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"The Official Word"
A rotating blog featuring USATF Board members and officials

The Best Kept Secret in Our Sport

Friday, October 15, 2010

by Jack Wickensphoto of Jack Wickens

Would it surprise you to hear that a small group of passionate USATF members collectively donate almost a half a million dollars every year to important causes within our sport?

And that thousands of children in some of America's most challenged metropolitan and rural areas have received uniforms, equipment, running shoes, and character-developing experiences thanks to this generosity?

Would it surprise you to also learn that some of our highest ranked athletes have little or no sponsorship support, but that very generous fans have stepped up to provide the critical financial assistance that enable them to pursue their athletic dreams?

Or that we have one of the strongest programs among all professional sports in America to help our elite athletes successfully transition to post-competitive careers after their athletic skills start to fade?

Well, be surprised!  

 These are just a few of the quiet accomplishments of the USA Track & Field Foundation, a non-profit philanthropic organization, which is celebrating the five year anniversary of its youth support and athlete development programs.  

In the past 5 years, the USATF Foundation has awarded grants to 177 youth clubs and youth programs across America, with an emphasis on our nation's most vulnerable communities. These grants have enabled young athletes to have access to travel, equipment, coaching and programmatic initiatives that help grow them as athletes and individuals.

The Foundation also annually gives $20,000 to help fund USATF's Win With Integrity school programs, aimed at educating youth, parents, educators, and coaches about the positive results that come from leading a physically active, drug-free lifestyle.

Through our Elite Athlete Grants program, the Foundation has awarded 145 grants to high-ranking but under-funded track & field athletes with significant financial needs. These athletes  often compete in our sport's least "glamorous," but most-deserving events.

Professional athletes in all sports notoriously struggle with the transition to post-competitive careers. The Foundation recently launched a program that delivers first class career-development mentoring and job search assistance to current and retired athletes. More than 35 major corporations and 75 professional executives have volunteered to be part of this program, which to date has assisted more than 70 athletes.

What is the USATF Foundation, exactly? 

The USATF Foundation was founded in 2002 as a means to attract and guide funds to new and innovative track and field programs, with an emphasis on providing opportunities for youth athletes, emerging athletes, distance training centers and anti-doping education. The Foundation depends upon donations from its Board of Directors and from generous fans of track and field.

Chaired by NASDAQ CEO Bob Greifeld, the Foundation's Board is composed of 25 individuals who share a love of track and field and a desire to provide substantial financial support to under-funded programs and individuals. Board members range from Olympic gold medalists to Fortune 500 executives and entertainment industry luminaries. (

The generosity and volunteer spirit that fuels the Foundation's work is typical of the passionate commitment we see in every pocket of our sport.

When I was recruited onto the USA Track & Field's board in early 2009, I happily accepted for a number of reasons. Ultimately, for me it's all about this sport's vast potential to inspire people in extraordinarily positive ways. This sport has inspired me since I was fourteen years old and first laced up a pair of running flats and I continue to feel energized by the extraordinary things that happen on and off the track every day.

For more information on the USATF Foundation, visit

Jack Wickens has served on the board of directors of the USA Track & Field Foundation since 2005. He became a member of USATF's Board of Directors in 2009 and serves as board Vice Chair and as chair of the business development committee.

