Salty Running gave you a gift guide at the beginning of the month. But maybe you’re still wondering what to get that hard to buy for runner on your holiday list. Tights? They have a drawer full. Shoes? Have their own closet. Socks? S/he is too picky. Well…
How about a gift that gives all year, that supports the sport of running at every level and keeps on giving? I’m talking about gifting a 2013 USATF membership.
“USAT what?” you might be thinking.
USATF is the acronym for “United States of America Track and Field,” or the organization formerly known as the Amateur Athletic Union (does AAU ring a bell?). According to their website, USA Track & Field drives competitive excellence and popular engagement in our sport. This is the governing body for all track and field, long-distance running and race-walking events in the United States. In short, it’s a professional association for runners.
Not a professional runner? Me neither. In fact, the vast majority of USATF members are amateur runners, coaches, officials, moms/dads, and running-enthusiasts. With membership of more than of 110,000 people, less than 150 of those are Team USA professional athletes. Certification ensures that coaches have the most up-to-date knowledge and training. Anyone can tell someone to “go run,” but a coach can train an athlete to succeed mentally and physically. And without officials, track and field and many road racing events simply cannot happen.
While USATF is focused on developing World-leading athletes, they also support youth programs that encourage kids to give running a chance. In fact, 60% of members are under the age of 18 as part of USATF’s youth program, and in a nation where 12.5 million children are obese, that’s important! These youth or “Junior Olympic” programs also help develop the next generation of Team USA. A strong Team USA means a strong showing at the Olympics and 29 track and field medals in 2012, the most USA medals in 20 years.
So what’s in it for you? A whole heck of a lot.
Sactioning: USATF sanctions more than 4,000 events each year. Sanctioning ensures an event is committed to following national and international rules and regulations of the sport and to providing a safe environment for the participants and spectators (that’s you!).
Certification: USATF also certifies races for accuracy and validates records, which prevents long or short courses. There is nothing worse than racing a half marathon (or 5k), elating in your new a PR, and finding out the course was really 12.8 (or 2.9) miles. Ouch. Run a USATF certified course and that won’t happen.
Extras: You also get VIP privileges at USATF events; including the Olympic Trials, access to member-only races, such as Club XC Nationals; members-only discounts and a cool magazine to keep you up to date on all things Track and Field. Not to mention, access to the “members only” section of the website.
Need another push before you’re ready to join? Join USATF for their annual conference in Indianapolis, Indiana next December 4th-8th (2013) to see what it’s all about. I went this year, and it was one of the most fun events I’ve ever attended!
If you’re a former track star or a track mom, dad or sibling, surely you’ve sat at your fair share of track and field meets, but have you ever stopped to think, “who is that guy firing the gun to start all these races and why is he here?” And if your track meet is rainy/cold/epic in length, you’ve probably thought it even more. Well, he’s a USATF-certified official and he’s there because he loves the sport. It is his way of staying active in the running community and giving back. USATF membership is your chance to do the same.