Des Moines Diary: A year of surprises, and how social media will save our sport

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Lyles_NoahFHH1a-Pre18.JPGNoah Lyles, photo by PhotoRun.net

In 2010, the USATF Championships were held in Des Moines, Iowa. It was a strange year, in that, with the European Championships, it was a year that US athletes were having an off year. During that year, we saw several ARs set, including Chris Solinsky breaking 27 minutes for the 10,000 meters.

The US Champs in Des Moines, Iowa, were a) hot, b) devoid of big crowds. Yet, for track geeks, it was satisfying.

This will be my first outdoor meet of 2018, kind of late for me. But, with some health issues in April, I have taken the time to recover and have been given permission by my cardiologist to attend, then, consider some travel to Europe later in the season.

In Des Moines, Iowa, I will catch up with my friends, old and new. Meeting with coaches, athletes and fans, moving from one part of the stands to another, allows me to appreciate the various disciplines and the very fine people that are in our sport.

Our challenge: How do we communicate the excitement of the sport to the next generation? How do we encourage the potential coaches out there to dedicate their lives to this sport? And how do we convince the huge talents sitting in cities like Des Moines, Iowa, Bozeman, Montana, Wilmington, Delaware, or San Jose, California that athletics is their destiny?

Over the past two months, I have watched nearly every major and non major athletics meeting in US, Europe, and Asia. I find them on You Tube, or twitter. Race by Race, interview by interview. Some amazing stories out there. The use of social media by our stars, and soon to be stars, is incredible. The ability to see meets in Poland, The Czech Republic, Russia, on a daily basis opens the world. That the IAAF should get a big pat on the back, as well as the European Athletics Federation, is no wonder. The IAAF's quality of writers and video clips is second to none. European Athletics provides great access and content to young fans, and gets huge support.

For example, in 2017, the most viewed instagram photo on runblogrun was one from the adidas Boston Boost meeting in June 2017, with Lexy Halliday, the Dream Mile winner, having over 134,000! Here's the photo:

Halladay_LexyFH1a-BosOut17.jpg

Lexy Halladay, adidas Dream Mile, photo by PhotoRun.net

One of the reasons why the Diamond League is doing so well this year are the speed with which event by event video are sent out via You Tube, and twitter. I watched the entire Pre Meet, Oslo meet and Stockholm meets in at least 4 languages each, with some difference in quality. But, the twitter and You Tube event by event coverage is perfect for our sport.

Instagram allows the sport to tell short stories, add video and great photos. The fans love it, and one can quantify the numbers. What scares me about the new media? The recent Facebook invasion of privacy (not recent, my belief it has been going on since FB began), will create a backlash.

We are at a cross roads. The challenge is to take the best of the Gutenberg centuries (where print was valued) and combine that intimacy with video, audio, text and consideration of the fan's privacy. We are not there yet. Remember, that when NBC did their most recent contracts with the IOC they claimed control of media platforms not yet invented to distribute Olympic content.

Truth is this. We have the answer to growing our sport at our finger tips. Each interest group is going to have give something up in the short term for us to succeed in the long term. We are not there yet, but, if you believe, be part of the solution.

Watch Des Moines, cheer your favorite athletes. Despite the frustrations of an off year nationals, there will be some amazing moments. Rai Benjamin, Noah Lyles, Sydney McLaughlin, Drew Hunter, Christian Taylor will all be there, giving us their very best.

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