individual with a record of success. Another school chose to hire as a replacement a person that has NEVER done the event they are coaching or even has a clue as to what to do. Track has 16-18 events of which 14 require some mastery of good technique in order to be successful. I would not want a person teaching my kid to long jump and they dont even understand the rudimentary aspects of the event,but if it aint football,basketball,baseball or some other team sport,AD’s could care less who is coaching or if they know anything about the sport

  • http://velocitysun.com Sean Robison

    Hey Clarence,

    I agree with most of you comments. Specializing in high school according to the research that has been done taking place over the last 7 or 8 years because of the explosion in adolescent injuries that until 10 to 15 years ago were the types of injuries that you typically only saw among active adult athletes, torn ACLS, knee blow outs, and blown achilles just to name a few. The body needs to have down time and it also needs to work muscles, tendons and joints in ways that are slightly different and provide additional strength and stablility. The common medical and psychological term is call overuse training syndrome.

    The research is showing that adolsecents who are specalizing in sports and also at a younger age being subjected to stress, strain and overuse of muscles, tendons, joints and energy systems that have not completely developed or are being overworked which is creating situations where athletes are putting themselves at significant risk of injury or burnout because of overuse.

    As you have pointed out track will do a lot to help athletes in other sports this probably has to do with the fact the track and field provides the forms for many of the fundmentals of many other sports. Since track is perhaps one the oldest sports in the world and has so many events it would stand to reason that many of the “modern” sports would take form and function from it and most if not all young athletes would benefit by participating in it to learn proper technique for participating in other sports they enjoy.

  • Ed White

    Thanks for your response, Latif. I think you hit the nail on the head again, i.e., there is a big difference between what’s ideal and what happening in the real world of youth sports.

  • Joe B.

    A big problem with athletic departments that are behind the times and club sports boosters is that they allow students and parents to be trapped by the belief that doing only soccer or only track is acceptable. For all those that say club coaches are better and know more, clearly their proponents are missing the most important element of physical development – diversification of athletic pursuits at a young age will take the athlete farther, in almost all cases, than specialization. The failure to recognize this basic fact is a failure shared equally by club proponents and hs athletic departments alike.

    • Ed White

      A critical question that is often overlooked in any debate over early specialization in sports is: when IS it APPROPRIATE OR even NECESSARY, to specialize in a sport if a student athlete intends to pursue their “primary” sport at the collegiate or higher level? I have my own thoughts on this, but I would be interested to see what other people think, because I have concluded that what may be best from an athletic standpoint may not be what is best from a recruiting standpoint. And I think this poses a problem for many parents who want their kids to become the best athletes they can be but who also don’t want to see them lose out on scholarships or playing opportunities at higher levels. What does everyone else think?

      • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

        @Ed White:

        Almost all studies that show/prove that athletes who engage in multilateral training and who play multiple sports while they’re young as peaking higher are all geared toward national level and professional athletes, i.e. people who didn’t peak and/or stop playing sports until they were well into their 20s.

        My belief is this: Here in the real world in 2011, kids are going to specialize. No point in talking about what isn’t realistic. My belief is that kids should play multiple sports at least until they get through their freshman year of high school and experience what multiple high school sports are all about.

        If you’re talented and want to specialize in one sport, I tell kids to wait until their sophomore, but preferably junior year. If I had a talented kid, I would let them specialize after their freshman year.

        At the same time, playing multiple sports is all well and good from a developmental standpoint if the coaches in those sports are doing an appreciable job of developing biomotor skills. Chances are they aren’t. So I’d rather see a kid specialize with a progressive soccer/track, whatever coach than play 3 sports of running around playing the sport and not doing any athletic development.

      • http://cgscoutperspective.blogspot.com/ Clarence Gaines

        @Ed White: In regards to specializing on a sport in pursuit of a college degree. Depends on the sport, but before delving into the question; let’s establish that great athletes can do whatever they want to do in high school and get recruited by any college.

        Football is a sport that definitely doesn’t require specialization in high school. Having played college football, athletes win out in the end. There is no advantage to be gained in playing tackle football at a young age. Parents can easily wait until 8th or 9th grade before subjecting their kids to the rigors of tackle football, and have their kids get a taste of the game by putting them in flag football programs. Track complements football & many football players would benefit greatly from participating in their high school track programs. At smaller high schools, college football prospects can also participate in winter sports like basketball, wrestling and indoor track.

        Basketball is a sport that requires specialization in high school for the college prospect because of the club season and the skill level that is necessary to play at higher levels. However, a top rated BB prospect at my daughter’s school played volleyball in the spring. Volleyball coach was smart, recruited better athletes and taught them how to play. Flexible in working with athletes to enable them to pursue their primary dreams. Also think it’s easy for BB players to participate in spring track.

        Soccer is in the same category as basketball. Specialization for most is the path. Club and skill level acquisition are part of the equation. Depending on where you live, conflicts with other sports. In cold weather climates, soccer interferes with football season. In California it conflicts with basketball season. I’ve got a HS coaching friend in Michigan who has players who play both soccer and basketball. The sports actually complement one another quite well in terms of the angles and basic concepts. A good point guard in basketball can easily be an outstanding center-mid in soccer. Curious if Latif has many hoopers who come out for track at his school. I think track complements every sport & that BB players could benefit from a coach like Latif, however, the big problem with track and BB is that it interferes with the club program, but a flexible track coach should be willing to accommodate a great athlete whose primary interest is BB.

        Baseball is definitely a specialization sport because of travel team influence & skill acquisition, but I played college football with a few kids who got drafted in baseball. Can easily see a baseball/football combo.

        Girls Volleyball and basketball are very doable. Though, if you’re a high level volleyball player, the club season interferes with basketball. Still doable. My daughter, who is not a college level athlete played basketball at her school and then joined a club volleyball team after her season was finished. See no reason why a high level volleyball player can’t do the same.

        Participating in Track and Field or cross country in high school doesn’t require specialization to obtain a partial college scholarship. If a kid wants to do it and has a coach like Latif, then it’s going to be advantageous; but how many Latif’s are there in the world of high school T & F. Track is the type of sport where athletes win out. If I’m a college coach, I’ve got to be able to project. Raw physical tools are easy to spot. If I’m evaluating a kid who is a multi-sport athlete, who didn’t get the best coaching or training in high school, than I need to factor that into the equation in deciding if I want to recruit the athlete.

        Individual sports such as tennis or golf are specialization sports, but again, track will complement them. If a track coach is flexible & a good salesperson, they should be able to attract quality athletes into their sport. Latif lives it, but I’ve got to believe that if properly educated, parents and athletes would consider T & F as a second sport for their college level athlete.

        What track coaches did to do is have mini-seminars for parents and athletes who have college level talent in any sport of how T & F can help a kid achieve their long range objectives.

  • BF

    Posted at 05:00 AM ET, 09/18/2011
    How sports can help high schools
    By Jay Mathews

    Education writers rarely examine high school sports, but something is happening there that might help pull our schools out of the doldrums.

    In the last school year, a new national survey found, 7,667,955 boys and girls took part in high school sports. This is 55.5 percent of all students, according to the report from the National Federation of State High School Associations, and the 22nd straight year that participation had increased.

    Despite two major recessions and numerous threats to cut athletic budgets to save academics, high schools have found ways not only to keep sports alive but increase the number of students playing. We have data indicating sports and other extracurricular activities do better than academic classes in teaching leadership, teamwork, time management and other skills crucial for success in the workplace.

    Coaches may be the only faculty members still allowed by our culture and educational practice to get tough with students not making the proper effort. They have the advantage of teaching what are essentially elective non-credit courses. They can insist on standards of behavior that classroom teachers often cannot enforce because the stakes of dismissing or letting students drop their courses are too high.

    I thought about this as I watched for the first time in many years my high school’s football team, the Knights of Hillsdale High, in San Mateo, Calif. It was an exciting, high-scoring game, even though we lost 49-35 to a team of behemoths from Mountain View. I understood why that sport is still number one for boys. Last year it had 1,108,441 participants, almost twice as many as number two track and field, which draws 579,000 students.

    The other top ten boys’ sports, in descending order, were: basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, cross country, tennis, golf and swimming/diving. (I was a nerdish poor athlete, but participation helped me. I got a letter jacket I wore everywhere I went.)

    The influence of sports on girls is growing even faster. Their participation is up 63 percent in the last 20 years compared to 31 percent for boys. Their top sport is track and field, with 475,265 participants, followed by basketball, volleyball, fast pitch softball, soccer, cross country, tennis, swimming/diving, competitive spirit squads and lacrosse in that order. (The survey missed some smaller schools which account for about 4 percent of the U.S. high school population, according to federation official Elliot Hopkins.)

    We Californians can grumble about pigskin worship making Texas number one, beating us in participation 786,626 to 774,767 even though the Golden State’s population is 42 percent larger. (Virginia ranks 15th with 175,435 participants. Maryland is 22nd with 114,223.) But the fact is that all states would benefit from more after school activity.

    The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has published a list of what it calls life and career skills, including flexibility and adaptability, productivity and accountability, leadership and responsibility. Many teens find the most congenial way to acquire such competencies is after-school activities.

    A 2008 paper by Christy Lleras in the journal Social Science Research said students who participated in sports and other activities in high school earned more 10 years later, even when compared to those with similar test scores. A 2005 paper by Peter Kuhn and Catherine Weinberger in the Journal of Labor Economics found similar results for men who occupied leadership positions in high school. They cited evidence that leadership is not just a natural talent, but can be learned by participating in extracurricular activities.

    Students do better in activities they choose. If we provide more of them, led by committed adults, maybe even part-timers or volunteers, that can make a difference.

    We know the bad news about American education. SAT scores are down. Drop-out rates are high. But sports participation is going up, despite pressure to cut it back. Let’s cheer about that, and look for a way to draw more students in. With more depth on defense, for instance, Hillsdale might win next time.

    By Jay Mathews | 05:00 AM ET, 09/18/2011

  • cyp

    @J Allan Peoples I wonder what our school AD and Principal would say if we as parents, asked for USATF certification for coaches (as a way to assure our kids were properly trained…avoid injury, etc) and if parents offered to cover expenses or fundraise so that coaches could get certified. They already haven’t listened when we complained (through a series of 18 meetings) about the poor coaching and requested that good, volunteer, willing coaches assist.

  • J Alan Peoples

    Perhaps i am an exception as a HS coach, but it is not that hard to go to clinics. At my school we have 10 T & F and XC coaches. Nine of us have USATF Level 1 Certification, Five of us have USATF Officials Certification, and ten of us have NFHS Official’s certification. Several of my coaches are volunteers. When they came on, they were told that they had to be a certified coach. I raised the funds to get them certified, and then ended up with good coaches who know what they are doing. Most of us also attend the North Carolina Track and Cross Country Coaches’ association held in Greensboro each January. We have spent money sending athletes to pole vault specialists and on occasion have had a national level college coach come to our school to offer a clinic to both my throws coaches and our throwers. ( this was also offered to other coaches).

