Friday, November 23, 2012

My Rant against USATF NE "slates"

The process of selecting the USATF New England Road Running Grand Prix is flawed.  A few select individuals decide three equally unpalatable “slates” for us to choose from.  Great races like the James Joyce 10km, the Canton 10km, the Lenox marathon, and the Middlebury Maple run ½ marathon aren’t even considered!

A few years ago the slate system was adopted because USATF NE thinks the general population will select races that may “conflict” with other races.  I call bullshit on that!  Each and every person who votes for the GP has their own agenda and their own list of races that they want to run.  Why is some elite group sitting down (on an afternoon during the Veteran’s day holiday of all things) and deciding what is best for the membership?  How many “Iron-runners” were invited?  Was your club represented?  Were the “active and top scoring clubs” invited? I think I know the answer to those questions.

Heck, the slates we’ve been given have conflicts with OTHER USATF NE events!!!  The potential exists for a couple of weeknight races, talk about conflicts…I’m sure a lot of people out there can’t justify a weeknight race.  How about a Thursday night downhill 5k 39 hours before the start of the Mt Washington road race (which is a perennial Team Event)?  Yikes, that is going to hurt!

It really comes down to choices and each of us will make those choices based on our individual priorities.  It would be great if we had ALL of the choices.  If a race goes through the trouble of bidding for a championship we should all be allowed to at least consider the race.

What I’m calling for is for everyone who reads this to contact USATF NE (email addresses below) and tell them that you want OPEN VOTING.  Have them do away with the slates and allow the most popular races as selected by the membership of USATF.

If we generate enough email traffic maybe USATF will listen to the members and make this important change.

Let USATF New England know that you are smart enough to vote on EACH distance.  Tell them that “slates” are a bad idea.  Let your voice be heard and maybe we can get this fixed for 2014.

Email the powers that be:


RunStephen said...

Dave, appreciate this post. I agree with you on some issues, disagree with your main change recommendation, and am going to use your blog to add my own rants, for better or worse.

I do not agree with you on going with such an open method. I believe we'd end up with a worse choice for the series even if we selected seven extremely popular individual races. I believe in the wisdom of the crowd but don't believe that it will work properly when there are so many interacting pieces. The selection committee members are trying to act as moderators to keep out the spam. I understand that you disagree about this.

Here are the problems that I saw over the last two months:
1. Meetings scheduled very late in the game when they could literally be scheduled a year ahead of time. There's no need for the dates to be tied to how well our race recruiting is going.
2. No recruiting of new club representatives. The selection committee has been stagnant for three years from my POV. I personally feel that I have to beg each year to get on the list myself, and I do that because it is important to me. It is tricky since I am in the same club as one of the sports chairs so I don't add diversity from that angle. This year I had a vote, previous years I was active but didn't vote. Things are a bit flexible on who can "vote" but I saw next to no effort to get more people involved in the process the last two years.
3. We had two new LDR committee chairs elected in late Sept 2012 who had only one month to get up to speed. They can't make up for work not done by previous sports chairs. Just explaining the process takes a while.
4. Limited use of a calendar of potential conflicts during the selection meeting. I bring my own very extensive race calendar and speak up about possible conflicts because I don't hear much about it otherwise.
5. Following rules for race diversity which I can't find written down anywhere.

Dave, I was at the selection meeting and IMO there was one key issue that really constrained the whole selection process and may have led to slates you don't like. I tried my best to address it by twice asking about a legitimate way to get around that constraint. But I was told "No, we have to have that". And I replied that I could not find the rule that says we can't do it another way. Response was that we can't have two races of one distance, its a rule.
As you know, I'm a stickler for following written rules. Oral rules, not so good, because I can't really remember or QA rules which aren't easily accessible. But I was chicken and didn't ask a third time, possibly rephrasing it as "Why are we following a rule which I can't find written down?" Water under the bridge now, already planned to address it next week for 2014.

