Two Clinic directors are interviewed here: MF is Mickey Ferri who directed the Gates-Chili HS clinic in December 2019. It was part of “Summer Sports Performance Clinics—Bought to you by USATF and Del Norte [CA] High School” (where Ferri coaches). RE is TC editor Russ Ebbets who directed the USATF-Niagara Clinic Weekend for three years; In December 2019
he resurrected that clinic—decentralized to cover local areas in the state.
1. What is your experience with doing or being a part of clinics?
MF – I planned, organized, marketed, and hosted the clinics. USATF generously provided a grant, which was used to cover part of the cost of the clinics and allowed the project to come to fruition. Once I was informed that USATF San Diego received the grant to host clinics in San Diego, I look the lead on making it happen!
RE – In the late 1970’s John Metallo, a coach at Gloversville HS in upstate New York, ran the Section 2 Clinic each spring. The clinic presented the top local track coaches and many of the top coaches from collegiate programs from throughout the East.
It was about four years after I got the Union College coaching job that I followed Metallo’s lead and did an all-events clinic in December. I copied his modular schedule with four hourly sessions, a half-hour for lunch and a final wrap-up session with a hypnotist demonstration that was loosely tied into sports psychology entitled something like—The Powers of the Mind.
Thirty seconds into the demonstration I was furious. This was the biggest crock I had ever seen. While the first four hours up to that point had gone great I felt this charade was going to ruin everything. Within two minutes I had a change of heart.
In that two minutes the hypnotist had his 10 volunteers clucking like chickens, swimming on dry land, feet stuck in cement and one poor soul screaming at the top of her lungs about an imaginary mouse that was trying to attack her. Truth be told, I was looking for the mouse.
Nobody forgot that day. The next year I tweaked a few things and by the third and final year I did the clinic we drew 890 people.
I always focused on getting clinicians who could teach. While Kevin McGill and Jack Daniels may have been the two biggest names we ever had the other staff always presented well and left the attendees, both athletes and coaches, with a wealth of information and best practices that could be implemented the following week, for a season or during a career.
In 2018 I got the thought to resurrect the clinic idea in Western New York. The Niagara Association of Western NY was behind it, we had a facility secured but the logistics of rental, logos, lodging, who handled the money and paid the bills and several other factors soon presented a chaotic situation with little chance for success. The clinic never got off the ground.
Disappointed but undaunted I flipped the clinic idea and decided to try a decentralized set of clinics on the same weekend throughout the Association. In December 2019 we did a very successful five clinics at three sites on the same weekend.
At the Reno USATF Convention Mickey Ferri from San Diego-USATF gave a short presentation on how they do clinics in California. I approached him and asked if he would be willing to share his ideas in a compare and contrast piece for Track Coach so other locales across the US could copy the ideas that would work for them. “A Tale of Two Clinics” is the result.
Gates-Chili HS clinic participants
2. What is the need or why is there a need of clinics in your association?
MF – There are limited opportunities for middle school and high school track & field athletes in San Diego to receive instruction from top coaches and athletes. This was an opportunity for young athletes to meet some of the top track & field athletes and coaches in San Diego.
RE – The Niagara Association of USATF has unique challenges due to its large geographic area. The Association essentially consists of all the territory from Syracuse to Buffalo with the southern border being the Pennsylvania state line, what is referred to as the Southern Tier. Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, along the old Erie Canal, are the largest cities in the Association with the smaller cities of Jamestown, Elmira, Corning, Binghamton and Ithaca along the Southern Tier. Travel times from east to west can be as much as four hours. Because of this, trying to do a central clinic always leaves somebody unhappy.
As for the need for clinics – I have long promoted the dissemination of information as critical for the ongoing life of the sport. The recent history of the Niagara Association shows great success in the sport with gold medalist Jenn Suhr, Syracuse University (D1) and SUNY Geneseo’s (D3) XC teams, the running program at Fayetteville-Manlius and several of the top high school female middle distance runners coming from Rochester in the last few years. This offers a great chance to highlight and capitalize on the knowledge and expertise within the Association.
3. Who was your projected audience? (athletes, coaches, parents)
MF – The primary audience was athletes. Coaches and parents were welcome and encouraged to attend lunch, and to observe for the full clinic if they would like – which some did!
RE – I have tried to promote our program to parents, coaches, athletes and officials. All these groups are invested in the sport and this is a chance to promote excellence and refine expertise.
L to R: Bashir with girls; Allison demonstrates high-knee bounds; all kids bounding.
4. Did you have to be a USATF member to attend?
MF – No, these clinics were open to all. USATF members received a discount.
RE – No, you don’t have to be a member to attend the Clinic Weekends but one of my selling points to the Niagara Board was that this program has the potential to “prime the pump” by allowing the Association to showcase our programs and services that will in turn offer reasons why one should join.
5. How were your clinics set up?
MF – First, I met with high school athletes, parents, coaches, and athletic directors to discuss the most valuable topics they were interested in, as well as potential dates and prices for the clinics. Second, after settling on topics and dates, I located the top instructors in the San Diego area – a diverse group of 17 coaches and experts. Third, I coordinated dates with the experts, lined up a schedule, and began marketing the events.
RE – Due to the individual nature of the clinics set-up was at the discretion of the individual clinic directors. Lecture, PowerPoint, learn-by-doing or some combination could be used. It is what the clinician feels they can do and feels comfortable with.
6. How do you handle the social media?
MF – For these events, I handled the marketing personally through social media, email, and speaking with coaches, parents, and athletes at events. Some of the other coaches and instructors at the clinics were helpful in marketing through their social media, email, and in-person events and practices themselves.