    By the way, we do not have any free meets: spectators must pay and the money is invested back into the program. Some examples include our collegiate level UCS PV and HJ mats, two jump pits, FAT system, and 3 shot circles. We sponsor large track meets (up to 600 participants) and we attend large XC and T & F meets. While there we are usually able to garner some data from successful coaches.We also are willing to travel and spend the night away several times per year. This weekend we are travelling to a XC meet in Greensboro where we expect to see over 1500 runners from several states.

    For those who are wondering, we have put 40 athletes at some level of college athletics since 1990, and we have had 20 individual state champions since 2000.

  • Cyp

    @Sonya thank you for saying that.
    While athletes should respect their coach, their coach also has to earn their respect and has a responsibility to respect the athletes by listening to their feedback, creating a positive, motivating and learning environment, being consistent, and being well informed on best practices to enhance performance while avoiding training related injuries. If we think our child is having a negative experience with a coach, parents will do their best to find a better situation. If a school administration is supporting a coach after multiple parents express concerns, then the school adminstrators need to rethink why they work at a school rather than protecting the coach because of some church or other social allegiance. The schools responsibility is to provide a positive learning environment for our young people. Thats what parents, students and the best teachers and coaches expect.

  • sonya

    Last time I checked it was still a free country. Stronger programs/better services will eventually always win out. The very idea that weaker coaches even use such a negative word as “poaching” in order to describe someone’s right to choose what they want out of their athletic life is a sad reflection of said coaches ineptitude. God forbid anyone should want the best for themselves or their child.

  • George Glover

    I will devour information that will help me coach. I have found much here. I am a HS coach. I don’t coach Track, I coach KIDS to participate and succede in track. A coach is an educator first, and sports are first and foremost a vehicle to make a better human being. Public schools will and must put the philosophy of coaching kids first, sport second. Most private coaches I know are wash-outs who could not keep a school coaching job. Most parents I have seen that seek private coaching and club teams are disgruntled and misinformed, and seem to be missing the point of sports and their place in education. The burn out rate of their children is spectacular, far outweighing the minority who succeed with the private/club model. It represents a “me first” philosophy. Fortunately or unfortunately, public school is where the masses of kids are, and public school deserves support as the appropriate place for sports as an educational experience and a shot at success. Trying to illustrate this with a business model, that athletes are consumers who will shop for the best, is just not the way it works. Once we all specialize, see youth sports as a business, and turn our backs on public education, see how many people are actually interested in sports at all…. and this comes from a lifetime track and field participant and coach.

  • Micheal

    Unfortunately Latif, you are right on! If it’s not football, it’s probably already dead. Keep it coming.

  • http://www.thepsti.com C.J. Easter

    Why can’t we all work together and make the coaching profession better as a whole?

    I am a professional coach in both the public and private sector. I own a company which trains athletes privately and I coach football at a public high school.

    So I see things from both sides of this discussion…

    But it seems to me (granted I didn’t read all the posts), all we are doing is complaining back in forth about the problem. I think the problem is clearly spelled out at this point, but what about a solution?

    For example at our high school, I held a free series of clinics to educate all the coaches at the school on body mechanics, coordination, and force application to help the part-time coaches better understand and apply these concepts to their sport.

    If all of our end goals are the same as coaches (give the kids the best opportunity to succeed on and off the field), we should share our knowledge and not bicker back and forth about who knows more.

    (This probably already exists, but…) My suggestion is creating an online forum where coaches pool and share their knowledge. Videos, articles, diagrams etc. A Wikipedia/Youtube of coaching concepts.

    Latif, you have the following and the website to get this started, is it a possibility to open up this type of forum on your website? Creating more coach to coach interaction and increasing the collective pool of knowledge

    Just a thought, I know it has to make sense business wise for you, but seems like we’ve identified a problem and usually there is some kind of profit if you put together a good effective solution

    Would definitely be interested in chatting further…

    C.J. Easter
    President | PSTI

  • Miguel Smith

    Uhhhh…

    From: http://www.nfhs.org/content.aspx?id=5752

    Participation in high school sports increased for the 22nd consecutive school year in 2010-11, according to the annual High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) … Cross country and outdoor track and field gained the most participants in boys sports last year … Among girls sports, the emerging sport of lacrosse led the way … Outdoor track and field was close behind lacrosse …

    and

    From: http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/public/ncaa/issues/recruiting/probability+of+going+pro

    Estimated Probability of Competing in Athletics Beyond the High School Interscholastic Level:
    Percent High School to NCAA : Men’s bball 3.1% ; Women’s Bball 3.5% ; Football 6.0% ; Baseball 6.4% ; men’s ice hockey ; 10.8% ; men’s soccer 5.6%

    Just go to class and do your homework. Play sports for fun.

  • AC

    Latif-
    You did it again! How dare you speak the truth! Far too many school systems and it’s coaches speak more of history and tradition than education and development. They live off of the accomplishments of the athletes from the past that had success regardless of their ignorance. Choose any sport in any area of the country and you will find your comments to ring true about a majority of the HS coaches. We spoke on your radio show and in emails about finding ways to work around this ignorance. GREAT POST!

  • Coach J

    I feel one of the biggest problems with our sport of track and field dying is not the coaching ability of the track and field coaches, but an underlining belief in the sports world that anyone and every can coach running/speed. Many high school football teams do not allow their athletes to go out for track and field because they say things like you’ll get hurt running in all those meets. Your pull a hamstring and may not recover in time for the football season. Or, they’ll claim we’re doing speed training which is for football, and thats different type of speed than track and field stuff. Ours is geared for football success. Same with basketball, soccer and the like. Everyones a speed developer these days, and that just ain’t true.

    • http://velocitysun.com SKR

      @Coach J: True. Track has always taught speed development. I have yet to see any other sport teach speed. At the professional level those who teach speed development are former track coaches, hummmm I wonder why!
      The fastest man in the world is a track athlete.
      There may be some truth to getting hurt from running all those meets. This is an example of where club and high school coaches can also be ignorant of the realities of coaching.
      Pulling a hamstring in any sport is about not warming up properly or doing to much or the wrong type of motion.
      One of the oldest sports in the world is bound to be the whipping boy for the much younger sports. Those sports forget they take much of their forms from the sport of track and field.
      You comments go back to the fact that we as track and field coaches have to be the best educated on proper training and coaching techqniues so that our counterparts in other sports can see we know what we are doing and we can help your athletes perform at a high level by learning what we can teach them. We also have to help other sport coaches see how are help can actual help them to be better coaches.

  • Sam

    I am a coach from California and I coach both Club and H.S.track. I coached 15 yrs H.S. track ,followed by 11yrs of club track.I agreed to coach H.S. 4yrs ago as a trade off. My age group club was allowed to use the track and I was asked to coach the H.S.team. I believe the limitations of coaching H.S has a lot to do with the time allotted to coach. In CA. H.S. track officially begins the 1st Monday in Feb. Our league meet is the 1st week of May. We get the basketball players the last week of Mar., 1st week of April. Teaching track conditioning, techniques and strategy in 3 months is difficult to say the least.Because i have pre-season conditioning I get positive results but I can’t force them to practice early.Now with my Club program we begin early conditioning on Sat. in Oct. for several reasons that have nothing to do with greed….Parents of Club programs demand more..if i don’t start early i would lose those parents and their children to clubs that will offer early season training..Another reason is fund-raising… My club raises 80% of our money before the competitive season begins.I don’t ask my parents or athletes to have to raise money during free weekends ..The big plus of having a club is apparent…I have more time to teach, to be patient, to learn more about my athletes…You have arrogant, narcissistic and plain bad coaches in both arenas. ..Sadly ,at times ,especially early in my coaching career i was a little of each but never have I been called lazy……..

  • Renee Henderson

    I was fortunate in that my high school coach and club coach COOPERATED with each other. I ran Indoor with my club (my high school did not compete in Indoor track) and ran Outdoor season with both my club and my high school. This was mostly due to my high school coach being a teacher who volunteered so the school could have a track team. My high school coach was ignorant about track, realized it, had no ego and was willing to learn. My club coach had no problem with my high school coach getting credit for State champions in the 4 x 100m and 4 x 400m relays, even though he was the one who worked with the relay teams and perfected our hand offs. Both coaches worked towards helping the athletes. I had no idea back then what a unique situation that was. Now some thirty years later I have had to pull my daughter from her high school track team after her first year of running. She literally suffered from a coach who is ignorant about track but doesn’t realize it. Unfortunatley I held my tongue when she came home from practice with reports of the moronic workouts they were doing. Her season ended early with a stress fracture (she was not the only one). Once she is cleared by her doctor she will train with me. I am not a coach but a masters athlete who has used sites like this one to become more knowledgable about the sport and gained several World titles and American Records in the process. I would rather my daughter have the experience of running on a team instead of unattached, but I am not willing to see her injured again. At the end of the day, the decision of whether the athlete runs with a club, or school, should be made on a case by case basis. But the parents should be informed enough to make that decision. In my daughter’s case, I should have known better.

    • Mike Bober

      After reading this and having coach at the middle school , high school and club level since 1979 I felt offended by the idea that most in school coaches have little or no knowledge of the sport and only club coaches are the educated ones. I have coached my athletes and other schools coaches for FREE. I do it to help the kids and in most cases it was because the team coach said to seek me out. Now I am far from the expert club coaches claim to be, but I have read , gone to some clinic when I could. I am also a certified HJ official in Oregon and have worked meets for the U/O and our state association state meets. BUT I have never High jumped in my life and before 1979 had never coached the high jump. I have found that 1. a number of private clubs coaches will take any one who can pay and do promise they will get better and it is the only way to be seen by colleges 2. a number of club coaches are nothing more than ex – athletes with little or no training on not only how to handle 13-18 year old but what is safe or worse yet parent want a be coaches and are doing it to give their child a team to play on or because they were a track athlete they know what works. I started a club to get kids more meets at a younger age and a for the most part ran it by myself – every event but the Pole Vault. I tried to help kids out by reading, asking questions , yes even the internet or trying to get coaches to come in areas I did not feel competent and asked their advice and to show us – athletes and coaches how. I did this for 8 to 18 year olds and all for free not only my school district but from the whole country and even schools within our own conference. Unlike most private coaches , I paid my own way to meets , did not charge to belong to the club , helped those that needed it ,by paying entry fees , travel fees and bought kids uniforms and other equipment so they could compete. Some times this was out of my own pocket sometimes I went to friends who owned companies and ask for donations.

