I did say in my last post that I would eventually share some of the things I learned while hopping around from meet to meet in Europe earlier this month. In Gateshead I was fortunate enough to be roomed with one of my competitors. Yes; I said “fortunate.” Usually this would slightly annoy me, but considering that this particular person (like most jumpers on the circuit I suppose) has considerably more experience than myself with triple jumping at the international level, I figured I would simply use it as an opportunity to ask questions. And I had plenty of questions, some of which I even asked on more than one occasion after forgetting the reply I had gotten earlier. Luckily, he had no problem answering those questions and sharing plenty of his experience and knowledge. Much of what I picked up from him is more “how to thrive and survive performance-wise” than anything else, so that information will inevitably be peppered in throughout many posts for some time to come.
Most of the rest of what I picked I simply absorbed by being a fly on the wall and observing and listening to other athletes, agents and meet organizer types. Some other veteran athletes were also nice enough to school me on some of the finer points of the international track and field game. I generally like to believe that I am in control of my own “achievement path” so to speak; of course within the confines of what He has in store for me. But I set goals and then set out to achieve them in the manner I see fit and typically without interference from other people who may or may not have the ability to make my path to success more difficult (never impossible of course). As a result, I am the ghost writer of my own story.
The world of professional track and field seems to be mutually exclusive with this sort of “take the reins” approach to things though. Don’t get me wrong, you always have control of your training and thus performances which no doubt gives athletes some leverage on the circuit and I love being able to have control of things in that regard since I’m always seeking to push my body and thus personal bests to new levels/distances. But even that leverage is somewhat illusory, save for the Usain Bolts out there. I say Usasin Bolt(s) because he’s not the only athlete who owns their event and is able to use their name and reputation as a weapon as a result.
I won’t make this post any longer than it has to be but a frequent criticism of team sports in the US is that the leagues and owners play with and treat players like property or pieces on a chess board. In spite of the fact that there are no true teams (although the big time sponsors do represent teams in a way) or leagues in track and field and athletes consider themselves to be self-employed, agents, meet directors and sponsors seem to know better. Sitting in the lobbies of the hotels that I stayed in, it struck me how many money-motivated athletes don’t realize that even our sport is rigged and dictated by the aforementioned triumvirate of agents, sponsors and meet directors.
Don’t get me wrong, being money-motivated is a necessity to some extent, so this isn’t a criticism of that. After all, training full time means that you have to have sponsors and supporters to allow you to do basic things like pay your rent/mortgage, eat decent enough meals to have energy to train, get to and from practice and clothe yourself and your family. But it also seems to blind you from the fact that those with the true decision-making power will attempt to serve their own interests 98 times out of 100, with the exception being those agents who work with and for their athletes rather than operating under the impression that the athletes on their roster are under their employ. To some extent the job of agents is to even the playing field to some extent so that athletes have someone on their side; that’s a large portion of the reason that athletes employ agents right? Of course, money-motivation causes plenty of other problems as well, including some for our sport as a whole as was pointed out in a recent View from the Finish Line post.
Perhaps this sort of set up of the sport is something that I should have anticipated but it’s tough to really see these things until you’re actually in and around the game for a bit. Can/will things be changed? Probably not; after all, it’s the same system that our major sports leagues operate under although they have player’s unions. It would be nice for things to be a bit more transparent since it seems like much of the business of athletics is played out in the shadows. Of course, that doesn’t sit well with me considering, as I mentioned, I’m the type of person who likes having a hand in where things are going in my career; and that goes just as much for my track career as it does for my legal career. In any case, I’m fully aware that my task as an athlete is to perform and perform better than my competitors. I have no problem with that considering my only goal in this game is to be the best in the world and to do that I’ve got to beat the best. So I’ll keep climbing slowly but surely and keep playing the game. I just figured I’d share my observations with the people.
I’m down here in Mayaguez, PR though and compete on Thursday. I can safely say that I am not a fan of bunk beds, particularly when I’m relegated to the top bunk! But hopefully I’ll be able to get up a CAC Games related post soon, especially since Haiti’s team is stronger than ever before and I’m feeling 110% ready to wreck shop when I get on that runway.