Track and field to your average outsider may be seen as boring or a waste of time. No one really wants to sit around in the hot sun on the most uncomfortable bleachers watching random people run to a line as fast as possible. Trust and believe, most people will not put themselves in this situation. In retrospect, had I not tried out track for myself when I was in the 8th grade I would have thought this too and been watching basketball on TV. However, there is so much more behind the front face of the track community. There are so many hours of training and coaching and perfecting in order to cross that line first or jump a goal height or throw a winning distance. Since joining the track and field community, it has been the most challenging, tiring, and uplifting commitment I have ever agreed to. It definitely isn’t easy and it requires a lot of mental toughness. Traits that a potential member, plus myself, need to join this community are athleticism, motivation, determination and ferocity in order to push yourself to your highest level of performance and achieve the goal of being the best. Participation in track and field has helped me become a hard-working, patient, self-driven young woman with the goal of giving the best I can in everything I do.
The track community is a very tight knit group of people. Teams tend to go against each other often therefore you see a lot of the same competitors each track meet. You can make a lot of good friends in this sport, especially on your own team. The Arkansas State team meets probably twice a month as a whole to keep everyone focused. We are constantly getting reminders through e-mail from the head coach on important events coming up, or text messages from our coaches for practice times. Track doesn’t really have slang or jargon. Everything in track and field is fairly straight forward and basic. Sometimes when we joke around we will say, “Make sure you don’t get hurt, you’re worth points!” This simply means that person can score points for us at the meet and they are an important asset to the team’s success. So it’s a compliment of sorts, but a sincere one. Also, there are many abbreviations of events. For instance, in the races instead of saying one hundred meter dash we will only say the hundred. This applies to all races. Or in the throwing events we will shorten shot put to shot, discus to disc, javelin to jav and so on. For the jumpers, instead of long jump or triple jump they will say long or triple. Track has never been a complicated sport like basketball or football. Its main ideas are throw far, jump high, run fast, and score the most points. That’s all there is to know.
Members of the track and field community go in basic order; head coach, specialty coaches, athletes. This is incredibly simple but there are many coaches for each mini group of athletes. There is a throws coach, long distance coach, sprinter coach, hurdler coach, 400 and 800 meter coach, jumps coach, pole vault coach, and multi-events coach. Then of course there are the 80-100 athletes that are split up to their specialty. For each coach there are approximately seven to ten athletes. Now for the long distance/ cross country group there are about twenty to twenty-five athletes. For the new-comers, also known as the freshman like me, we are just thrown out there. We train the exact same way that the upper classmen train and are expected to work just as hard or harder to beat the upper classmen. This also applies to those who are trying to ‘walk on’ the team. Walk-ons are very difficult to explain. Not just anyone can join the track and field team but anyone can join the track community. The track community athletes can compete on their own time in which ever meet they wish representing themselves. As a walk-on for the team you are working to represent an organization. This requires harder training, because they were not recruited to be on the team, and must tryout when the season begins. Nothing less than exceptional is expected from each member, no matter the age or year.
Track has a lot of people, and a lot is going on during practice and meets. Throwers in the track and field community have a huge role to play because there are five throwing events. In the spring for outdoor track, four of the five throwing events (hammer, discus, shot put and javelin) will be going on at the same time and that is potentially forty points or more for the team (10 points are awarded for first place in each event).My role on the track and field team is clearly a thrower. I am expected to catch up to the sophomore throwers in ability but not as much in size. Since I am significantly smaller than my peers I have to master my technique and speed and work hard on building my strength. Patience is essential for me in the up and coming months. Participating in the track and field community at first seemed insignificant. I felt selfish and that my contribution wasn’t really helping anything. On the contrary though, I helped my team come close to many victories simply by focusing on me. It is because I had to work on myself that I became a better athlete and all-around person. I had to learn to encourage myself when I had a bad throw. I have to put in extra effort to perfect my technique in the throwing ring. Now I have to practice patience, because greatness doesn’t happen overnight. Many long work-outs and training sessions go in towards my success and towards the goal of being a conference champion.
The track and field community pushes you to work hard for yourself to help the team and not simply work for the team. Track and field is unlike any other sport. Essentially, it is all about you. Whatever you are willing to put into it, the more you will get out of it, and you have no one to blame but yourself for your mistakes and successes. Track has taught me that I have the ability to strive for greatness in the highest degree. It has taught me to be strong and independent, confident, patient, focused, aggressive and persistent, an encourager and a supportive teammate. All of these things I’ve learned have been applied into my everyday lifestyle. Participating in track has helped me build the ethos of waiting, working hard, and self-motivating to achieve my goals in life. I have never loved and appreciated a sport as much as track and field community.