Skaters at the start of one of the few California races available to skaters.
If we — as responsible adult competitors — don’t stop a vocal few of us from publicly and often rudely complaining about conditions (venues, road surfaces, etc.) at outdoor races, we soon will have no events at all.
I have been competitively skating for over 20 years and have watched one by one as race promoters exclude skaters from events because we just can’t stop criticizing how an event was conducted or some other objectionable circumstance about this race or that race.
In a perfect world, where inline competitive skating is at the top of the sports world with big corporate sponsors, TV broadcast contracts, and seven figure endorsement packages, we would have the financial and public interest clout to effect the changes we think important and desirable.
But we do not live in such a world. In fact, with the exception of a dwindling number of inline-only races, the other events that are open to skaters have labeled us as loud-mouthed nuisances.
Constant whining also dilutes the effort to affect important changes that need to be made when it concerns safety. We need to find ways to communicate constructively to race promoters to make changes without insulting them — without making them feel it’s easier to get rid of skaters than to deal with our ingratitude and rudeness. Instead, a very vocal few consistently criticize and demean race promoter efforts on blogs, twitter, emails, and other social network sites. And remember, in addition to private sponsors, some of the most important promoters of race events are civic groups, local governments, and charities.
These vocal few have so systematically alienated race sponsors that we now risk driving our sport away from the race venues we have any reasonable hope of retaining. My friend Herb Gayle commenting on the upcoming Silver Strand Half Marathon said it best in a recent email admonishing the skating community to wise up:
Another friend and sports professional writes, "I just don't understand the mentality of 'better to get kicked out.' What about trying to improve a race by giving constructive criticism?"
Getting kicked out is the outcome that has been repeated in venue after venue throughout North America. What a pity that we haven’t done a better job integrating ourselves into bike and running events given the vastly increased number of opportunities for those competitions.
We will never attract the corporate or media sponsors that are critical for our sport to survive so long as we are seen as a crybaby fringe. It seems to me it’s time for us to stand up and not let these few whiners determine what our competitive futures shall be. We must organize ourselves and have the kind of representation that will work with race and financial sponsors so that the whining minority will not succeed in getting us tossed from the few remaining events that still put up with this juvenile, short-sighted behavior on the part of a few.
I have been told by a race sponsor who "kicked us out" of what was one of the three largest skating events in North America that, "your crybabies suffer from arrested emotional development and your skaters will never be invited back until you can prove they are gone. Too much trouble for too little gain ... "
At the end of the day, we cannot expect to be welcomed or successful in expanding opportunities for our sport unless we are willing to clean up our act, stop whining, and work together.
I also have been warned that the whiny few don't take advice or criticism well. Let's see who shows up to whine about this piece.
Paul Sargenti is the CEO of SAFE Security, a national security company headquartered in California. He founded Team SAFE 13 years ago.
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