So my perceived sticking point was the requirement that the 30K absolutely had to be on the final slate. I could see the 30K wasn't popular with everyone. My simple question was "Why don't we put two 10K's on some slates". We had SIX (6) 10K's bidding and four of them were GP races in the last five years, so their were strong options! My reading of the written rules shows no reason we can't do that. I'll ask for the wisdom of the crowds here to let me know if anyone else can find this "no duplicate distance" rule on our association website.
"The Grand Prix consists of seven USATF-NE Championships. The distances shall be 5km, 8km/5m, 10km, the marathon, two distances selected from 12km, 15km, 10m, 20km, a half marathon, 25km and 30km and one additional "wild card" race of no longer than 30km."

IMHO, I think this allows for a 10M, a half marathon, and a wild card race of 10K in addition to the required Championship 10K race.

Stephen Peckiconis
Treasurer, USATF-NE
Email: SPeck... at (First Initial, full Last Name)

RunStephen said...

[Continuation of previous post]

During the meeting I wrote up on our whiteboard the dates of Mt Washington and Mt Cranmore races, right next to the June GP choices. No one asked me to do it but I felt it important. Mentioned it out loud in addition. I'm not convinced we can remove all overlap between LDR, MUT, T&F and XC but was surprised the LDR chairs didn't come into the meeting and provide that information to the attendees at the start. Maybe they assumed I would?

My constructive suggestion for next year is this:
Require the LDR committee to create an email alias so that any USATF-NE member can easily email with their comments/criticisms. Should be simple to remember, not have to find a tricky page on our website and then query for three committee member email addresses. Then email them as much as necessary starting in June 2013 (or before!) to check on the progress for 2014. Post on our Facebook Fan Page if you don't get an answer or see deadlines are slipping. It has to be easy to give feedback and there has to be a public way to follow up and hold us accountable. Right now I see barriers to members being able to respond as you would like them to, therefore less chance of us (I'm on the Board of Governors) hearing them.

Stephen Peckiconis
Treasurer, USATF-NE
Email: SPeck... at (First Initial, full Last Name)

Joe said...

I really need to post here to give you my opinion on this 30k that some say must be in the series. I really had no idea The North Shore Striders would have the balls to put this race up for bid. I was President of that club when they were first handed this race. I timed it the first two years when it went out of the Community College in Lynn. Since then, that club has completely distroyed this amazing course. It has become an utter disaster with runners running over the same concrete sidewalk over and over. I cannot image this club having any resources to pull this together in any way.

Dave Lapierre said...

I don't like the way the slates are chosen especially the way some races never make it to a slate. If you are going to do slates then you need to make enough of them to factor in all race bids OR let the community vote on how the slates are created. We vote in primaries, why can't we vote for slates. A committee should not choose the slates. I am in favor of the option to have multiple races at the same distance. Lastly why aren't there more non-binding questions at the end of the ballot? At the very least the committee could get a lot more input that way.

Unknown said...

As the RD for one of the races that wasn't included in the slates (Middlebury Maple Run--The Sweetest Half) I can say I'm disappointed with the whole process. I had a voice mail from USATF to say "the dates didn't work, sorry". What the heck? I feel my time and effort to put together the bid application and travel to Waltham (from Middlebury, VT) was wasted. Seems USATF-NE really isn't focused on New England.

RunStephen said...

Sue, I hope you don't rule out coming back in the future. We spent 2.5 hours deliberating and never rule out an individual race without a long discussion. We call each RD who's race is left out and I hope the person who left the VM gave you a number for a return call. We want to interact and provide feedback.

I know travel distance was also a consideration, not to say that races in VT are not selected. In 2011 we had races in all four of the NE states. A combo of dates, distance, course, and competition with other races of same distance can make it tough to get on one of the 3-4 slates.

We have a problem to consider of alienating races which come for the first time, aren't able to be fitted on a slate, and don't give us another chance. That leads to more difficulty in adding diversity to the series because the first try isn't always going to make it.

I know that I am personally now aware of a great race which wasn't previously on my radar, and one which I've penned in for one of the next two years. I believe others like me will be made aware of your race simply due to your presentation to our series.

Thank your bid and for traveling down to Waltham. I know it made a positive impression.