      This club idea with coaches / family is done in track , baseball (all dads have play baseball) ; softball (mom’s or dad’s both here) , soccer ; volleyball ; and even football at the lower levels. In our area we even have club teams sponsored by local area merchants so their kids make a team. So the all mighty club is not always the answer but to say that is the best place and that parents should take their kids away from High School teams is not right. There are the families who sent their children to private coaches in tennis , basketball , baseball and gymnastics where the kids do not even live at home and this puts parents sometimes so much in debt the kids have to get a college scholarship and still they do not come out ahead. Are all coaches at the high school level ones that should be coaching – NO, are some just there for that little bit of extra pay yes. Being retired from teaching most of my great salary goes back into the track program by buying books , DVD’s equipment (less expensive type – stopwatches , shoes , spikes for shoes) for the kids to use,

      One final note if you actually get this far – both our throw coaches at our high school are former athletes of ours , both were State Champions in the Javelin one was a State champion in the the discus and shot as well (won all 3 her senior yr.) – she was also the JO National Champion , Junior National Champion and went to the World Championships in Korea her senior year and threw at Oregon as well. The other one competed 4 years throwing at a Division II school. Both have been with us 10 or more years. Our vault coach – vaulted in high school and just retired after 25 years coaching the vault as well as LJ and TJ at the high school level. One of our hurdle coaches who volunteers was a state placer in the hurdles in high school at another school in Eugene. Our main hurdle coach is one who has worked his way up from middle school and now has been with us at the HS for 20 years and was selected Assist. Coach of the year for Oregon in 2010. Our Sprint coach is the baby of the group he has been with us since he graduated from high school 8 years ago first as a volunteer that the last 5 years a paid assistant. Our distance coach is a former wrestler and runner from Eastern Oregon – even though he has been with only 2 years he has and is coaching cross country as well. He has been with cross country program as an assistant for 10 years and a wrestling coach of our 5 time state champion wrestling team since 1992. Our head coach in his 5 year and 2 as an assistant is a former track athlete in the jumps and sprints. In his words my wife was a better track athlete than me. In all we have 8 paid coaches and on any given day 4 volunteer coaching working with the 140 kids we have out. Our average numbers over the last 10=15 years has been 110 to 120 athletes in grades 9-12. Our 2 middle schools average 80-90 at each school grades 6- 8 with 4 paid and 2 volunteers at each school.

      Sorry for the band wagon the comments made just hit me wrong – Oh in 2111 our boys were second in the big school state and the girls 5th with 5 state champions and all told 11 state placers between the 2 groups with 3 state champion groups returning. Thank you , I do lke the information you send out just do not agree with this.

      Mike Bober Assistant Coach
      (former Head Coach)
      Roseburg Senior High
      Roseburg , Oregon

      • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

        @Mike Bober:

        I welcome open minded posts of any length (even if you disagree with me!) and appreciate your comments. As I’ve said, there is no ‘right’ answer for either the pro-public school or pro-club people. Well, I would say the *right* answer is to compromise. To meet in the middle. But as we can point to in many important arenas of life ‘compromise’ has become a dirty word.

        I don’t mean to imply that ‘club’ coaches have the ‘coaching education’ market cornered because that is certainly not true. In my area, the club (mostly soccer and basketball) coaches are *no* more knowledgeable on athletic development than the high school coaches. But because kids pay to play, they are coerced into year round participation in order to be on the team. I find this morally reprehensible.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Renee Henderson:

      It takes an extremely evolved person to be willing to ‘share’ credit and work with outside forces for the betterment of the kids. Most are not willing to do that. I chose to leave my HOMETOWN high school because my ‘colleagues’ were so threatened by the rapid success (and allegiance of athletes/parents) of my athletes that the environment became too toxic for me to stay involved.

    • Rain

      @Renee Henderson:

      Renee I know you will do great and far more than what has been given.Please update me on your journey. Congrats on your amazing Masters Track Journey I am a fan :-)

  • https://sites.google.com/site/piratetrackandfield/ Mac McIntosh

    Thought-provoking. We’re a successful high school program in a high school of 900 and a town on 14,000. Please consider these points:

    1. Your capitalist metaphor might be more appropriate if you consider the parents, college coaches, and the community as the “customers” instead of the athletes as customers. Athletes are the “products” of your program and your success derives from their quality. That quality is defined and measured by your customers.

    2. High school sports teams create a focus of activity and source of pride within the local community. Our community ebbs and flows with the rhythm of the high school sports season. Our most loyal supporters are parents and alumni. They want a positive experience for the athletes and team success. I would propose that this is not the primary motivation for privately-coached athletes whose parents are willing to spend money with the hope of an athletic scholarship or selection to elite teams and programs.

    3. We encourage our high school athletes to compete in at least one other interscholastic sport. Our school does not have enough athletes to field competitive teams without multi-sport athletes. We extend this philosophy to our track athletes – every one is required to train for at least two events. We accept the challenge of training our athletes and building a competitive team at the district and state level within the confines of a high school season. Of course, we know we could make the kids more competitive individually if we could implement a year-round program.

    4. Good coaches and good programs can work within the framework of public education, build consistently consistently competitive programs, and meet the needs of their customers. Since taking over our program, we’ve won our league every year, won state championships 2 of the last four years and been second twice. We’ve set 5 school records and trained 10 individual state champions.

    5. I’ve trained athletes in summer programs, but miss the challenge of building a team.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Mac McIntosh:

      1. Great point!
      2. I agree. But lots of ‘public school’ coaches have the same selfish intentions, but where the private coach is financially motivated, the public school coach is Ego driven.
      3. It is proven time and again that athletes who compete in multiple sports at a young age and engage in multilateral training within those sports peak higher than those who specialize. We just focus on the Tiger Woods or Serena Williams and forget about the million kids who burn out. I tell my athletes that if they really want to focus on one sport, they should make that decision going into their junior year of high school.
      4. Agreed. I just don’t think that most coaches are good coaches. Doesn’t make them bad people, just not good coaches.
      5. That exact reason is why I coach on a track team and do not deal with short duration ‘facility’ type situations or do any 1:1 or small group training.

      Great post.

    • Ed White

      The trend in other states, particularly California and increasingly in PA very recently, is for top high school athletes to play only on top level club or AAU teams and not on their high school teams, for the reasons stated in the article. I can see this happening in certain sports in the Allentown schools, including Allen, Dieruff, and Central. Kids may leave their high school teams – not to play for another high school but to play for club teams where coaching is often better and where skills are actually developed and players are marketed. That is NOT happening in all sports at Allen, unfortunately, and we’re starting to lose kids not only to other schools, which has happened for years, but to club and travels teams where kids have access to better coaching and more exposure. I see this as a growing trend, and I think it’s up to the high school coaches to figure out why and do what is necessary to retain their best players, even if that means attending more coaching clinics, spending more time with their players, and actually cutting kids who can’t play and teaching higher level skills and refining those of the kids who can. I know this is being done by some coaches, but sadly not by all. I think you hit the nail on the head. And with how far behind California athletes ours are here in Pa, parents and kids are looking for how to get better and get noticed and increasingly they are concluding that it is not on their high school team but on a top club team. Many top coaches don’t even allow their players to play on their high school team because they tend to play down to the level they are coached at or play with and against (i.e., monkey see, monkey do). I think a number of club teams are really trying to advance their sport and are attracting better coaches than the local high school programs and are actually competing with the high school teams for the best players. If this trend continues, high school teams of the future will be mostly for recreational players while the best players will leave for the club teams. I think this is unfortunate, but if the high school teams are to remain competitive and survive, high school coaches and athletic directors need to evaluate what they are doing. They are either a part of the solution or a part of the problem. Right now, I think they are a major part of the problem – only time will tell if they will become a part of the solution.

  • Frank Bacon

    @ Brandon- go with reason # 2 -They dont want to look or look in the wrong place

    @ Rain- Continue to do what is in the best interest for your child. I fight with some parents constantly about this. Just last year the starting guard for our basketball team transferred to a private school-why- because that coach is more accepting of the club team he plays for….same thing happened the year before with our other starting guard. Both young men are academically and athletically gifted,but “hand cuffed” by the HS coach. If the schools in your area do not provide the level of coaching necessary to properly nuture and guide your daughter, let her continue to run with her club team…..she’ll probably get noticed by colleges at lot quicker.

    • http://cgscoutperspective.blogspot.com/ Clarence Gaines

      @Frank Bacon: This is Rain’s Daughter: http://cgscoutperspective.blogspot.com/2011/06/do-no-harm-weekend-story-of-child-track.html
      Trust me on this 1, she’s not going to have any trouble being noticed by College recruiters. She’s a 7th grader & I’m sure she’s already on a few college coaches radar screens. Who knows, if she continues developing, she might just adopt the Allison Felix model, go to college while Nike & Gatorade paying her & the college.

      First things first is finding the right program for her from 9th to 12th grade. Knowing Rain, she will find the right fit.

  • Reddog

    Latif. This article was right on point. Your words were accurate and very true. We have decided to give up high school track here in Illinois do to the high school training in our area. There are some schools with coaches that are also tied to AAU and USATF and its clearly noticeable why those schools are successful. Otherwise, Club track is the best way to go for my USATF & AAU National Champion

  • RL

    I carefully read your article and I totally agree. My son doesn’t run track but he does play baseball. We’ve used some of the training tips to help his speed for base running.

    High school coaches better wake up and realize that parents do have options today. My son has had a professional pitching coach for years and is an above average talent. We did move to another town so my son could play baseball for a well coached successful baseball team at a school that offered great academics. My son enjoys playing high school baseball. Frankly I think my son has a better chance of being spotted by a scout playing select ball in USSSA or similar tournaments over a 2A high school baseball game. Because of that I have kept his options open by letting him play school baseball and select ball during the summer. Why limit your childs opportunities?

    The days of coaches bullying kids, playing God, and not offering a real program are over. Got a crappy coach? Just move on to another organization or school that has a better program. It was the best thing I ever did for my son – who is a freshman pitching for the varsity team now. His grades? Excellent because he has goals to work toward and getting to play baseball keeps him motivated.

  • http://velocitysun.com SKR

    Latif,
    I liked your comments and your right about both club and high school. Instead of finding ways to continue to take shots at each other about what they do or don’t this or that do right. Club and HS should take the opportunties to figue our how to find common ground and work together to accomplish tasks that ultimately help out the athlete.
    Many club as well as high school coaches do not take advantage of training, mentoring, clinics and a plethora of other ways to increase their knowledge and become better coaches. Interesting that clubs think they are the source for most contacts with college coaches but what is interesting is college coaches almost without exception turn to the high school coach for recommendations. I do not know very many athletes who get recurited out of high school that their high school coach was not involved. I do both club and high school and have great relationships with the high school coaches I work with.
    To much ego from club and hs coaches and not enough sense. I see way to much from both of doing all the wrong things and have athletes do really well and coaches think it is because of them that these athletes succeed when in fact it is inspite of them that these athletes succeed.
    I happen to live in an area that puts out a lot of great sprinters. USATF Level 2 was here this summer and I would have thought that many local coaches would have taken advantage of the opportunity. Out of over 200 participants maybe 20 local coaches participated. Education is power and lots of coaches are not taking advantage of it.
    Need less lip from coaches and more attention paid to educating themselves about how to coach athletes correctly.
    When most coaches begin coaching athletes based on their current devleopmental level and what type of work and which energy systems to use when then perhaps the conversation can turn to who does what better. Until then keep your mouth shut.

