The American athletic system has become unified with its academic institutions. The American academic institution is changing and thus the athletic development program will reflect such changes. These changes will benefit athletes if appropriately leveraged by all parties into a 5-6 year model of training. Successful components of such changes will include providing an affordable and usable education for athletes that could potentially supersede bachelor’s degrees. An academic calendar and culture that is able to be beneficially bonded with the training plans of the athletes and a consistent coaching figure over that half-decade time period will provide for the best experience for the athletes. Additionally, The coaches at all levels of education within a town, county and state should have a unified paradigm of training for their athletes that can be utilized from youth to retirement, and it can all start right now.
A lot of evaluation is put into the German model of training by Americans, however, these evaluations are not appropriate as the Political-Economical-Geographical-Social (PEGS) characteristics of the two countries are vastly separated. A more true evaluation of training models would be that of the United States and the whole of Europe. The American ‘State’ system of organization is unique to our country, as is the resources available to athletics, the span of our land and value emphasized on sports to our people. When this lens of continental developmental programing is taken into consideration we can see that the American system is much more complex that our European counterparts and that is a reflection of our PEGS.
The foundational development program of any country lies within its educational system; in Germany, at a very young age the youth are selected to participate in several fields based on their competencies: vocational, science, military, athletics, etc. If a student fails to progress in a selected field they are moved into an adjacent track to complete. The American system is much more fluid, founded on tangents and with much more control from the individual than a greater party, this can cause great inconsistences over the educational span of a student. Particular to America athletics have been married to the educational curriculum and as a result the two have transformed: academic institutions of all levels are widely made up of student athletes while athlete development plans are structured in a 4-year model.
Traditionally, an American student would spend 4 years in college earning a bachelor’s degree, however, that time span is now stretching to 4.5-5 years and it is going to continue to grow throughout the coming generations of students. Not only will students spend 4 years in college to earn a bachelors but many will go onto earn Masters, PhD, certifications, etc. that may take them over a half-decade to complete. This should be taken advantage of much like the German’s have utilized the military for their athletes (which America does have as well, i.e. Michael Mai, 2011 USA Runner Up and Hammer PR of 76.28m).The better part is that unlike Germany’s system where the athletes become governed by the government our athletes will earn the opportunity to a greater education and influence than ever before, giving them the power to better govern their own lives.
Under a 5-6 year model of education and athletics the physical and psychological stress of an athlete will be severely reduced; there will be no rush for growth, there will be time for the coach and athlete to better learn each other and a deeper product both in the ring and outside the ring will be produced. I know there is a lot of noise today about the benefits that athletes receive in education but the fact of the matter is that sport is the last frontier and greatest opportunity to keep blue collar culture alive in Higher Education (Especially Liberal Arts Schools). Blue Collar Culture is manifest destiny. A Blue Collar Liberal Education Culture is not going to college to get a job and make money but to go to college to learn how to be the best you can be in whatever field of thought you pursue and if you do that right, yeah, sure, a job will probably follow. The nasty part of education is families looking for tracks to stick their kids into so that they are guaranteed job placement upon graduation and the truth is that college is not about placement but preparation.
Does anybody else see the commonalities between the above and its application to athletics? Many athletes at the onset of their graduation quit pursuing blue collar athletics because they do not receive the same placement as many white collar sports (i.e. The NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL Draft). Many blue collar athletes get caught between the path of monetary advancement and self-development. Think of the opportunities available to the white collar sports and their development programs; the MLB’s Minor league system has 9 systems of development on its own! Does American Athletics need 9 development leagues? No, but a better model would benefit many of our blue collar athletes and it’s all about perspective.
As stated above, if we compare systems we must do so with the United States and Continental Europe. Next, we need to evaluate not the United States as a whole but as 50 states and territories. Now, let’s take the state of Illinois and look at its developmental model for throwers through its educational systems. There is not much. Wheaton North, Lake Park, Fremd and North Central College all regularly host Throws Clinics for athletes and coaches throughout the year. There is the Dupage Track Club and The Aurora Flyers, but I personally don’t know much about the extent of the throws coaching beyond those described above.
North Central College is located in Dupage County. Dupage County is surrounded by Cook, Will, Kendall and Kane Counties. Within Dupage County there are 33 High Schools. Will has 24, Kane has 23, Kendal has 6 and Cook County has 238 High Schools (Cook is a large county and includes all of Chicago). There has to be a model in which a significant number of these 324 high schools may be able to work together to create a paradigm of training that will echo from the youth level to collegiate and beyond. Now, of course, the organizational transformation of track and field into a team sport and its external competitive nature comes into play. The Youth want to beat each other, the Youth want to beat each other from other schools, the Youth want to beat each other from everywhere, the youth need to be educated on what a successful thrower is and how throwing with each other may benefit themselves more than throwing against. Now, I’m not saying there’s nothing like an ass-whooping to some punk and I do take pride in those I’ve beat but only because I respect both myself and their efforts for maximum growth.
