The rules of track and field hardly differ from country to country, making it universally understood. In looking at Boise State’s track and field roster, it is apparent that track and field affects many; there are 11 international athletes from seven different countries. From Dani Georgiou from Cyprus to Michael Vennard from England, Boise State’s track team showcases the worldwide impact running has on the athletic world. There are over 1,000 track and field college programs across the nation, but the answer to how it became an international phenom is different for everyone.
Boise State assistant distance coach and international recruiter Benji Wetli spoke on the process of recruitment and the immense role social media plays in helping international athletes get recruited. He mentioned that it makes getting in contact with coaches in other countries –– especially with language barriers –– a lot easier. Wetli has noticed that the athletes’ biggest trials come from learning how the NCAA works, but then the transition to continue playing their sport is usually seamless.
“In the NCAA, cross country and track season are a little bit different in their home country than in the United States. For example, our cross country season is a little earlier than most cross country seasons, so that is a little bit of a transition. But we’re fortunate that running is a pretty simple sport, so it’s a pretty easy transition,” Wetli said.
Over time, an abundance of sports have become worldwide sports. But track and field has been prominent since the start of athletics, and has continued to be one of the world’s most well-received sports. One of the reasons for this sensation could be the low financial strain that running has on its participants. Virtually no money has to be put in –– while other sports require much more funding for athletes to compete due to equipment and facilities, track only requires a person to show up and practice.
“You can just go anywhere to train. You can train on the track, grass and you can train on the beach,” said senior sprinter and horizontal jumper Taj Dorsett, who is originally from the Bahamas. “It’s not an expensive sport to play or do. Back home, swimming is more of a ‘rich people sport’ because it costs more; I would say that track is just more of a welcoming sport for everyone.”
According to Time magazine, youth athletics have recently turned into a $15.3 billion industry. Some sports require families to buy their own equipment, pay to practice, get personal trainers and more. The simplicity of track and field makes its one of the more accessible sports for people to participate in.
The track and field team has one of the biggest rosters at Boise State, but can still be a place for people who do not necessarily like competing on a ‘team,’ and prefer to compete individually. For some athletes, being a part of the large team community is part of the appeal of the sport.
“It’s a good community. You’re able to run for a team here,” said junior distance runner and Australian native Clare O’Brien. “A lot of people think of it as an individual sport, but it’s a pretty cool concept to be able to run for something more than yourself and I’ve learned that over the years.”
There are not many differences in the way track and field is executed worldwide. There are small differentiations, such as how the races are measured and the season’s timing. Those differences become minute when there are coaches and an entire team that can help international athletes with such adjustments.
“You’re surrounded by like-minded people who really enjoy running, so there are always people around there, always people to run with and help with the transition,” O’Brien said.