KENTFIELD / NOVATO, CA--Since 2013, the College of Marin (COM) track and field program has seen a steady decline in participation. Director of Kinesiology and Athletics Ryan Byrne decided now was the time to suspend the program after local reports confirmed a lack of interest in the sport at the community college level.
The past fifteen years have seen a consistent lack of student participation in track and field at COM. During this time the women's competitive roster has averaged less than two participants and the men's roster has averaged six students. The last three years have seen even a bigger numeric drop, averaging only four total students competing between both the men's and women's rosters. And, this season, the team had only one active participant. Other colleges within COM's conference averaged upwards of forty-plus students who competed annually during this time.
Byrne concluded, "our teams have not been even close to the other teams in our conference and are far below the average team size we have for our other sports. Since I started four years ago, we have been working hard to improve recruiting efforts, but just haven't seen any changes in track."
Before a program is suspended, the College's program review process requires a full analysis of the impact on students, with particular emphasis on equity. Seeing the consistency of COM’s roster size averaging around three men and one woman each year compared with an average of twenty-seven men and sixteen women for similarly-sized colleges. Byrne came to the conclusion that, "despite our best efforts and a tremendous amount of resources, we are still seeing a decline in participation, particularly on the women's team."
Another method to measure team viability is to compare this program’s competitive roster to those of other programs within the College. The average competitive roster size for women’s teams at COM is 10.6 and 11.8 for men’s teams, whereas track and field have a women’s team average size of 1.3 and men’s team average of 2.6.
The continued decline in participants led Byrne to evaluate the demand for community college track and field from the local high schools. In surveying Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) high school track and field programs to assess their local interest, he was surprised by how few local students would consider competing at any community college. All but one of the MCAL athletic directors estimated none of their students would attend a community college to compete in track and field. One MCAL high school estimated a total of two student-athletes would consider going to a community college to compete.
“That’s been about right with the number of students who are participating in track and field,” Byrne said. “Now, more than ever, we need to align our resources in a way that provides the biggest impact on students and aligns with the College mission. And, at this time, the responsible thing to do is to reallocate these resources to have a greater impact.”
Depending on student interest, they plan to start a track and field club in lieu of an official program. The club will be student run and have support from the Kinesiology and Athletics Department for training tips and use of the facilities, as well as the ability to compete in meets as unattached competitors.
“We want to let any interested students know about this decision as soon as we can, so they can make an informed decision on their fall enrollment.” Byrne continued, “and, since we haven’t had a grassroots push for a team, a club allows opportunities for our students. If we see participation start to grow, we could reinstate the team. That’s why we’re suspending it and not cancelling it.”