I have been reading former Australian Head Swimming Coach Don Talbot’s autobigraphy “Nothing But The Best” and was intrigued how he changed the mindset of Australian swimmers in regards to relays. Before Don made it compulsory for swimmers to be available for relays, they generally treated the relays as novelty events with most preferring to opt out of the relays. It made me think about how we could make relays an important focus of our track & field program.
If there was one particular discipline in track & field under threat more than any other it is the sprints – 60m/100m/200m/400m.
The four major football codes all place an emphasis on recruiting players with natural speed. Because of the extraordinary salaries they can demand, dozens of potential Australian 100m representatives are lured to the main football codes every year. Money is not the only incentive; there is also the glamour of being involved with a team sport that enjoys mass adulation from the clubs’ fans. The players feel a part of something special whether they’re playing for Collingwood, Melbourne Victory, the Brumbies or Manly Sea Eagles.
We need to look at what attracts the athletes to these sports and try and come up with a formula that partly satisfies the athletes’ desire to be part of something special. We need to adopt some of the elements that make these sports so attractive to our naturally talented fast athletes.
Last year we saw the Big Bag Bash 20/20 series take on a radical new approach with an interstate based competition converted to a club based structure. Players were no longer aligned along state lines but could be snapped up by another club which saw that player move interstate. Why can't we do the same?
Australian 4x1 League
I propose we look at team based relay series with a maximum of 8 teams in a 6 meet competition. Initially I am looking at the relays as 4 x 100m (with maybe a 4x200m at one of the rounds?). Each team is restricted to a total of eight athletes. The teams would have a unique name each decided upon by the teams in consultation with AA.
Total prizemoney available could be say $10,000 with $1000 available per round and a final pool of $4000 distributed to the team with the highest points.
Five rounds to coincide with a national series meet. The other round (round 1) to be home based where on a given day announced by AA, each team competes in a relay race in its home state’s domestic interclub competition. The team that runs the fastest time on the day gets the points.
For example, Teams could be:
Sydney All-Stars #
Tassie athletes could be signed up by any team, likewise with Northern Territory athletes.
# You don’t even have to live in a state to be recruited by one of the teams. For instance, Hayden Knowles might want to adopt a team calling it the Competitive Edge All Stars using his eight contracted sprinters to form his team which of course includes athletes from Qld, NSW and SA. This would make it difficult for the team to practice together but I’m sure some arrangement could be made.
Each team would have a distinctive singlet or team uniform provided by AA but partly paid for by the athletes (or a sponsor).
A manager/coach would be appointed who would be responsible for ‘signing’ up the eight athletes. Each team would have to be finalised by early December, say four weeks from the first event. Those eight athletes are locked in for the series. The manager/coach would have his expenses covered by AA. He would be responsible for organising the team for each meet, selecting a four man squad for each relay from his pool of eight athletes.
The meets could be:
Home Event *
Points on a basis of:
Any team that is disqualified or fails to get the baton around the track (DNF) gets zero points.
For the Melbourne Track Classic – double points.
Each of the meets where every team goes head to head has a total of $1000 in prizemoney.
* The first competition is a date announced by AA where all teams compete in their home state and the results are collated. For instance AA might announce that the first date is the second weekend in January. It is up to each state association to schedule a 4 x 100m relay in one of its competitions to enable the team to compete.
Perth and Adelaide might run on the Friday night, while the Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne based teams run on the Saturday. The manager might like to use all eight athletes in two teams on the day, but only one of the relay teams would attract points.
You could imagine how social media would be watched closely as all the results come in and each team can see where they sit at the end of the day.
This whole concept glamourises the 4x100m relay and would encourage the sprinters to be a part of something exciting and innovative.
The premiership team could each receive a trophy (medal, cup etc) which would be presented at the Melbourne Track Classic.
The Melbourne meet could also see a final between the top four teams. This would encourage teams to maintain interest util the last of the first five rounds knowing a spot in the final would be up for grabs.
I’m sure in time, this 4x1 League would prove very popular with sprinters who would love to be part of something unique and exciting and hopefully encourage them to remain in the sport.