    • http://velocitysun.com SKR

      The other piece that many clubs are missing out on is that academics is becoming a more important part of the student athlete equation at most universities with the Academic Progress Report, and other potential changes that the NCAA is getting ready to implement the bar is about to go up on the academic side for freshman and transfer students specifically. Schools and clubs may need each other to accomplish the task of getting athletes prepared and ready to compete at the next level.

  • parent of a high school runner

    How about coaches who insist that they are all knowing and omnipotent? As in “I can develop high school runners from sprinters to distance runners” when you its obvious that their strength, and interest is in shorter distances (sprints) and they insist on training the distance runners (800 up) the same way they train sprinters?

    You’re forced to seek an alternative option out of fear….as in fear that your child is going to get sick and/or hurt!

    • coach carpenter

      You’re so Right

  • Edwin Snell

    As a father of several very gifted athletic children who all participated in public high school sports I would agree with much of Latif’s arguments except for one thing….this is not a business we are talking about – it is the lives of impressionable 12 to 18 year old youths!
    Freshmen in high school are not fully developed physically or socially – they should not be forced to choose one sport at this age by highly driven, “focused” coaches who see the world only through their sport. My daughter was a starting center-fielder on a state-championship softball team, starting forward on the varsity soccer team and starting point guard on the varsity basketball team….as a FRESHMAN!!!! And I’m not talking about a small school, this was in a very competitive 5A school. She was told by the “Latif-like” soccer coach that if she was “serious” about soccer she should quit the other two sports…..and told the same thing by the basketball and softball coaches!!!!!! This is so wrong!!!! She liked all three sports….and was still developing skills in each one…..who knows which one she could have gotten a college scholarship for…..(probably all three if she wanted!) The point is – each of these driven, selfish coaches was lobbying for the EXCLUSIVE use of my daughters talents- they were focused on what was best for THEIR PROGRAM – not what was best for my daughter. You can not apply “free market” economics to high school sports….at least not completely….because those principles do not take into account what is best for the young athlete….only what is best for the competing sports programs!!!!
    I suspect you are one of the coaches who would have been pressuring my daughter to “get serious” about track, quit all other sports and go to track camps year-round!!!! Let these kids have some fun and play different sports for the simple joy of it….at least until they are juniors or seniors…..before presuuring them to CHOOSE ONE SPORT before they even know which one they like best or have the most potential in!!!!!
    By the way, my daughter did make a choice – SHE QUIT ALL SPORTS – never to compete again!!! Because she hated the pressure put on her to CHOOSE ONE!

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Edwin Snell:

      You would be wrong to make that assumption. For example, this past winter I had freshman boy in my sprints group who I think will be a very talented track athlete. But he has been playing baseball his whole life and was torn because he enjoyed his track experience. He asked me what I thought he should do. If I was selfish as you claim, I would have worked my magic and endorsed spring track. Instead, I gave him the same speech I give every athlete in this situation, “You’re a freshman. A varied experience is good for you. At the very least, play baseball this year and see how you feel. Even if you love track, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t give baseball a shot. After next winter, you’ll have a better idea of what you want to do. But at the end of the day, you have to do whatever is MOST FUN for you.” He chose to play baseball last spring and I never, at any point, made him feel uncomfortable about that decision. My primary interest is kids. That is my passion. I remember all the banquet speeches and cards that kids have given me over the years. But only a handful of the championships. And we’ve won quite a few.

      • Edwin Snell

        @Latif Thomas:
        Glad to hear that you don’t pressure students to choose one sport at early age….but why couldn’t the young man you described do both? Instead of either/or?

    • http://cgscoutperspective.blogspot.com/ Clarence Gaines

      @Edwin Snell: Sorry to hear that your daughter quit all 3 sports because of pressure applied by the coaches. I went to smaller schools (private), as does my daughter & son, where kids are encouraged to be multi-sport athletes & the coaches cooperate with one another. My varsity football coach was also the head track coach. My basketball coach was an assistant coach on the football team.

      If you’ve read Latif’s stuff before, you would know he’s not the type of coach who is going to discourage a kid from pursuing their dreams. He’s the type of coach whose #1 interest is in helping a kid be the best that they can be. As we know, Latif is quite capable of speaking for himself, but I would like to think he would cooperate with coaches of other sports who have athletes in his track program. What’s hard for me to fathom in this day and age is that my coaches in various sports always encouraged me to be involved in track, because they realized the cross training aspects of the sport. Track is the mother of all sports & coaches in other sports who don’t understand how it will help their program and athletes develop are clueless. Recently I made this statement, “If you’re a coach of any sport in HS or college & you respect your track coach, spend some time learning from them. It will help your program.”

      Love your quote on Frosh: “Freshmen in high school are not fully developed physically or socially – they should not be forced to choose one sport at this age by highly driven, “focused” coaches who see the world only through their sport.” I would also add that they’re not fully developed emotionally & that they should never be forced to choose a sport at any age or year in high school.

      Your daughter started in 3 sports at a 5A school when she was a freshman & then quit all 3 sports. I find that amazing, not that she started, but that she quit all 3. Ain’t that much pressure in the world that would have made me quit a sport that I LOVED, but we’re all different. The fact that she was starting in all 3 sports, meant that her playing time would never be impacted in her high school career. Playing any sport in high school requires dedication and love. My daughter loves volleyball & plays it in high school. She played basketball seriously for the first time last year as a JV player and improved immensely, but she hates the sport. The varsity at her school needs her talents, but she hasn’t touched a basketball since the end of the season. I don’t expect her to play, but it will be her choice. I just can’t help but think there’s more to your daughter’s story, because you don’t quit an activity that you value and love just because you’re getting some “noise” from coaches. Somewhere & somehow she lost the passion and love for all the sports she played. It seems simple to me that you could have called a meeting of all her coaches & laid down the law. Look, my daughter is a talented athlete and she enjoys playing each of your sports. Back off in demanding she focus on just your sport. Let her figure out over the next couple of years if she wants to and can handle the demand of playing all 3 sports. The one thing I know about all coaches is that they’ll go out of their way to accommodate great athletes, because they’re so few and far between. Very surprised to hear that this couldn’t have been worked out.

      • http://velocitysun.com SKR
      • Edwin Snell

        @Clarence Gaines: you could be right about there being more to the story than just pressure….but to this day (she is 28 yr old RN now) she won’t discuss other reasons why she quit them all….she also changed schools! I suspected some type of abuse then and still do….she just won’t talk about it!
        But I do know she was under tremendous pressure to CHOOSE one sport

  • cyp

    Here’s the thing…there are also parents and kids involved as stakeholders making public school athletics happen. 20+ years ago, parents did not have to volunteer so much to make the public school sports happen. Now with severe budget cuts, school sports depend heavily on parent support…including transportation, helping at meets and fundraising. In the last season, due to school construction, parents for our team had to volunteer countless hours to transport kids from school to workout every day. They did this without complaining. Consequently, parents come to feel they have a stake in the program (at the very least, that their kid is not berated by the coach every week for pissing away the future state meet and not provided strategy or training for not pissing away the state meet)…and if they provide constructive input (is it possible we could add some timed intervals so they have a better idea of their pacing), they should expect to be at least treated respectfully rather than as a threat. Also, the runners have to be dedicated. XC is hard work, and training is very demanding. If you have dedicated runners, their constructive input should also be treated respectfully. Also, in looking at things from the “stakeholder” perspective…the argument comes back around to the issue of marketing…are you meeting stakeholder demand not just for good coaching but an overall good experience for the stakeholders who are giving up their valuable time to contribute to the overall team success.

  • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

    My main problem with where a lot of this discussion is going is this:

    Peoples’ personal bias won’t allow them to see the alternative viewpoint. Public school coaches dismiss any validity of the argument made *for* ‘Club’ sports or why parents/athletes choose the ‘Club’ sport alternative.

    ‘Club’ sports coaches often (I said ‘often’, not always) ignore the value and community aspects of the public school season by coercing kids into year round ‘Club’ involvement out of selfishness and greed instead of doing what is in the best interest of the kid.

    Here’s the truth:

    Public school coaches are right. And wrong.

    ‘Club’ coaches are right. And wrong.

    The inability to see past our own personal viewpoint (and in some instances hypocrisy) is the first and largest stumbling block to having an open minded discussion or facilitating any kind of long term change.

    Try to see both sides of the argument and then express your opinion. But I can tell in the first two sentences of a post (or diatribe) who the ‘public school’ coaches are and who the ‘club’ school coaches are.

    Your personal opinion is no more right than mine. And my personal opinion is no more right than yours. If you can’t see or accept that then you are part of the problem.

    • Frank Bacon

      @Latif Thomas: My friend,you have no reason to doubt anything you do thru this vehicle. I know full well about the politics and acronyism that exist in HS sports and I know about the deceit and lies in club sports as well( for sake of this discussion I am only speaking of track). There will always be those who dont “get it” . As someone who was a late bloomer in track,I was ignored by my coach for three years. It wasnt until a coach from a rival school took my aside at a meet and showed me what I needed to do to be a better long jumper and sprinter. I never forgot that. You are not a hypocrite my young friend. You speak your mind and tell the truth…..how do I know its the truth? Dr Leroy Walker,Wilbur Ross,Dr Edward Temple,Stan Wright, Barbara Jacket,Fred Thompson,Brooks Johnson, Anthony( Tony) Veney,John Smith, Bobby Kersee,Nino Fennoy, Norris Stevenson,Houston “Keg ” Chandler…….have all said the same things about track at one time or another. Some of these gentlemen(and lady) worked miracles under less than ideal conditions-no track,no budget, segregation-but produced young men and women who icons in our sport and in the real world as well.

      No this was a topic that needed to be discussed and should continue to be discussed. Nuff said……..keep up the good work Latif,I got your back

  • Frank Bacon

    @cyp,Latif & Damian

    Damian my friend I think you are missing the point as has been so aptly presented by cyp and Latif. HS coaches that are classroom teachers will take staff development courses because if they want to keep their job, it is required. Those same HS coaches will not get off their “lazy”( I’m calling them lazy ) derrieres and take any type of course that will make them a better coach. Why…..they think they know it all. If a coach a calibre of John Smith can say in a recent interview that he has to go back to the drawing board,tear things down and build them back up…….who the hell I am not to try and listen and do the same thing. Yes our public school system is a sham, I doubt that yours is one of them,but not all private schools have all star staffs either. Most of them suffer from the same malady as their public bretheren.

    I want to leave you with this-John Wooden said that the mark of a good coach is one who gets to know his athletes as people first.Know their family friends likes,dislikes..etc. I know from experience that once you do that there is NOTHING they cannot accomplish. And my friend that and coaching education are sadly lacking I see it all the time. Whether you like it or not this article is the the truth and just maybe it will set someone free.

