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Written by Rod O’Donnell on 23 May 2014.

In a recent TV interview, Phil Castellini, the chief operating officer of the Cincinnati Reds, said that at the end of each season, his organization sits down and discusses ways to enhance the fan experience at Great American Ballpark.  As a result of accomplishing this goal, baseball in the Queen City continues to draw large crowds, thus keeping one of the most loyal group of fans in the sport coming to the beautiful venue, located on the banks of the Ohio River. Going to a Reds’ game is entertainment at its best, regardless of the outcome of the game.

Track and field coaches need to approach their sport in the same way that the Reds’ organization does, keeping the fans who attend, entertained, and attracting new ones to the sport.

At a recent invitational meet in Parkersburg, West Virginia, our neighbors attended their first track meet. Afterwards, I asked them about their experience. Their response: they were impressed with the organization of the meet, amazed at the number of people working, and inspired by the effort that was given by the athletes in all the events. So, what made this meet special, aside from the beautiful spring day, and a facility that is one of the best and most historic stadiums in the tri-state area?

1)         Many meetings were held involving the athletic administration, the meet sponsors, and the workers, including a final one the night prior to the meet, to make certain that nothing had been overlooked and all those individuals involved knew and understood their responsibilities.

2)         The sponsors – Dominion and United Way – provided the support, so that each athlete, coach, and official knew that they were appreciated for participating in the meet.  All officials and coaches were treated to a cookout during the lunch break, thanks to our sponsors.

3)         The meet announcer kept those in attendance informed throughout the day about event results and the team scores. This is one of the most important things that can be done if you want the fans engaged.

4)         Music was played during the pre-meet warm-ups.

5)         The winners of each event were recognized and their pictures taken at the awards stand on the 50-yard line, with our sponsors’ banners prominently displayed in the background.

6)         The first 100 fans in attendance were given pens, with the Dominion/United Way – Russ Parsons’ 2014 Invitational logo, and a card with the schedule of events, the meet records, and a list of past winning teams.

7)         A fully-stocked concession stand run by parents of the boys’ and girls’ track booster clubs and volunteers from Kohls’ department store was open during the meet, along with a custom-made t-shirt booth, and a trailer selling icy cold treats. Fans also had an opportunity to participate in a 50/50 raffle, with proceeds going to the host teams.

8)         Over 150 workers kept the meet moving. Groups from a local college, a Boy Scout troop, a local running club, and the other volunteers did an excellent job, making sure that everything, from moving hurdles to officiating events, helped make the event go smoothly.

9)         The presentation of the team trophies was held following the final event, thus rewarding the team effort and helping the athletes enjoy their season journey.

10)The local TV station and newspaper were in attendance and gave

      excellent coverage of the event.

11) At the post-event evaluation meeting, the organization committee

      reviewed this year’s meet, and discussed improvements that will 

      be done for next year. The 2015 date will be Saturday, April 18. A

      JV meet will be held the previous evening, and a “kids’ race” will

      be featured during the lunch break.

12) In addition to many personal thank you’s, an ad was purchased

      in the local paper, expressing appreciation for the support of all

      who helped.

     Many of the ideas used here were not new, but all meet directors

     must keep in mind, that if our sport is to grow and return to the

     days when it had a large following, it must be presented in an

     atmosphere where not only the athletes, but all those involved, are

     given attention, treated with respect, and entertained in a way

     that they will look forward to watching the next track meet held

     near them.

If we want to receive the attention and support that this wonderful sport deserves, we must present our home meets in a way that makes everyone involved feel special and excited.

Yours in track,

Rod O’Donnell


Read more on Rod O’Donnell’s articles –


Student Athlete’s Questions -

The Need to Speak Up -

A new book by John McDonnell -

KEEPING TRACK - From September-October 2013 print RUNOHIO -

Random Thoughts -

Another Division I institution has dropped its men’s track program -

 Ohio University Athletic Department's Worst Decision -

Life Lessons from Cross Country -

Ten Pledges for Cross Country Coaches -

London Olympics -

 Improving as a Coach –

You Only Go Around Once -

Dear Jesse Owens –

West Virginia State Cross Country Championship –

SPIRE Institute -

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