In our current media we see a number of debates like can Tebow succeed in the NFL, who screwed up the country Democrat/Republican, BCS or Playoff, etc. In the grand scheme of our daily lives sports are supposed to be an escape from the dirty world of politics. However, there are moments when everyone will be asked to take a stand for something they believe in and leave the debating for talk shows. In my short eleven years coaching I have run across number issues that affect the sport of high school track and field. These issues make for good debate on message boards, clinics, and late night sodas pops, but shouldn’t our goal be to create real change we can believe in? Obviously, everyone reading this has been affected by something they wish they could have changed. How do we create positive change? First, I believe it’s important to understand the word “reform”. Reform according to the dictionary is “the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, and unsatisfactory.” A person must understand this definition since you can’t fight for something unless you believe its “wrong, corrupt, and unsatisfactory.” If you are not fully invested you are doomed to not see the change become reality.
To create change the road blocks you will face are numerous. People will fight against change for a numerous reasons. Many people don’t like change because they benefit from the old system, don’t trust you, don’t want to cause trouble, or think they have a better idea. Recently, I have faced all of these issues as I have taken on the quest to create a positive change for our State track and field meet’s qualifying system. Is it controversial? Yes because all changes comes with controversy. Have people benefited from the old system? Yes. Are there people who don’t trust or like me? Yes. Are people afraid to rock the boat? Yes. Do people believe that any system is perfect? No. Can a new system benefit more people? Yes and that is what I intend to offer.
Change must happen first with an idea that can positively help our sport be better and a lot of us have those!! For this idea to be accepted you must gather widespread agreement on what should be done with set of circumstances surrounding you. Getting a large percentage of coaches to agree on something is difficult but not impossible. Over the last five years we have had a number of votes to approve this change. Each time we voted more people began supporting what we are doing.
If you want to create change you must get used to being told no…. a lot. The coaches in our state have been told no numerous times but after many years we have won some victories that have benefited the athletes we coach.
If you are going to convince people that your ideas should be accepted you need to know your stuff. I have spent months gathering data that led to a 37 page document that includes data on all the schools that would be helped, the specific athletes affected, systems that are similar to the one we purposed, a time schedule, and how the mechanics of the system would work in the real world. If you take time to gather similar information you will be armed with more educated answers when asked tough questions.
Change is a marathon and not a sprint. There will be numerous hoops you must jump through and red tape blocking your path. However, if you are willing to give up your time great things can happen. This past fall I used up all of my personal days at work so I could gather support face to face. The interactions for the most part have been wonderfully positive. Pressing the flesh is important. I think many coaches would be surprised to discover how many people outside of track and field are unaware of the problems facing our sport. Sitting down, looking professional, armed with a handshake, and a pleasant conversation always works in your favor when gathering support. Going door to door do not forget the chain of command. I found I was much more successful if I talked to the coaches, then athletic director, and finally got the signature from the principle. If I went out of order I might have left the campus empty handed.
Having friends in high places, a large network of likeminded colleagues and most importantly playing the game helps. If you sit on the sidelines or too proud to ask for help or call in favors your task will be more difficult. Without help from friends, colleagues, rivals, and family our plan would not be one step from becoming a reality. Thanks to all of you that have gotten us this close to the finish line.