  • Gary

    Not too long ago ylu were railing agaibst club sports. If club teams are so much better why can’t team USA rarely get past the quarters in soccer. They always seem to lose to a bunch of guys from third world countries kicking home made soccer balls in the dirt. I have seen sone of tbe worst coaching in my life at tbe club level( as well ad the high achool level). I am not a high school coach. I am a pe teacher and a golf pro andI have noticed more injuries from tbe club athletes than ever before and it is a concern to me. Club and high school are practically one in the same in CA anyway. Most of the hs coaches run the local club program. Seems like a huge conflict of interest to me.They charge crazy fees and will not let you pkay on the hs team if you do not play club. Not all can afford tonplay clu or go to private school like you suggest tbey should. This lack of inclusion seems suprising coming from a partner of the IYCA.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Gary:

      That’s right Gary. I have. And I probably will again in the future. And I’ll be a Champion for public school sports. And I’ll rail against them. I can see both sides of the argument because there are valid arguments for (and against) both arguments. I don’t like the way public school athletic departments are run and I don’t like Club Sport hustle. I like what public school sports provide for kids, particularly kids without the means to go to a private school or expensive club team. I like the alternative that club sports provide, particularly for talented kids or kids who can’t get appropriate coaching at the HS level.

      I can see past my personal bias and hear the merits of the opposing viewpoint. I would challenge you to do the same.

  • Frank Bacon

    @ r-kroetch- My friend I dont know what article you were reading but it obviously wasnt this one. I too sit up countless nites on the internet searching or go thru a myriad of information that I have accumulated over the years. Why? So the young people I work with can be the best. Yes High School Sports are Dying,especially at the public school leveL for the very reasons stated in the article. I saw no reference to HS coaches being lazy or stupid-NOWHERE.Lets face facts here,you know that there are some coaches who will not invest ANY time in getting better,no matter what the sport.This is a free market society,you either keep up or exceed the competition or fall flat on your face and fail. You have public schools all over the country crying foul that private/parochial institutions are recruiting students……….well isnt that what over 4000 degree granting colleges/universities do and have done for a century or more?
    The Marines have another motto,that is another mantra of mine-ADAPT,IMPROVISE and OVERCOME….If you are coaching developmental athletes in any sport and are not willing to what I just mentioned in the previous sentence………you should not be coaching

  • cyp

    While knowledge about biomechanics, program design etc. are important…it is also important that on a daily basis, the training experience is positive, challenging, efficient and motivating…not a drag. If going to practice starts to feel like it has few personal benefits (emotional or physical), why would a kid continue to participate if there are club opportunities that are less frustrating. If the coach is spending practice time on long lectures every day with repetitive content and treats seasoned athletes like novices, for example, and this behavior means…getting home later, staying up later to do homework, not getting the the actual “work” etc., that is not a good experience for the kids. If the coach is not listening to feedback from athletes (questions, issues with injuries, request for strategy…I am not talking about whining) and responding, that is not a good environment. You can acquire knowledge about biomechanics etc. through many resources, you can test what you have learned and talk to and learn from other coaches about their experiences…but practicing good mentoring and teaching as a coach is something that requires both dedication and adaptive learning (self-evaluation, responding to feedback, changing beliefs based on new information).

  • r-kroetch

    This conversation has become something Way WAY off base and the sight manager is as much to blame as anyone responding it looks to me as though you incourage the petty spatting that covers these pages, I will now block this sight and that is to bad for all involved as I had gained some insight along the way some of which may be good for our TEAM, you see I am a “lazy-stupid high school coach” that really sets up nights planning – reading–looking for the very best thing for my athletes. I like, my kids crave knowledge but this sight will no longer be a sorce of that. Oh I wont be without GOOD info- I will simply look to other “self proclaimed experts” for my info-. L.T look in the mirror and give your self a little insperation to work toward the betterment of all, rather than self permotation at the cost of seeminly ALL others.

    Ralph Kroetch C-C and Track Coach Philip High School

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @r-kroetch:

      That’s your prerogative Ralph. But lazy stupid high school coaches don’t read this site or any other. And at no point did I say all public school coaches are lazy or stupid. In fact, I never even used those words. My mentor was a public HS coach who never ran a day of track in his life. And that man is infallible to me. I’ve never coached for a club or told a kid to quit his HS team to do so. So I would respectfully say that your offense says more about you than it does about me.

      As for self promotion, this is *my* site. So I feel pretty comfortable self promoting on the site I run and maintain for the past 6 years. And no one pays to read it. It is free, and I give away more free information than any site I have come across. Despite the fact that your argument doesn’t seem to be based on anything in particular, I wish you the best of luck.

    • jamie

      @r-kroetch: ralph, i don’t know if you are lazy, but the stupid part seems obvious. you are a teacher and coach and your email contained the following:
      “sight” when meaning “site” (this was done 3 times)
      “incourage” must mean “encourage”
      “to bad” should be “too bad”
      “sets up” should be “sits up”
      “sorce” is spelled “source”
      “insperation” is “inspiration”
      “permotion” should be “promotion”
      not to mention your inability to write basic english and convey an idea in an understandable way. my God, is english your first language?
      anyway, i think you inadvertantly proved latif’s point about stupid HS coaches

  • Nemaric

    Yeah but! I don’t much about that soccer team or those track and field athletes that you refer to, but I do know that GREAT ATHLETES make the coach. We have here in Australia some highly credentialled coaches, who are lured from club to club, and always have an open cheque book. That is, they buy the star players and that’s a part of the deal. You gotta problem, and you throw enough money at it, and presto, problem gone.
    You referred to socialism , and the free enterprise system, and yup, that’s the free enterprise system at work.

    Recently I was working with some Indian students. The country India has over one billion people, and I asked them why they didn’t do better at the Olympics, The Asian games, world track and field, international soccer, and the response was that the place was in such a parlous state of poverty that after a hard day’s toil, no one wanted to expend anymore energy running around.

    Today in my local Australian newspaper it is revealed that 9 percent of Americans are unemployed, and FORTY SIX MILLION Americans live below the poverty line.
    Also we hear the GFC 2 is imminent. (And believe me it wasn’t socialism that started GFC1)
    Also there were a bunch of other stats that painted a most unappealing picture of our good neighbours. I also have often heard it said the Americans are the most obese of all people. Well when you assess all these facts, then the reason High School sports are dying is the same reason as those poor wretches in India. And did it all come to this.
    Well I’m still scratching my head, and it is a worry, because invariably where you go, we follow. Yup, it’s a worry.

    • Michael

      As was said earlier, the athlete frequently makes the coach. There was a private coach in our community who took top level high school athletes because he told the parents that their high school coaches were not knowledgable. He was a great runner and could provide lots of individual attention. He once told me peaking in XC was easy and anyone could do it. His athletes qualified for Foot Locker nationals, and he looked awesome. I am a high school coach, which apparently makes me dumb. Even though I constantly read, buy DVDs and attend clinics. My teams have qualified for the State meet and even won a few state championships. But, in your world Latif, he would look superior to me. But then, the private coach got the opportunity to take over a local public school XC program.

      Six or seven years later, he has not had one team qualify for the state meet and no individual state champions. Did he lose his touch as a coach? No. He is still a knowledgable and hard working man. But, now he takes what comes through the door, rather than hand picking from the local high schools.

  • Roger Pedrick

    Latif, so you are able to identify some trends in political party allegiance and quality of coaches-please explain. I have been involved in track and field for over 50 years, both as an athlete (400/800) and for the past 35 years as a coach. I have been coached by, and coached with individuals in Uk and Australia whose political views probably ranged from far left to far right. Did their political views affect their coaching; not one bit. The reason I used the word “probably” was because we never discussed politics, we just got on with the business of doing the best for our athletes.
    I am a club coach because high school track and field is not big in Australia and the ability of our “sports science” trained Physical Education teachers is limited–to put it politely!! As a club coach I have never been paid and it costs me around $6000 a year to coach. This includes attending coaching conferences, travel etc. Plus I probably spend several hours a week reading coaching articles both hard copy and internet.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Roger Pedrick:

      You’re the one who complained about bringing politics into the discussion and now you’re bringing up politics. Come on, man.

      • cyp

        Politics should not be part of HS athletics…it should be what is best for the kids (including enhancing opportunities for scholarships as stated on ESPN/Mike and Mike; promoting sportsmanship, creating a learning environment, providing athletes with positive and constructive feedback and listening to feedback from athletes). If there are no budgetary costs to accepting expert help and the voluntary assistance is considered positive by the athletes, that assistance should be accepted, particularly when budgets are already tight and coaching salaries are so low the incentive for good coaches to participate is low. When the school stops thinking about what is best for the kids, and retains mediocre or hurtful coaches, especially due to politics and good old boy loyalties (who is friends with who), the parents only choice is to request a change, and when that change is met with a brick wall, the parents only option is to take advantage of alternate opportunities, if they exist, especially if it keeps their kid from giving up due to frustration with the coaching situation. Furthermore, if the coach is giving more support to the kids who are trash talking and showing poor sportmanship, the other athletes shouldn’t have to put up with that crap if they can pursue an alternate, more positive learning opportunity.

      • norm

        @Latif Thomas:
        I agree with the comments about “politics” and “self promotion”. I was going to download the article and have a group of college class exercise science and coaching minor students. But those two tones that permiate the article prevent me from doing so.

        • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

          @norm:

          I’m sorry, I don’t understand your point. Is your argument that while you agree with the concept behind the article, you are offended because you believe I’m trying to make some larger point about my political beliefs and also that I’m too ‘self promoting’?

  • Jim Kessler

    The mind set that some money hungry prestige seeker knows better how to coach young people than the professional educator who in most cases works with and sees the young athlete everyday in the school environment is what’s wrong about youth athletics, AAU, and the like.

    I have been told, “My AAU coach knows me better than my H.S. coach–talk to him.” Let’s see the guy who your parents pay to work with you is they one I should trust. Yeah, right–you mean you don’t want me to talk with the guy who sees you in the hallways and the class room and the cafeteria and in practice having to work with and play with those lousy bums who aren’t a good as me. My faith remains with the educational professional–at school.

  • Dan Murdock

    Public school teacher, high school track coach, a Democrat – who voted for Obama – so does that make me a Socialist? :)

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Dan Murdock:

      Well sir, I would say that I can’t speak to your personal political ideology based on those facts alone. My discussion was of ‘Coaching Socialism’ which, for our purposes, is a vastly different topic of conversation. But, to answer your question, if you believe that programs/teams/coaches that become too dominant within a school district should have limitations placed on them specifically to prevent poorly coached teams/teams with disinterested coaches from losing athletes who no longer want to compete on that team, then, yes, I would argue that you are a *Coaching* Socialist.

  • Roger Pedrick

    Latif,
    Living in Australia I am unable to comment on your observations on High School track, but I will comment on your bringing elementary politics into the discussion. This can result in this site becoming as toxic as the Letsrun site, ie, full of ill-informed bile. My only comment on the merits of the Free Market is that you examine the reasons behind the GFC.
    I must emphasise that I am not anti-American having spent some of the best years of my life on a track scholarship in Texas in the 1960′s.
    So Latif, stick to your usual excellent articles.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Roger Pedrick:

      This site will not turn into Letsrun, I can tell you that with abject certainty. I have complete control over what gets posted. I would argue, however, that I did not bring politics into any discussion, but, instead, made an analogy using an economic principle/theory as the basis. The principle/theory, I would argue, is not inherently political unless/until one injects a political ideology into the discussion.
      That said, again, I have no intention of allowing any line of discussion to devolve into an argument over politics.

