Things we can improve
Sprint pathways, communication ...
Not many of you will have heard of "Junior Worlds Syndrome", it's not in wikipedia that I know of, but it's a big deal for coaches and program directors who work with junior track sprinters.
What is it?
Kids come back from junior worlds, and leave the sport or change tack and go race endurance.
It's quite common.
I had a chance to have a debrief with one of the kids who did this after a recent junior worlds, and three main things cropped up from this discussion.
I'm going to focus on one.
Sprint pathways aren't clear - Once a junior comes out of J19's they have to race Shane Perkins, Anna Meares etc. Daunting, and it takes a long time (3-5 years or more for most of them) to build up to that level. Professional road racers have a defacto grading system with lesser races and second division teams etc for riders to be part of, track sprint is Olympics/World Cup or nothing, or at least, that is how it's perceived.
Interestingly burnout was not mentioned
Bearing in mind that this is essentially a brief summary of one discussion (ie: I just listened and prompted a little) It does raise some interesting points for discussion.
What can we do as sprint coaches and program directors do to alter either the process, or the communication of the processes, to our riders such that we might increase the chances of keeping them in sprint programs?
We need to provide more sprint racing. This is fundamental. We need to get event directors to put in more (some! even just one!) sprint events into track carnivals. I rant about this a lot, we need my sprint series to grow, get some real sponsors, not just me and my wonderful band of volunteers, and be a viable pathway, perhaps integrated with the Sprint Academy.
We need sprint to be taken seriously and for track carnivals to reflect this. A few years ago the Revolution races had a really good mix of sprint and endurance racing, but it has fallen by the wayside despite it being a very entertaining format. Copying it or some parts of it will help. The J19's and early senior sprinters need more than just another wheelrace to aspire to as a stepping stone. Sending developing sprinters to Asian Cups and so on is of value and needs support from the state sports institutes.
We need the various event directors to understand that the modern sprinter is a specialist, they wouldn't put Usain Bolt into a 800m running race, why would you put a cycling sprinter into the equivalent except to embarras them?
We need the National Junior Track Series to allow sprint to feature more. I've spoken with the organisers and hopefully the next season will showcase more pure sprint events. We need clubs to "get" sprint as a seperate part of the sport and to be a bit passionate about it.