What is Track?

What is track and field?

Track and field is a variety of different athletic competitions that take place on an athletic track.  Events can include individuals or teams, generally amateurs, and can be both indoor and outdoor meets.   The field events include the hurdles, high jump, long jump, turbo/aero javelin and shot put. The track events are races including sprints (100m, 200m, 400m),  middle distance (800, 1500m) and long distance (3,000m - 11 & up). 

Unlike most other sports, track is a very flexible sport so kids who start later are not missing out on crucial skill-building years because most of track is what kids do naturally, which is running, jumping and throwing.   The age, maturity of the child and their ability to follow directions will determine the events that are appropriate for them.  

What are the governing organizations for track and field?

USA Track and Field  (USATF) is the national governing body for track and field, road running, cross country running, racewalking, and mountain/ultra/trail running in the United States.  International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) - is the world governing body for track and field. 

Amateur Athletic Union, AAU is one of the largest, non-profit, volunteer sports organizations in the US dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports and physical fitness programs.  The youngest participates are 8 and under in AAU.  The AAU Junior Olympic Games are known as the largest national multi-sport event for youth in the United States. It has become the showcase event of the AAU Sports Program.

Youth membership in AAU or USATF is not required to compete during regular season.  However, membership in USA Track & Field, is a required for an athlete to compete in the State, Regional, National Junior Olympic meets or the State and National Youth Outdoor Track & Field Championship meets.   Athletes can either compete as part of team or club or as individual or 'unattached' status.
Junior Olympics
The AAU holds Junior Olympic sport games one time each year.  For an athlete to be eligible for this event, they must qualify by ranking in the top four in a regional event.   The AAU Junior Olympics participant count is usually over 15,500 in twenty two different sporting events, including track and field.

The USATF, or USA Track and Field, also holds Junior Olympic games. The USATF participant record is over 70,000 in track and field and cross country events.
Young track and field athletes can participate in both AAU and USATF competitions. There has been some debate over which organization is 'better'; however, opinions differ and competition varies from year to year.

Age to start track and field...
If you and your child is serious about participating in youth track and field, there is no right age!  Track and field clubs offer skills training for children from as early as 5 years old to the age of 18.  Training is for all ability levels in long-distance running, sprints, relays, hurdles, long jump, high jump, and javelin.  The season consists of practices, local youth track developmental events and often culminates in the Junior Olympics.   The national youth track and field competitions start with children as young as 8. 

USATF Junior Olympics Age Groupings for the 2008 Competition Year

Age Division Age Birth Year
Bantam 10 & under 1998+
Midget 11 & 12 1996-1997
Youth 13 & 14 1994-1995
Intermediate 15 & 16 1992-1993
Young Men/Women 17 & 18 1990-1991

What is the commitment level?
Registration for track and field clubs is normally in the early Spring with meets held generally each weekend through July.  For high school students, ages 15 -18, club season starts after the school track season ends (June to July).  Practices are usually three times per week.  

What is the season for track and field?
There are two seasons for track and field. The indoor season is in the winter, October to March.  The outdoor track and field season usually begins in late March/early April and lasts through July.

How long are track meets?
Track meets are very long events, expect to be at a meet the entire day!  It is important that you take the proper track meet necessities along with you.  Meets are held on Saturday or Sunday.  Some of the larger meets like regional and national competitions are spread over two or more days. AAU & USATF sanctioned meets (begin in June) are two day (Sat. & Sun.) meets and may require travel out of state.