      • Frank Bacon

        @ Jim Kessler- As someone who got their start coaching at the USATF/AAU level,99& 3/4 % of us DONT GET PAID,so if the club coaches in your area are let me know where it is and I’m there. I n essence this discussion hinges on the unwillingness of coach at the developmental level who flatly refuse to educate and enlighten themselves,much to the detriment of the young people they work with. Just as our vaunted public educational system has been in decline for more than 30 years,HS sports are no different. And club coaches arent the only “prestige” seekers, many a HS or college coach has used an athlete or two to boost their own career. Go to Flotrack.com and listen to the interview John Smith did during the World Championships in Daegu. That ladies and gentleman is what a REAL coach should sound like……….later

        • Reuben

          @Frank Bacon: do you have a link to the interview?

          To All: as an athlete i was a throw away. I had two occurances where i chose T&F. I tried Baseball in Second grade and realized that I was in the dugout alot during the game, so my Uncle who was a track coach started to take me with him to meets. pretty soon I was at practice and getting medles and ribbons every weekend. Once i got into middle school and Jr High i got into basketball the politics started. High School Coached were coming to the games and began mappinig out the rosters. All was fine until I got cut both my freshman and Sophmore yr. That is when I found my way back to T&F. Both years i was cut I was told it was because i didnt attend / pay for, summer camps translated into my parents were not on the booster team. I them realized that while running i was not asked to pay a dime. My track coach would drive the neighbor hood and pick kids up and take us to meets. As a coach I strive to do the same. I love the fact that the Middle schools has try-outs for basketball and track. I just wait and pick up the “throw aways”. I have only been coaching T&F for three yrs and Basketball for five but every year i never have the same team because the school system steals them after i train them and I do it for free with the help from stores in the community!

  • Frank

    I agree with you Mr. Thomas, and I’ve been saying this for years… make that 2 decades.

    The lack of quality coaching at the high school level spawned the growth in travel ball and club sports over the last 20 years. Good athletes are being directed toward these clubs which force them to specialize too young. Some advance to the next level, many seek the promise of college scholarships. Few benefit, and a lot of families pay a lot of money in this journey. Perhaps more than they recoup in scholarships. This 2008 L.A. Times article illustrates the point well: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jan/16/sports/sp-academy16

    I too miss the days of kids that join a high school sport where they are filled with school pride. It seems “that place” doesn’t exist any longer. Quality products produce quality results, and that draws the consumers. Simple.

    It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a public or private school either. They all face similar funding /resource issues, with few exceptions where quality is a priority.

    I manage to touch the lives of a number of young people every year. Many come back to thank me for the personal interest and the quality support I provide them while training. That’s my reward, watching them develop and helping them on their journey. No one pays for my coaching education and learning but me.

  • HTIStrackcoach

    This article addresses a major dilemma facing me as both a volunteer T&F director at k-8 school & as a father of two talented athletes, the oldest of which has just entered HS. Our grade school program is quite advanced compared to other schools (due to coaching education, etc) and includes coordination w/local successful HS programs, Parisi Speed School, independent throwing, jumping, distance coaches. We reseach & utilize all the latest age-appropriate training techniques, including dynamic exercises; plyometrics; hill, sprint, speed, threshold, etc drills; as well as nutrition seminars, etc. Needless to say, our program, though small in size (k-8 only has 425 students) has graduated ever more talented athletes.
    The problem now facing me personally is finding a program where my eldest daughter can build on her accomplishments in preparation for her college career. We were told by several HS coaches that colleges focus their recruiting more on HS teamst than club teams. Her HS T&F/XC program is beond pathetic. We have enlisted a private coach to offset the HS program deficiencies. This is a combersome, time consuming & expensive arrangement. We are thinking of switching to a local quality club team but are concerned about her college prospects. Truly wish the local HS coaches ‘invested’ in themselves and their program half as much as the all volunteer grade school!

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @HTIStrackcoach:

      Wow your program should be the model for all!

      While college coaches do focus their attention on HS state meets, etc., especially to see how they compete at high stress competitions, track and field is an objective sport. A girl running 57.5 is a 57.5 no matter where she runs it. (Whereas a girl could score 40 points against a terrible basketball team, but be held to 9 against a powerhouse) You’ll probably have to take more initiative to get in front of the colleges you are interested in, but I think it is a lot easier to do in track and field than other sports.

  • hetch

    Yes, that is why there are some dominant programs and some chronically weak ones. But come on, does anyone really believe there are enough people out there willing and/or able to coach on all the staffs in any state? We can ignore why it is hard to recruit people into teaching and coaching, and also why most coaches can’t or won’t invest in professional development on their own, but it still leaves us with a talent vacuum. Hyping programs like CST2 is indeed preaching to the choir and probably just making the rich richer. So I guess you are right, private ventures like this are truly capitalism at its finest.

    This is starting to make me wonder if there is a connection between the political party allegiance and the quality of our coaches. We already know how most of the teachers vote. Hey Latif, I didn’t bring it up, you did.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @hetch:

      It’s an interesting point. I’ve learned not to directly talk politics because people freak out about it. But I would argue that yes, you could find some trends in political party allegiance and the quality of coaches. But I won’t go any further than that!

  • http://elitevbc.com Andrew

    Interesting comments and easy to tell which side of the fence they are coming from. Unfortunately with the explosion of youth sports the club level has definitely been tainted so to speak, and depending on what sport you play, all or most of the recruiting for college will be done at the club level. The primary concern is definitely the continuing education of everyone involved in any aspect of youth development. Unfortunately a lot of school systems foster the lackadaisical approach to sports for many reasons. Parents and kids complain about anything and everything, Coaches at the high school level care much more about winning and their personal accolades than they do player development, Administration would prefer a no discussion policy and hopes to just go on their merry way while the athletic teams fend for themselves, and there are still WAY to many high school coaches with no prior experience who are grandfathered into their position whether it be by length of teaching tenure or merely defeault that they are currently employed by the school and no off campus coach can be found. So many issues involved, and for each family and athlete going through the high school system, only 4 years to figure it out. At this point and time there seems to be only one logical solution, if your athlete is focused on long term success and showing the intent to earn a scholarship at the collegiate level, you have to get them with the best coaches and trainers and support their determination and development. If they are into short term accolades and living the “social life” of the high school level, than obviously there is no point in dumping money into extra training and forcing practice time on them. So high school sports are dying?, probably not, but they will continue to separate with the historically good programs growing and continuing to dominate and the historically poor programs losing good athletes and dwindling. How can you not love it, It’s natural selection at its best.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Andrew:

      Great post. I think if school athletic departments simply had some basic standards of coaching education we wouldn’t have this problem. I know it is hard to find coaches. But it ridiculous to put an unqualified person in charge of a large group of kids who risk life and limb doing dangerous activities.

    • http://TrackMom.com Rain

      @Andrew:

      Very well put…

  • Elliott Evans

    Latif et al,

    I have dealt with the club coaches for many years. I have found most of them to be cherry pickers who attach themselves to only the most talented kids. As a track coach, my biggest problem comes from the AAU Basketball people. They have sold the better “ballers” on the idea that only they have the contacts to college recruiters.

    I actually had one of these “coaches” pull a kid off the runway during a varsity meet!

    Its nice to work with great talent, I do a lot of it during the summer for no pay. But for once I would like to have a spring season without interference.

    In our area, school boards and school administrators have opened stadiums and gyms free of charge to the clubs as a token of good will. Yeah, they are tax payers– but wouldn’t it be nice to run a private business without some of that pesky overhead?

    Elliott

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Elliott Evans:

      They are most certainly cherry pickers. And I can understand why from their point of view. It is tough being a track coach because most kids aren’t introduced to T&F until they many years of soccer, football and basketball under their belts and they’ve already been sold a bill of goods. And there’s no talking to these kids, especially their fathers.

      And yes, it sure would be nice to run a business with no overhead!!

  • Lynn

    Very good article and thought provoking. One of the things I like most about your articles is that they get people to think and assesss where they are at.
    I can say that some of the things get under my collar like I am teaching
    sprinters how to run slow when they have chosen to do XC. I had a sprinter who set the scholl record in the 400m last track season, at the end of the summer program, do a 400m
    run for time race after doing our easy 30min run and 100m strides she ran
    against the senior boy who is great at pace and she ran 4.25 seconds faster than her own record. Be that as it may anyone who does not read up, go to new seminars,clinics or webnars, go back to school as it were is fooling themselves. We are suppose to learn from history and then do things better
    if possible not become stale and stagnate and rot like so many High school programs are doing.

    • Chris

      And, you didn’t even mention the growing financial issue around the “pay-to-practice” programs that have an awful TOO in a lot of situations where kids (and parents) get fed up with going to the games and tournaments just to watch their kids sit on the bench AND not really learn about the sport. That’s a huge draw to the running sports. Where just participating in the competition is a huge win for many.

      • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

        @Chris:

        Again, I think this comes back to parents being lied to by the coaches of these programs. Study after study shows that parents consistently overestimate their kids’ athletic ability and intelligence.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Lynn:

      My goal is to make people think and I’m glad I can do that for you. I’m glad that you keep reading even if I do get under your collar every once in a while!

      • Lynn

        @Latif Thomas: Not a problem making me think about it has me making sure I know what the kids are naturally good at, and I am making sure that I adjust or add to their work outs indiviually so that they may become the best they can. So that I am not completely screwing up a naturally good sprinter, just because she is a gifted all around athlete. I may not agree with everything you say, but i will always listen and try them out, as a corpsman in the Teams(old School) I might not agree but I would do as told and if it worked great if not then I would try it different. Always looking for a better way to do things if possible, because the only easy day was yesterday.

    • Andrew

      I totally agree with Latif on this one. More significantly, I have no idea why Americans run sports through the school system or why we think it should be done that way.Don’t get me wrong I am all for phys ed (in a country of obese people, this is desperately needed – not mention all the other social and academic benefits of developing sound fitness awareness and activity in kids/young adults), I won’t even object if schools want to sponsor teams as extracurricular activities. But this is not the best model for developing athletes who want to compete well and develop skills to the best of their ability. Clubs do this much better. If done properly, that is (yes there are plenty of poorly run and exploitative clubs out there, but that does not disturb the basic argument). One sport where this is definitely the model right now is soccer. High school soccer is much less important to the top players than is their club play. Much, much less. Go to any college soccer team web site and look at the player bios. They will all describe their club histories with a passing reference to the high school team they were on. High school soccer is a tolerated diversion, put up with only because so much of American sports culture is consumed with winning the school league or state championship. This is the result of the dominance that football has on our school sports landscape, but is what’s right for football necessarily right for any other sport? I think in track this is probably more true than in any other sport. Our natural season does not even fit into the traditional academic calendar, how can we train kids for success in the sport when the system doesn’t even let them prepare properly for the competitive season? I ran club track and school track, not until I got to college was my school system remotely comparable to what I got out of the club team I was on. Why do we have to stick with the football model, why must we force this square peg in the round hole?