Jack, love your uplifting and encouraging post. As an avid Master's athlete and prolific blogger, I've learned there are two times when advice is appropriate. When it's life threatening (and here, it's not), or when it's asked for. All the best to you and the never ending work you and USATF do to promote the greatest participatory sport ever!
Posted by: jeff noel on 10/15/2010 8:19:19 AM PT
You're right, this is the best kept secret. Please make sure that it's a secret no more. i want to hear more about the efforts of the USATF Foundation.
Posted by: linda on 10/15/2010 8:25:20 AM PT
I truly am grateful for this article. this sums up what i have beemn saying to the people whom do support me. Most people assume runners have so much money but most do not. they sacrifice alot to even get into the sport. I personally have down sized all my belongings just so I will have enough money to run these races. the average race is 70.00 to 100.00 dollars and when you want to get ranked that means you need to spend about 1000.00 a month on racing, shoes, and travel to these races. That is expensive. Most athletes are hidden mainly because they cannot afford the cost of these races so they cannot run. The program should be set up in a website that potential athletes can send their results and gain sponorship.
Posted by: Jameelah Abdul-Rahim Mujaahid on 10/15/2010 8:26:40 AM PT
Jack, I read your Blog and glad that you can write about this but unfortunately, I don't quite agree with your sentiments. I have known many track and field athletes that cannot afford the cost of training and traveling and cannot get the help they need. Like one commenter said a website should be set up so that athletes know about this offer. Like other Americans in individual sports these athletes are suffering for lack of support from America, yet still we enjoy the joy these athletes bring home every four years. So while you can write this positive article, unfortunately the real track and field athletes are still suffering. It would be nice if the Government can pass a Bill whereby young talented athletes in individual sports that are not supported by school programs can get some sought of financial help to help them with their cost of training and traveling. We at are trying to make that possible. Join us.
Posted by: Jewell on 10/15/2010 10:28:42 AM PT
Jewel - There is a website for the Foundation. It's and has been up for more than several years. Additionally, on the USATF homepage directly below the photo of Mr. Wickens is the Foundation's logo. Give it a click and it takes you to the Foundation homepage. I've seen numerous releases about grants given to emerging athletes by this foundation, USATF and others, so it seems to me that you are not very well informed. Look through their website and you'll notice that 2 athletes that got grants some years ago went on to win medals in Beijing.
Posted by: linda on 10/15/2010 11:04:34 AM PT
Jack, I know we've discussed this before and wonder whether the Mountain, 100km and 24 hours teams could apply for some funds since USATF does not provide full funding for our teams? Best, Nancy
Posted by: nancy on 10/15/2010 2:27:48 PM PT
When the succes and livelyhood of our athletes is of such interest ,I wonder why the USATF continues to be against the marketing and sponsorship strategies incorporated by NASCAR.Meaning let our athletes get local and national sponsorship themselves ,wear it on their uniforms and as along as it doesnt violate the decency rules allow some strategies for these people to earn a living .Even the youth teams could get sponsorship like little league baseball teams get .But none of you "purist" who run this sport get it yet .please somebody answer because until we do something well continue to have athletes who have short attention spans in track and field and even shorter careers
Posted by: Patrick on 10/19/2010 6:18:23 AM PT
Patrick, some good points, but please, take the time to review and proof your writing. Your grade? "B" for content, but "D-" for grammar, spelling and punctuation. It's painful to read what you wrote.
Posted by: linda on 10/19/2010 5:55:58 PM PT
mr. wickens, my name is carl white an amatuer triple jumper. ive been blessed and fortunate enough to participate in a few national meets. but i agrre with you totally. as i can relate to having no sponsorship or support. its good that there is something out there for people like me. i still have aspirations for 2012. where can i read more and is there any way i may be able to recieve help?
Posted by: carl white on 10/19/2010 6:13:16 PM PT
I would like to know what is the purpose and fuction of the usatf board. How are members selected? Do they need to have previous experiance of being on a city, goverment, state or education board. Also when selecting a head track and field coach for the world and the olympic team, how are these head track coaches selceted.Are they selcted by division 1 college experance and success,how many athletes they have trained that have been to the olympic games.
Posted by: Michael Dillard on 10/20/2010 2:00:31 AM PT
I want to thank everyone who has provided comments on this blog or to me privately. I sent email replies directly to the authors of some of the postings. Below are answers to some of the questions that have been posted that may be of broader interest: Jameelah, Jewell & Carl - To learn more about the USATF Foundation elite athlete development grants go to this web page and review the application guidelines: We apply a fair, objective evaluation of each applicant against performance results, performance potential, and financial need to decide where our limited funds should go. We wish we had more donations to apply to youth clubs and elite athlete needs! Michael - You asked about the role and formation of the USATF board. The is spelled out in the USATF Governance Manual (Article 11, pages 23-25) which can be found here: The shorter answer is that the Board members are committed to governing and supporting the USATF staff and volunteers as we all work to advance the great sport of Track & Field. Our strategic plan is our guide (
Posted by: Jack Wickens on 10/20/2010 6:43:13 AM PT
Jack, I am not amongst the surprised but I am amongst the many extremely grateful that the USA Track & Field foundation exists. Unlike many philanthrophic organizations they recognize that many grassroot organizations do not have the resources to cut through a lot of red tape to qualify for a grant. They just seem to analyze the situation and provide the help where it is needed most. In the words of Nike "They just do it". I am very grateful for their support and will contribute when and what I can to help them continue this work.
Posted by: Ron Jackson on 10/20/2010 9:19:46 AM PT
There are 9 Olympic medals in the event area of race walking. It is a widely neglected area in which USATF long distance folks could be very competitive. This is illustrated by the fact the USA does have some incredible youngsters in race walking who are competing with the best in the world in the IOC Youth Olympics and in the IAAF World Junior Championships. But to make the leap to the next level we need to overcome the lack of coaching education opportunities in the USA. It is not covered in any depth at the USATF Coaching Education classes because the NCAA coaches that dominate the teaching staff are unfamilar with the event. To help rectify that situation the RW committee applied to the foundation for a small grant to send the country's top coaches to England for The European Conference on RWing. But it was turned down despite the fact that money had been donated to the Foundation specifically for such RW needs. This doesn't make the foundation look good when they come asking for money.
Posted by: vince Peters on 11/3/2010 10:35:31 AM PT
So, I can remember a few years ago about people not supporting Doug, but Stephanie Hightower and her support rants wanted Doug. Stephanie, you should get out of USA TF before volunteers terminate you. Your a disgrace along with the other staff you've added in recent years. To pay a CEO that much is a sickness. Now, he deserves his contracted amount. This falls on no one else besides STEPHANIE "LOSER" HIGHTOWER. Doug 1 Suppporter
Posted by: Doug Logan supporter on 11/4/2010 8:17:06 PM PT
l believe and trust that you can help me
Posted by: Bigboy Anolrd Chirairo on 10/20/2014 10:36:14 PM PT

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USA Track & Field (USATF) is the national governing body for track and field, long distance running, and race walking. Headquartered in Indianapolis, the organization has more than 90,000 members throughout the country.

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