With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on school athletic and running program budgets across the country, the USA Track & Field Foundation is focused more than ever on amplifying its support of youth programs. The independent Foundation that provides, among other things, annual grants to the top track and field athletes in the U.S. who have a legitimate shot at Olympic and World medals and financial support to up-and-coming track athletes fresh out of college along with youth track programs, is upping its game at a time of need.

In fact, earlier this year USATF Foundation awarded $30,000 in grants to 31 Youth Clubs across the country. According to chairman Bob Greifeld and CEO Tom Jackovic, the grants assist young male and female athletes with expenses such as travel to meets, equipment, uniforms and facility rental.

The Foundation encourages youth track clubs and programs to apply for financial assistance and it favors the use of grant money to expand existing youth programs and clubs, to provide additional competitive opportunities for children and to enhance the experience for all participants. Preference is given to clubs that are based in low-income areas. It also favors programs that have a history of solid financial management, multiple funding sources and community support. Allowable expenses include equipment, uniforms, meet fees, travel, facility rental and outreach.

“We are excited to support these clubs and their young athletes,” says USATF Foundation director Katherine Greifeld. “The future of the sport depends on youth participation and we hope these grants help encourage it.”

And now, understanding that with the impact COVID has had there is a lack of financial resources available to secure facilities and equipment, the USATF Foundation has begun funding youth track and field meets across the country. “Assisting youth with opportunities to compete is essential for the growth of the sport,” points out Trixie Saumsiegle, USATF Foundation COO.

The Running  Warehouse Effort

In addition to the Foundation’s internal support of youth meets it has corporate partners that have stepped up as well, Saumsiegle adds. Among them is an impressive effort by Running Warehouse to donate shoes to its youth clubs as well as running apparel donated through the Champion brand.

Running Warehouse’s Joe Rubio tells Running Insight that his store is involved in raising funds and supporting youth track programs and already does quite a bit of high school and college track and cross-country business, so he feels supporting youth clubs in partnership with the USATF Foundation is a good way to give back to the sport in a very direct manner. 

Running Warehouse, with a DC/retail location in San Luis Obispo, CA, and another in Alpharetta, GA. does this in two primary ways. 

  • First, it offers an option where customers can donate $1, $2, $5, $10 or $20 as part of their checkout process. This is completely voluntary for the customer to opt into. Since it launched the program in middle of April 2021, it has had more than 1450 donations and raised roughly $4500.

“That is pretty solid given we haven’t done any sort of promotion about the program,” Rubio says. “Up until now it’s been entirely organic.”

  • The second component is something it calls its “Quick Start” program for the 31 youth track clubs supported by the USATF Foundation — www.runningwarehouse.com/quickstart.html. Over the years the retailer has donated up to 25 pair of running shoes each year to middle and high school programs, primarily in underserved communities.

These shoes have been returned to Running Warehouse with very little wear, so they don’t resell them or put them in landfill — instead they donate them to kids in need. It plans to offer the “Quick Start” program to the USATF Foundation supported youth clubs this summer.

The Foundation’s Role Today

The USATF Foundation has become a major supporter in the world of running and track and field and since 2006 it has awarded $6.7 million to 406 elite athletes through a remarkable 1015 grants. Its other contributions to the sport of running are impressive:

  • At the World Championship and Olympic level, the Foundation has supported nearly half of all competition spots, covering 233 athletes out of a total of 548 spots.
  • At the Olympic levels, 21 individual grantees have won an Olympic medal, and grantees have been a part of 10 Olympic relay medals.
  • In World Championship meets, the grantees have won 74 individual medals and 48 relay team medals.
  • Foundation grantees have also broken an incredible amount of World and American records, besting prior marks 45 times in indoor and outdoor competitions.

Its focus in this Olympic year has been to keep supporting these athletes financially, Jackovic stresses.

“We realize the competitive opportunities to make money are still not consistently available to athletes, while major events are still being cancelled,” he says.

“As our Foundation continues to fundraise and increase support, we will consider expanding our mission and entertain other opportunities to help grow the sport as a whole.”

USATF Foundation Awards Schwarzman Grants To Elite Track and Field Athletes

The USA Track & Field Foundation hopes to add to the positive momentum from the Tokyo Olympics with recent Stephen A. Schwarzman and John W. James elite athlete grants. 

First, 65 Stephen A. Schwarzman grantees will each receive $30,000, which provides crucial financial support to ensure that athletes representing the United States have the resources needed. 

Stephen Schwarzman is the largest donor to the USATF Foundation. 

“I’m proud to support these incredible athletes and will be cheering for all 65 as they represent our country in Tokyo,” says Schwarzman. 

At the same time, USATF Foundation also awarded 50 deserving athletes with $8000 Schwarzman grants. Together the two sets of grants, along with the recently announced 2021 John W. James Grants of $7000 each to 14 athletes, all competing in throwing events in Tokyo, total $2,448,000 in giving to 115 elite track and field athletes. 

This marks the first time the USATF Foundation has been able to gift over $2 million in one year.