  • Sharla

    This hit the nail right on the head. I am the mother of twin 13 yr old girls who have been running with a USATF club for the past three years. Last spring was the first year they were elibible to compete with their school. The 7th grade track coach had the team do a complete lap of lunges around the track resulting in one of my girls partially tearing a hip muscle. Ending her 7th grade track season and leading into a very disappointing summer season. My immediate reaction was to pull both girls and never let them compete with the school system again. Our Coach from the USATF club convinced me to let my other daughter run with the school. I am still doubtful of the benefit of competing with the school. I feel they will have as a good a chance to to get noticed by college scouts with USATF as they would with the schools. My respect for our coach and his advice is the only reason this middle school can look forward to having both of my girls on their track team again this year.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Sharla:

      That is a travesty.

  • Todd

    I agree whole-heartedly. It is up to us (public school coaches) to stay up to date and give our athletes the best that they deserve. I’d be cautious, however, in stating that they receive better advice, coaching, etc. at the club level. While it’s possible, I’ve had many experiences with terrible advice given to my athletes by their club coaches. Promises of scholarships, no emphasis on recovery (i.e. 2-3 hour workouts 5 days a week and tourneys on Sunday on top of our regular workouts and Saturday meets), spending large sums of money to be on their “select” programs. I know there is a place for clubs and AAU and the like. It’s frustrating though, for me, to see my athletes exploited by these clubs so the coaches can fatten their wallets with, what appears to be, a disregard for the athelte’s true well-being.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Todd:

      You are ABSOLUTELY right! The ‘club’ team is a possible alternative to a terrible HS program, but in many (if not most) cases, just as bad but for different reasons.

      I have the same frustrations. Where I live it is these soccer clubs that bamboozle kids with unrealistic and false promises, as well as equally atrocious coaching (i.e., no athletic development, only soccer, soccer and more soccer). In fact, my best returning female sprinter has torn her MCL because of year round repetitive soccer and absolutely no biomotor/athletic development to prepare her body for the demands.

      The solution, for the public school and the ‘club’ environment is, as you stated, more coaching education. Fantastic point.

      • http://velocitysun.com SKR

        Latif,
        I liked your comments and your right about both club and high school. Instead of finding ways to continue to take shots at each other about what they do or don’t do right. Club and HS should take the opportunties to figue our how to find common ground and work together to accomplish tasks that ultimately help out the athlete.
        Many club as well as high school coaches do not take advantage of training, mentoring, clinics and a plethora of other ways to increase their knowledge and become better coaches. Interesting that clubs think they are the source for most contacts with college coaches but what is interesting is college coaches almost without exception turn to the high school coach for recommendations. I do not know very many athletes who get recurited out of high school that their high school coach was not involved. I have done both club and high school and have great relationships with the high school coaches I work with.
        To much ego from club and hs coaches and not enough sense. I see way to much from both of doing all the wrong things and have athletes do really well and coaches think it is because of them that these athletes succeed when in fact it is inspite of them that these athletes succeed.
        Need less lip from coaches and more attention paid to educating themselves about how to coach athletes correctly.
        When most coaches begin coaching athletes based on their current devleopmental level and what type of work and which energy systems to use when then perhaps the conversation can turn to who does what better.

        • brandon morton

          Latif
          You make some great points. This is the case at alot of high schools but not all. What I experience alot(not all the time) of the time is
          1. alot of high school coaches don’t know where to look for info.
          2. they don’t want to look
          I would run out of fingers if I tell you how many coaches have told me “this kid has all the talent in the world, I don’t know what I’m doing Im a football coach, if she/he had a real track coach they would run so much faster.” I always try to tell them where they can look for just very basic info. And sometimes I will run into a high school coach that has a good handle on training philosophy because they have plenty of experience and they put in the work.

          The ones that are willing to put in the time do know where to look. What I experienced was coaches that were willing to log in long nights of film watching and meetings during football season would come out to coach track and not even put in 10% of that effort to educate themselves on the proper methods of training track and field athletes. Sometimes you get educators that come out and try but they don’t know the first thing about training. And I’m talking just the basics of training. It’s not to say they don’t care about the kids but they don’t rank track and field high on their list of priorities and they see it as an all inclusive thing to do to stay active in football and basketball offseasons or to stay outta trouble. In the big scheme of things in some neighborhoods no matter how bad the coach is I would rather have those kids getting terrible coaching rather than hanging around in the streets. However if we are talking about trying to become faster the coaching needs to improve on the high school level.
          This is the story in some areas but not all. I have plenty of high school coaching buddies that have gone level 2 and level 3. They ask a ton of questions and want to get better. You can see the results in the kids they coach. The ones that won’t ask questions and don’t want to get better, they need to be removed from their positions if their is someone who can do a better job. However it seems alot of athletic departments in the south only take football and basketball serious, so they don’t pay attention to many other sports. Hopefully this changes and maybe we as coaches can reach out more and try to educate these coaches when we get a chance. I know if any coaches need to talk training my email is bmorton198327@yahoo.com. I am willing to help and be helped.

  • Hal

    Great article and very thought provoking. What a pity that this old “school” mindset exists at almost every public high school. Articles like this should be distributed to athletic directors and all high sports coaches, it just might get a small percentage of them to feel guilty and take a proactive action.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Hal:

      Change is slow. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. All we can do is be the change we want to see and hopefully those open minded coaches will start to see the light!

    • jc

      well said…well almost. you missed one important subject.

      Lets forget the parents for now. Kids want to play HS athletics. Its social activity for them, school spirit, etc…yes club is best for opportunities for getting athletes exposed to college recruiters. Football does not have this problem. In football, recruiters come to HS games to recruit. The football coaches are the best in their field in HS. So really the problem is the system is broke for many other sports. you have to draw the line somewhere and kids are getting hurt because of the demands of HS and club. go ahead, tell a kid that he can’t play HS ball for his school. I bet you will not have much luck. I see this way too often. Club vs HS is not healthy for kids, parents, schools or clubs.

      • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

        @jc:

        I agree with you on all the points you made, especially your last sentence. It infuriates me when I know my athletes are leaving track practice to go play another sport. Nothing I say can get them to change their minds. I personally believe that the best answer is to play for the high school team and coach. I don’t necessarily believe that the club team has better coaching and I believe it to be immoral for the, say, club soccer coach to mandate the kid play soccer during my winter or spring track season.

        Even though I know that the regular HS sports coaches are doing absolutely no athletic development during their season, I *never* ask kids to do anything ‘for track’ during their other sports season. In fact, when they ask if they can, I tell them that I will not add any extra training, even if I think it would benefit them. Because I always err on the side of less training, even if it negatively affects the results I could get.

        • Cam

          There is merit in what you say. However, the burden is not entirely on the coach. In most states (in particular, Wisconsin–my state), the state athletic associations forbid coaches contact in the off-season and only a handful of “contact days” in the summer. So basketball, for instance, has no allowed contact of any kind in fall and spring and only 5 days in the summer. If the anecdote is true that “teams are built during the season and players are built in the off-season”, then coaches are truly restricted from making players better athletes—thus the rise of AAU. An organization that is NOT restricted by state association’s outdated and archiac rules and regulations.

          Latif, as a coach, I actually send my players information on speed training, strength training and agility via email (BTW, thanks for all the terrific stuff you have) because I cannot convey this to them personally. I believe in the Core Foundation to build an athlete’s core strength and technique.

          So, I think the harsh attack on coaches at the high school is a little too harsh (though not totally unfounded) and I think it is external forces that keep us from–how’d you say it . . .You can adapt or you. will. die.

          • r-kroetch

            I find that often outside influnces believe they know what all is being done with athletes, when they often reciece slanted opinions of what is happening as well the athlete cooperation levels are not often understood, more often than many may be willing to admit the HS program they are in is more than is let on.

          • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

            @Cam:

            Fair enough. And I only meant to be harsh on the coaches who front like they’re doing what is best for the kids, but they haven’t been to a clinic or seminar or bought a DVD in 5 years.

            Making HS kids better overall athletes isn’t splitting atoms. If coaches (of field/court sports especially) just put some fundamentals in place during their season and did some in-season maintenance (not that I believe in in-season ‘maintenance’) we would have a totally different environment. Your ‘offseason’ for sprinters could be their basketball season because they’d actually train power, speed, etc. But they don’t, they just play basketball. You’d have faith that some biomotor skill has been developed and you wouldn’t have to start at Square One every season.

            There is no good answer, but I don’t believe that the vast majority of HS coaches try as hard or commit as much as they expect their athletes to.

            I’m glad some of my information has been helpful.

      • http://TrackMom.com Rain

        @jc:

        Football in not analogous to track or soccer or softball because you can become a professional track,soccer or softball player if you have the talent,You can’t become a professional football player(to my knowledge) without going to to college. High school has a natural progression for football players go to college and then for some the pro’s. as my good friend and high school coach say “The God of all Sports” owns all rights to fun and funds”

        All of club track is not the devil in a matching uniform. But a lot of club track is choc-ful of parent volunteers ,some of which just show up because of their kids not because they love our sport enough to learn as their kids do. There are many reasons why parents can’t /won’t become more interested in learning to promote better development in our youth track athletes.

        I believe It isn’t prudent for a parent (specifically)of an above average track athlete currently recieving a highly effective training regiment to subort the development and potential improvment in the time frame of high school, to a math highschool teacher that really loves XC but knows not much about Track and Field.(true, this was a real person I met from one of our home schools last season) He asked me if I wanted to apply for the postion….I am not a coach although I ask question like one in real life :-) Each student’s case is different but I am reluctant to try and fix(send to highschool that which isn’t broken(a perfectly good,well balanced developing athlete) with an excellent supporting group of doctors and trainers(of which I am one) and one great coach (that happens to be dad). As I said before I am not totally closed, but not sure high schools are totally open to a real development program. I do see some good H/S coaches out there and i talk to them alot.They just don’t teach locally. This is unfortunate for me.

  • Frank Bacon

    @ Latif-Ok you have been reading my mind. I made that suggestion to “Rain” after seeing her daughters video. The vast majority of HS coaches and yes even some at the club level do not want to take the time and LEARN how to be a better coach.Why,because in a classroom setting with bonafide instructors,their over burgeoning ignorance would be revealed. I say that because that was me at one time. I forgot my credo that I teach my students to live by. Its from Alexandre Dumas-” One’s work may be finished someday,but one’s education,NEVER “. I dug up every piece of research
    on track I could find and read over and over(still do that to this day) I asked questions of coaches in successful programs( Bev Kearney, Curtis Frye,Nino Fennoy( 14 State Championships in Illinois,coach of Dawn Harper and JJK.),athletes( Chrystie Gaines,Renaldo Nehemiah),studied/modified workout plans( Clyde Hart,Brooks Johnson,John Smith), modeled my program ethics after the greatest womens track team in history and studied their coach( Dr Edward Temple and the Tenn State TigerBelles) even took online webinars from a guy I never even heard of( guess who that is) but what he was saying lined up with all the other research I had done. And I’m still learning and dont plan to stop.Why,because I want the kids that come to me to be able to run with the best of them, give them the opportunity to have someone pay for their education,or just learn a good lesson about life.

  • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

    @Frank Bacon:

    Yes it was you and ‘Rain’ that gave me the idea for the article. Thank you!

  • Henry

    Latif, thank you for saying what needed to be said. It truly is “socialism” for high school athletes who want to excel in sports. The amount of politics that goes into high school athletics only serves to ruin the whole experience for everyone involved – the athletes, parents, and coaches. But the thing I hate the most is that, in my experience, there is a double standard when it comes to “stealing” athletes. If an athlete quits the track team to focus on football or basketball or some other sport, it is seen as the athlete choosing a different sport. If he/she does the opposite, however, it takes about 5 minutes for the coach of that team to complain to the Athletic Director that the track coach is “stealing” athletes. The irony is that a well-coached track program will actually increase the athlete’s potential to excel in other sports because it will develop raw, and otherwise neglected, athletic qualities. But so many coaches have the same mentality: I don’t want anyone taking “my” athlete from me. News flash: the athletes don’t belong to you. You are there to serve them, to hone their skills to a level of excellence in whatever sport you’re coaching. If you can’t do that, then you have no right to stop them from seeking better coaching elsewhere just because your feelings got hurt.

  • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

    @Henry:

    You are so right about that. It would be comical if it wasn’t so infuriating. On a similar note, at a previous program I coached in, I was told that I *had* to keep my practices to two hours. This was said by the football coach who I know full well had never run a two hour practice in his entire existence!

  • http://TrackMom.com Rain

    @Henry:

    You and Latiff are exactly correct “socialist”. The schools really don’t want stand outs to develop unless they are academic standouts. Mant times all other areas of interest are not of much value(music acting for example) in many schools. If a child gets special lessons for math that is great according to thr high school but if an athlete wants a high level of coaching that matches talent, it is with out merit and in many schools shuned and the athletes have the “scars of retribution” to prove it.

  • Tony

    @Henry:
    Henry,
    I have the same situation at my high school, where there are claims of equity in all sports, yet the big three are the only ones that matter when it comes to issues like this. I had a 42 ft. triple jumper and 6’0 high jumper during his freshmen year (4th in varsity conference for both) and a state qualifier 100 meter dash and 21’6 long jumper (so.) drop track to focus on basketball. I found that it was not the club teams that were a problem, but rather offseason demands made by coaches who didn’t trust what we were doing in track. So if they want to participate in track, they have to go do workouts at 4:30 for the other sport in the spring which leads to overtraining and wearing down on the athlete. All schools are different, though. I think the dearth of comments here shows you nailed it on the head Latif. By the way, all coaches in our track program are USATF level 1, and I have a level 2, so saying we are unqualified makes no sense, considering the success younger guys have had.

  • cyp

    In our case, local running experts, with widely known success and experience, offered to voluntarily, at no cost, assist with coaching the XC and track team (Varsity runners), and that offer was rejected by the school and head coach who saw this as a threat to his position and “team bonding”. The athletes (top 5 varsity runners), after working with the HS coach for 4 years, preferred working with experienced guys and knew they were getting the best coaching from them after working with them over the summer. They asked the HS head coach to allow them to continue working with the experts during the HS season, and the HS head coach rejected that request and said it was his way or leave the team. The athletes chose their right to good coaching over representing their school because they felt the benefits (being more motivated in workouts, higher performance, happier, better understanding of pacing and race strategy) were important…even though they still want to represent their school. Dedicated athletes should not have to make this choice…especially when other teams at the same school are allowing experts to assist as volunteers and as coaches and this is improving performance of these other teams.

  • Damian Capozzola

    This is an interesting but ultimately disappointing article in my view.

    I actually agree with most of the points in the article, including the “free market” point. Two particular thoughts on that:

    First, the high school where I coach is in a district where athletes can choose whether to attend our high school or the other high school in the district, and let me assure you that competition and market dynamics are already vigorously at work.

    Second, I think one thing that is hurting high school sports (or at least track and field) is the related rise of the one-sport athlete from middle school age and the idea that a soccer player plays soccer all year or a football player only works with the football coach all year, whether that is with the school coach or the off campus club coach. Many people have lost sight of the fact that track is to the rest of sports as mathematics is to the sciences — for the latest example just look at the big spread in the LA Times a couple weeks ago about the Serra sprinters now playing football at USC. The other coaches of other sports need to grasp that track is not their competitor but their best friend and off season coach.

    That said, I vehemently disagree with the primary premise of the article, which is that high school coaches are lazy, inexperienced, don’t know what they’re doing, and don’t aim to get the most out of their athletes and advance them to college level competition. If you look at the roster of coaches on the Palos Verdes HS staff where I coach you will find across the board collegiate conference champions and school record holders, high school state champions and school record holders, an Olympic finalist, and gradute education and professional experience in physical therapy and exercise science. http://www.pvhigh.com/athletics/athletics_track_coaches.html Among our recent college competitors are Whitney Liehr (Stanford), Alex Giacomin (Georgia), Keiko Hector (URI), and a bunch of distance kids like Erica Capellino (USC), Chase Zukerman (UCLA), etc. Also, when I look around the South Bay, I may have professional differences with the staffs of other schools sometimes but there is no denying their abilities (Leetch / O’Hara at Redondo, Miller at Mira Costa, etc.) and the success they have achieved with their kids.

    What I think it most dangerous and disappointing about the article is that it feeds into a much deeper and more sinister phenomenon at work in this country — the division of every sector of society into have and have-nots, and the demise of the middle class. Are we heading towards, and are you and others who follow these issues endorsing, a world where track and field is only for those athletes with the ability and resources to compete at the elite club level? I think the better approach would be for those with the talent and education to compete and coach at the highest levels of track and field to direct their energies into the public school system. Every kid should have the opportunity to have a first class teenage track and field experience, but if all the best people are abandoning the public school system then the downfall of high school track becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think the article would be improved if it ended with a call to action in this regard.

  • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

    @Damian Capozzola:

    I agree that kids are being coerced into believing specializing at 12 is good for them when every study shows multilateral training within a sport and playing multiple sports will make them better at individual sports and all sports. And that a well run T&F program is the best friend of all sports.

    However, as impressive as your HS is, it is the exception and not the rule. 75% of high school track and field coaches could not pass a basic test on biomechanics, energy systems or program design. I stand by that number. Using one extreme example of a high end program to stand as the norm does not prove your point. We can agree to disagree, but I’d bet the farm that I’m right on this one.

  • cyp

    @Damian I think it inappropriate to think about this problem as a stay with your school vs. abandon black and white issues. If several parents and runners independently meet with the head coach, AD and principal, using the appropriate procedure in policy, spending countless hours in these meetings, with the essential request of we encourage you to accept a generous offer of additional expert assistance (that we trust) to work with varsity, for a team that has a large number of runners, some of whom are among the top ten in the state and others who are starting out or in the middle range, and others who are varsity level and need challenge, and that offer is treated as poison and essentially rejected, then I say, the parents and runners have done everything in their power to help fix the problem (especially if these are parents that have volunteered numerous hours to support the team at races and with transport and fundrasing and these are runners who have consistently stuck with the team and worked hard, and especially if the runners in their heart want to run for the school, but now realize the coach thinks they are poison due to their request). I can’t believe this problem doesn’t exist in numerous places. Fixing a problem with coaching at a public school where there is essentially a thick brick wall, is extremely difficult. And in the end, stressful for the kids, particularly when they are treated like they have done something wrong simply for asking for additional assistance that was freely offered. Please don’t think that all kids who go to club teams do so without a heavy heart. HS runners have to seriously weigh the costs and benefits when faced with whether to go to a club team, and being able to do this requires maturity.

  • Damian Capozzola

    @Latif Thomas: But what’s the chicken and what’s the egg? Our school opened (or, more accurately, reopened) as a high school in 2002, and the program had to be built up from the ground. In the early years it was pretty slim pickings but now almost ten years later we have done the best we can to build a program that has achieved at least some degree of success and recognition. More importantly, all of our athletes — from the elite kids to the grinders — are offered a first class high school track experience for free through their public school.

    There was no magic in what we have done, just a lot of hustle and hard work to assemble and retain the right event coaches to train the kids. If that is not the norm, it needs to be, and believe me we have fought our fair share of political battles along the way, because we believe in public education and public school athletics as one of the underpinnings of this country. So I get frustrated when I hear that some of our best coaches and athletes are more inclined to abandon the public school system than work from the inside to fix it.

    The real danger is the prospect of reaching a tipping point where the exodus of talented athletes and coaches becomes unstoppable. As with the dissolution of any multi-member business partnership, nobody wants to be the one left behind holding the bag and turning out the lights. We’re nowhere near that point yet as far as I can tell, but I think this generation of public high school coaches has an obligation to work hard to keep it that way.

  • Rain

    @Latif Thomas:

    I agree completely with Mr. Thomas. Not only are kids coerced so are the parents and too many H/S track are lacking in the basics. I have offered FREE yes FREE instruction on Nutrition to functional movement and other topics in my area not one coach called me back not one. I get paid to consult on these matters and they can’t even bother to send a thanks but no thanks not back. I am a parent that just wants the best academic and athletic balance for my child. Your program sounds great… If we can find the fit that works to maximize her talents within our area that would be great, in the mean time I will continue to look while I still have time . The high school coaches out there doing the track community and working to help our kids keep it up your work is noticed but there aren’t enough of you to get the proper recognition you deserve.

  • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

    @Damian Capozzola:

    You’re right it should be. And your school sounds like a fantastic model for all to follow or at least borrow from liberally. But most HS programs are good ‘ol boy, crony systems where the teams are run by coaches from that town who run the same outdated systems run by their coaches from that town who run the same outdated systems run by their coaches from that town…

    Or schools will *only* hire coaches who are also teachers who are looking for a few grand.

    The *system* is set up, in the majority of cases, to maintain the status quo. I believe in the public school and public education and public school athletics as an underpinning of this country. I don’t personally believe the ‘club’ system should be allowed to interfere with the public school athletic schedule. BUT if the public school coach is ineffective, the parent/athlete has the *right* to seek outside coaching.

  • Rain

    @Damian Capozzola:

    “So I get frustrated when I hear that some of our best coaches and athletes are more inclined to abandon the public school system than work from the inside to fix it.”

    Damian, I don’t believe it’s a want to abandon it has to do with a need to be effective in the small window you have to work with an athletes needs. Good coaching in a good environment.If that isn’t happening when his or her turn up to bat(9th grade) comes, he and his family have to find the fit. From an athlete’s and parents perspective it is very time sensitive. As a parent my job is to find the fit, not try to fit where my athlete won’t maximize the total talent she has academically and athletically.

  • cyp

    @Rain: You are absolutely right…from the parents perspective and the kids, the issue of good verses bad coaching is very time sensitive.