Where We Are
Where We're Going
WORDS BY RUSSELL DINKINS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY OLU OLAMIGOKE
Tracksmith launched its foundation in December 2021. The launch was intended to be at an exciting and lavish NYE Gala to be held in New York, part track meet, part fundraiser. Unfortunately, Covid-19 had other plans and the gala had to be canceled due to the Omicron surge.
So the Tracksmith Foundation started work in a much quieter fashion. In the nine months since, we have engaged in the quiet, unheralded work of building a foundation: creating a formal structure, creating by-laws, and formalizing an official board. But most importantly, we have started to identify key areas to target over the coming year.
Part of the challenge is figuring out precisely how our organization can meaningfully serve track and field. As a new organization, our impact would be very limited if we opted to pursue an all-in approach at this juncture. Instead, we believe it’s best for us to identify areas of need first and focus our energies there with the goal of building up and out.
We have started by continuing to support college teams that are fighting to save their programs. This is where I got my start and is a natural place for the foundation to focus. Specifically, we are supporting the alumni and parents of Central Michigan University’s men’s track team in their fight to get the program reinstated after its elimination in 2020. As part of these efforts, I submitted a formal racial discrimination complaint against Central Michigan University to the Department of Education which has triggered a federal investigation into Central Michigan by the DOE. That is a huge development and we are hopeful that the department, upon concluding their investigation, will see that the university is at fault.
Another place where we are focusing our energy is on youth track. The landscape for youth track is vast and so too are its potential needs. Youth track ranges from club to middle school and high school programs, from teams that are more recreational in focus, which provide skills and enthusiasm but limited opportunity for advanced competition, to teams that are highly organized in their coaching and ability to develop athletes. We have to figure out how to take something as vast as this track ecosystem and identify how we, as a new organization, can have a meaningful impact.
Before you build a program or start an initiative I believe it is important to understand the needs of the community. The best way to do that is to collect data so that any approach we build is informed by the actual needs, rather than what we imagine them to be. In this spirit, we launched a survey to collect data on what the needs are for youth track. Our hope is to collect information from hundreds of respondents so that we can get a clearer picture of where the potential gaps are. We have recently begun a series of follow-up focus groups to further drill down and get a more granular level view.
By going through this methodical, data-driven approach, our aim is to identify specific, targeted ways our organization can have a profound impact on youth track in the US. Through a focused approach we hope to have a tangible impact.
We are excited to learn more about how we can build something great to support track and field at its youth stages. In the meanwhile, we will continue collecting data, having meaningful conversations, and doing the necessary work behind the scenes to build something that will have a profoundly positive impact on the sport in this country.