Giving Back To the Future of Track and Field

Blue in GreerCorrespondent IJune 14, 2010

I wasn't always a dedicated fan of track and field.

During the Olympics I followed it, but I could not name the record holder of any event unless it was featured in the daily newspaper.

The tarnishing steroid scandals pointed to the great competitiveness of track and field, and the risks athletes would take to reap the rewards.

My interest has grown since my grandchildren joined a track and field club three years ago and changed my summers forever.

My youngest granddaughter loved it, and I now spend weekday evenings at track practice and my weekends at track meets, sometimes with a 150-mile drive involved.

It has changed my Internet habits too. I regularly check the countrywide rankings or local results to scope out the competition.

I still can't name the top athletes, but I can tell you who the top Bantam Girls are countrywide. My granddaughter is a strong competitor and has a real shot at a gold medal at this year's AAU Junior Olympics in Virginia.

But I didn't write this article to brag—well, maybe a little.

Mostly I just want to know if I will be seeing any of the readers at a Youth Outdoor Track and Field meet this year.

There is nothing quite like it, and if you like track and field you would love a youth meet.

These are family-oriented events with a pleasant atmosphere where all are welcome.

Stop in and wander through the crowd while watching some of the races or pitch a tent and stay all day.

Nothing can compare to seeing a seven-year-old win her first medal, or seeing a row of 16-year-old high school boys rounding that corner and digging deep for that final stretch.

Except maybe seeing the faces of the young kids running in friendly competition for the pure joy of it. It will remind you of why you fell in love with track and field in the first place.

You must experience it for yourself. There are thousands of youth track and field clubs throughout the country, and I'm sure there is one near you.

If you have time find your local club and help out. If you have experience, share it and offer the kids some guidance. Alternatively, you can give a donation or fund raise. Food and refreshments are usually available and the proceeds go to the club.

These kids are the future of not only track and field but the future of our country. It takes a special kid to be so dedicated and it takes special adults to help them reach their goals. It can also provide a great environment for a not-at-home father to connect with their kids.

Increasing the number of kids involved will help enrich track and field with new talent and support its future by boosting funding.

Who knows, you might ignite a spark in a young child that can never be extinguished.

I do know it will ignite a spark in you.