In April, 2017, Saucony launched a new elite development training group called the Freedom Track Club. The concept is built around the training and recruiting philosophies of head coach, Tim Broe, former United States Olympian and 2016 Boston Globe Coach of the Year. Learn more about Tim's background and vision by watching the video or reading Tim's POV on the sport, "Old School Vs New School", below.
Old School vs New School
By Tim Broe
The Freedom Track Club is a project I’ve been working on since I was a rookie pro just out of the University of Alabama. The goal seemed pretty simple: create a support structure and a training environment where like-minded, hard working, selfless athletes could unite and push the limits of their abilities. There were two small hurdles to overcome:
- Find a place where the best talent in the country would be willing to move
- Find a company who shared my passion for the sport and was willing to invest in the future of American distance running. It took me a few years (16 to be exact)
But I have finally found both!
Coaching was always in my blood. I was drawn to the human element of competition from as long as I can remember. Whether it was the final round of Wimbledon, hole 13 on the final day of the Masters, or the last jump of the 1996 Olympic LJ finals (Carl Lewis…GOAT!), the psychology of athletic performance under pressure inspired wild dreams of glory. I was the kid in the park that brought everybody together every day of every summer (think Sandlot) to play a fair and honest game. Despite the challenges that kids face who grow up in difficult homes, excuses were not permitted and fair play was always demanded. Not sure what prompted that behavior, but I suspect it had a lot to do with being raised by a mother who demanded the same from me. It was bred in me to work hard, to always challenge myself and to treat everyone with respect.
"It was bred in me to work hard, to always challenge myself and to treat everyone with respect."
Fast forward to my first year out of college. Like so many other athletes, I was completely in the dark about the professional running world. Before there was a club in every region of the country, athletes were left to train on their own or stay with their college coach. “Back in the day” the only support shoe companies provided sponsored athletes was a quarterly check (a very small one for most of us ;). It was the days of the self-made athlete and success was hard earned. Very few made enough money to sustain the rigors of being a professional distance runner. There was no room for error and those who weren’t self-reliant or couldn’t stay healthy quickly fell by the wayside. I know I’m not that old, but times have changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Before the days of Garmin watches you learned to feel pace/distance. There was no uploading your run onto a website so you could brag about having the fastest split for some arbitrary run. You didn’t go to a doctor when you were sick or PT when you were hurt. If your foot hurt you soaked it in a tub of DMSO (not recommended btw!). If you had a slightly underactive thyroid…you back the training off and dealt with it. You didn’t need arm/calf sleeves on cold race mornings. When cotton t-shirts rubbed you raw you dealt with it. Altitude training camps, personal trainers, team doctors…luxuries only real athletes could afford. Planks and core work…who had the time or energy? Massages were for the weak minded. It may have been primitive and we may have made things harder for ourselves, but it taught you to deal with adversity, the one constant in the ever-changing world of sport.
"It may have been primitive and we may have made things harder for ourselves, but it taught you to deal with adversity"
I frequently find myself in philosophical debate with coaches about the direction of the sport and the nature of today’s distance athletes. Many complain (particularly old coaches) that kids are no longer tough, that they rely too much on the little things other than grit and tenacity to get it done. I agree with that sentiment to some extent. But I would also argue that kids these days deal with a lot more distraction and stress than ever before. The pressure to succeed from a young age is suffocating and every move is scrutinized. Demands on their time and energy frequently leave them on edge of breakdown. Kids in America are training a hell of a lot harder and running a lot faster than ever before. Remember when a sub 4:00 mile was top news? We have four high school kids at or under that magical this year alone! That’s a testament to smart coaches and driven athletes.
Where does the narrative that kids aren’t tough anymore coming from? After 10 years of coaching at all levels the biggest issue I see comes from coaches and parents trying protecting their kids failure. But there is no greater lesson in life and no bigger motivator than failure. Coaches take an oath to help every athlete reach their peak abilities. We have packaged things up and handed them the blueprint. Here’s the formula: plug yourself in, do the work, and your success is guaranteed. There in lies the issue. Success is never guaranteed and in our attempt to rush them to the top we can overlook the development of the fundamentals that are the common denominator of every great athlete: determination, resiliency, and grit. These are same fundamentals that built this country to what it is today.
"there is no greater lesson in life and no bigger motivator than failure"
So what kind of athlete is the Freedom Track Club looking for? Self-made athletes who have the fundamentals to be a professional runner. Those who would continue to chase their Olympic dream with or without a sponsor. Athletes who are willing to soak their feet in DMSO (not recommended) all night so they could get up the next morning and hammer another run. Saucony will provide the structure and I will provide the direction but the core ingredients must be there. Despite what the old timers say, I still have faith that there are “old school” athletes out there.