This proliferation of training groups may allow for better results for all levels of throwing. This doesn’t mean all schools do the same training or even that they use the same cues and language but by having some sort of long term plan for the growth of athletes spanning the youth to post collegiate those athletes participating are going to have a path with resources available to them to utilize to the best of their ability and desire. This concentration of culture can only bread success and having a constant presence over the athletic career of an individual of successful and caring throwers is something special and occurring in the places success keeps happening. Use North Central College as a base, use a rotating selection of institutions in the area as a base and get coaches on the same page so we can get the youth on a consistent plan for future years.
At the youth and high school levels the level of training will be quite general as many students will be participating in other sports and time commitments but by having a constant and consistent resource available if and when they decide to pursue a college education there will be less transitional turbulence. Now in college with a clear purpose to throw and study in a specific field the specification of training over a 5-6 year period can ensue and the college coach knows exactly the sport history of the subject. In order for this to work at the collegiate level there a 5 essential components that must be met:
- The student must be obtaining an education they are going to be able to utilize successfully.
- The student must be able to afford this education and experience.
- The student must be willing to experience this journey with it’s peaks and valleys
- The cafeteria must serve good food.
- There must be a consistent coaching presence at the college.
Between degrees in the Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEMs), Education and Business there are a great deal of fields for athletes to choose from that may benefit from a 5-6 year academic model. Students who may choose a more liberal field of study may couple that with an immediate Master’s Degree and there are opportunities for certifications, PhD’s and specialty schools. All of these options may take the students into their mid-twenties to complete and in doing so would benefit themselves and their institutions. There is hardly an event I can think of that wouldn’t benefit an athlete to compete in as a 5th or 6th year senior. From an NCAA Team perspective it happens at all the best institutions from DI SEC to DIII WIAC and does it make it harder for an athlete to compete at the national level at their respective championship? Sure does, but it’s about the journey not the $400.00 ring in your sock drawer. The NCAA Championships are great but what this journey is about is the athletes going beyond that structure and into the wilderness of professional blue collar sports.
The cost of the college education is rising and the best piece of advice I can give to the Men and Women is to be smart, get good grades, get good test scores and research all the methods of financial aid available at an institution. Grades and scores are not everything but they can make college a lot cheaper for you and your family. For students with bachelor’s degrees Graduate Assistantships are not limited to athletics, there are countless fields in which you could work and obtain and Masters at reduced or covered cost. Many PhD programs pay for themselves with T.A.’s or research and those that don’t probably don’t because you won’t have to worry about debt by the time you’re in your mid 30’s.
The final component that a student must be responsible for is accepting the ability to experience the journey that is self-discovery. This encompasses finding the way to utilize their education properly, this encompasses finding a way to pay for school and take on the later responsibilities as adults and possible debt, this encompasses digging deep within oneself to transform to our maximum ability. A lot of this is lost in money and beating opponents but if this deeper meaning for sport were to be emphasizes and deeper result may ensue. Throwing is a reflection of who we are a tool to shape us into the people we are to become, so we should act accordingly.
Feeding ourselves properly is key for performance, the cafeteria and nutrition for these athletes must be in line with our goals. The cafeteria cannot serve ‘college food’ but doesn’t have to be top of the line Whole Food grade products. Fresh food. Simply cooked. Lots of it. In accordance with the cafeteria other institutional infrastructures may affect the training plan of student athletes. Academic calendars based on semesters, trimesters, quarters, labs, night classes, internships, study abroad programs, student teaching and study work load are all variable that need to be calculated and balanced for the student and coach. Divisional, school and personal philosophies are key ideologies to be addressed as a 25,000 student population state school may be on a very different page than a 800 student population liberal arts school.
A consistent coaching presence is the final piece to tie all of this together for the student athlete. The NCAA is a coaching carousel and these inconsistences lead to poor performances, even if the coach is not of elite pedigree simply their consistent presence gives balance to a program. Nothing is worse than going through 4 years of college and having 4 different coaches. By instituting a development program structure such as described above with college coaches working with local high school and youth coaches to create a consistent paradigm of coaching for athletes a more structured system will emerge in each area. This will lead to larger areas with less variance in training principles, which, when applied to an entire state or country will drastically reduce not only the lack of knowledge but increase the amount of shared knowledge throughout an area.
Will our entire country ever be on the same page? No, that’s just not how we do things around here. But a system such as this will provide much more ideal structures and resources for the youth to prepare themselves for life after college and life after throwing. Following a 5-6 year experience at a single institution and an athletic career within this system throwers will have a much greater network in which to work and a stronger sense of what they have to do to continue their careers or to change their careers. Their careers will be able to be maintained for longer periods of time due to a more deliberate approach over a greater period of time. Most importantly students will have gained the opportunity through college not to be placed in a job but to place themselves in a situation where they will have control over whatever kind of success they plan on having in whatever field they plan on existing and whatever goals they plan on pursuing.