Last year, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that it would eliminate wrestling from the Olympic Games, the outrage from the wrestling community could be heard around the world. They were united, organized, and focused on one thing – making certain that the IOC did NOT carry out its proposal. Not only did the international community react aggressively, but in the United States, coaches from the peewee to collegiate levels came together to do everything possible to save one of the most traditional Olympic sports. They knew that if the move to end their sport at this level was successful, then all levels would suffer, especially collegiately where, like track and field, many programs have been eliminated. Due to this collective, passionate effort, the decision by the IOC was reversed.
Dan Gable, the greatest wrestler in history, is the key leader for the sport in the United States. To illustrate his leadership, involvement, and influence, there are two examples of the impact this Olympic, NCAA Champions, and former ultra successful coach who led Iowa to 15 NCAA titles has. At last fall’s Ohio State Wrestling Coaches’ Clinic, Gable began his presentation by telling the audience that they had failed, and that each one was indirectly responsible for allowing the issue to grow to the point where the IOC was going to eliminate their sport. He went on to say that it is each coach’s responsibility, regardless of what age athlete that they coach, to make it their mission to do everything in their power to promote and protect this great sport.
On another occasion, Gable learned that Kent State University had made a coaching change. At the time, my wife was the sport supervisor for wrestling. She received several calls, as did other administrators, from the former gold medalist. He was calling to ask for assurance that a good coach was going to be hired and that there was no chance that the sport would be dropped, a trend that was spreading across the country. This is an example of tremendous hands-on, aggressive leadership that is necessary to assure that wrestling or any Olympic sport survives.
Track and field on the collegiate level is confronted with many of the similar problems that wrestling faces. Just this month, Robert Morris and Temple became the latest casualties as both schools eliminated our sport. On the international level, the IOC recently announced that it would allow 231 fewer track athletes to compete in the Rio games than performed in London. It was the only sport to have its participant numbers reduced. In addition to this decision, the revenue-sharing structure was altered, increasing the amount of money allotted to gymnastics and aquatics while decreasing what was distributed to track and field. This only reinforces the fear that the Number 1 status of track is being eroded. This information appeared in the Nov. 25, 2013, issue of Inside the Games, in an article by Duncan Mackey.
Several years ago when this column first appeared in RUNOHIO, it was given the name, “Keeping Track.” This not only meant preserving, promoting, and helping our sport survive and grow, but also to provide information about current issues that affect track beyond our own teams and our state organizations. Dan Gable sent his audience a message that was loud and clear; maybe we should use his words to send the same message to our sport.
Yours in track,
Read more of Rod O’Donnell’s articles . . .
A new book John McDonnell - http://runohio.com/index.php/features/701-keeping-track
KEEPING TRACK - From September-October 2013 print RUNOHIO - http://runohio.com/index.php/features/659-keeping-track-from-september-october-print-runohio
Random Thoughts - http://www.runohio.com/index.php/features/536-keeping-track
Another Division I institution has dropped its men’s track program - http://www.runohio.com/index.php/features/498-keeping-track
Ohio University Athletic Department's Worst Decision - http://www.runohio.com/index.php/features/497-keeping-track-ohio-university-athletic-departments-worst-decision
Life Lessons from Cross Country - http://www.runohio.com/index.php/features/140-life-lessons-from-cross-country
Ten Pledges for Cross Country Coaches - http://www.runohio.com/index.php/features/108-ten-pledges-for-cross-country-coaches
London Olympics - http://www.runohio.com/index.php/news/419-keeping-track
Improving as a Coach – http://www.runohio.com/index.php/features/322-keeping-track-1
You Only Go Around Once - http://www.runohio.com/index.php/features/3-keeping-track
Dear Jesse Owens – http://www.runohio.com/index.php/news/215-keeping-track
West Virginia State Cross Country Championship – http://www.runohio.com/index.php/features/472-keeping-track
SPIRE Institute - http://www.runohio.com/index.php/features/160-keeping-track