RE – Our clinics were promoted with email blasts to Association membership. We have a new Communications Chair who will send out regular tweets in the winter of 2020 for the coming March 2020 clinics. There was also a posting on the Association website.
7. What is a breakdown of some of the costs of putting on a clinic?
MF – Coaches were the most costly component—each coach was paid between $50 and $200 per clinic, depending on their experience level and the number of athletes they instructed. The facility also cost money to rent. Other than that, all costs were discretionary and depended on the number of athletes. For example, we provided breakfast, snacks, and lunch—but we included the food for each athlete as part of a “per athlete” budget which was accounted for as part of the ticket price.
RE – We printed 1000 3.5×8.5 card stock flyers that could be handed out or sent for a cost of $84. Mailings to clinicians was $29. The Association paid clinicians $100 to put on the clinics and paid the $25 liability insurance fee to USTF. All told the five clinics in December cost the Association $689. This March 2020 we will expand to 10 clinics.
8. How did you publicize your clinics?
MF – Social media, email marketing, and speaking with coaches, parents and athletes at events. Having a “chat” bubble on the website was very helpful as well, since several parents asked questions about the clinics prior to signing up.
RE – We printed orange cardstock flyers that were handed out at the fall cross-country meets. We had a notice on the Association website. Flyers to be distributed via clinicians’ personal contacts. Email blast to Association membership. Flyers left at several gyms. We will use a Twitter account in the future.
9. What was your contract or agreement with your clinicians?
MF – The coaches all shared in the revenues from the clinics, and they were able to publicize their own services and practices at the clinics. Each coach was required to be SafeSport compliant.
RE – Clinicians were responsible for: 1. Securing a facility, 2. Handling all finances, 3. Conducting clinic registration, handouts or give-aways at their expense, 4. Having the SafeSport certification and ideally at least Level 1 Certified. The Association was responsible for: 1. $100 stipend to each clinician, 2. Providing USATF liability insurance to each clinic site at $25 per site, 3. Promotion of the individual clinics through website and flyers.
10. What were the responsibilities of your clinicians?
MF – Each clinician gave 1-2 hours of instruction. They prepared the lesson plan, communicated it to the clinic organizer in advance, and led their session. In some cases, the clinicians stayed to observe other sessions, yet this was not required. In some cases, the clinicians brought handouts and take-home materials.
RE – See #9, but also clinicians were sent a “blank” copy of the registration form that the clinician was to fill out with clinic details that included:
Clinic Title: (could this be some type of attachment?)
Times of Registration:
Times of Clinic:
What to bring:
What to wear:
Level of material: novice, intermediate, expert, master
Teaching Method: classroom, learn-by-doing, combination
Contact information: phone –
And a waiver to be signed…
11. What did you charge for your clinics?
MF – $60 for high school athletes. $40 for beginner youth athletes. USATF members received a discount.
RE – In an effort to make these clinics as affordable as possible to all athletes (JO, HS, college) we charged a flat fee of $10. Coaches and parents were charged $29. Late or day of registrations added another $5 to each group.
12. How did you collect the monies from registration fees?
MF – Through a website set up for the events on www.econathletes.com. Thank you to Economics Athletes for helping out with the backend management of the clinics.
RE – Monies were collected by the individual clinician and could come by money order, check or sent electronically via PayPal. You could also pay at the door. None of our five clinics in December 2019 used a credit card.
13. What was your timeline for the “day of?” Your “start to finish” schedule?
MF – 7-9am – arrive at the track and set up
9-9:30am – athletes arrive
9:30-12:00pm – active clinic activities – physical learning by doing (1-2 short breaks in between)
12-1:00pm – group lunch with parents and guests optional
1-2:00pm – clean up
RE – It was recommended to the clinicians to have things boxed and ready for distribution the night before. Seventy-five minutes before the scheduled start time open “day of” registration. Make sure all equipment is set up, copies are accessible, stay hydrated and start on time.
14. How did you get your presentation sites or clinic facilities?
MF – Meeting with the Athletic Director and paying to rent the facilities.
RE – With the decentralized model one of the things we counted on was that the individual clinicians had an “in” with some facility. It was the clinician’s responsibility to contract with the individual facilities whether they rented it by the hour, day or some other arrangement.
15. How were liability issues handled?
MF – USATF insurance
RE – USATF has clinic insurance for $25 per site. It worked well. USATF produced a certificate of insurance for each facility. This was coordinated through the national sanction coordinator in Indianapolis.
16. What times of day were your clinics held? How was that determined?
MF – 9:30-1pm on Fridays during the summer. The track and a classroom were available, and I discussed with a few athletes and parents in advance on when would be the best time.
RE – Time of day was determined by the individual clinicians. It hinged in part on when their facilities were available. In discussions I recommended not starting before 10am with one clinic starting at 1pm. Again, the de-centralized model meant participants were more local with minimal travel time.
17. How long were your clinics? (half-day, 3-hours, etc.)
MF – 3.5 hours
RE – The Niagara clinics were advertised as 3-hour clinics. Clinician evaluations recommended considering 2-hour clinics which we will experiment with in March 2020.
18. How did you determine the pricing for your clinics?
MF – I discussed with a few athletes, parents, and coaches in advance on what would be the best price – presenting a few options and what the clinics would entail at different price points.
RE – We settled on a reasonable pricing (cost of a lunch) for the athletes and $29 for the adults. With a focused program, minimal travel, no lodging costs and no meal costs this all seemed to work out well. Remember, clinicians kept all the proceeds, which was their incentive to sell their program.
19. What timeline did you use to present the clinic? How “far out” from the clinic date did you start working and publicizing your upcoming clinic?
MF – Started working on it 4-5 months in advance.
Started really marketing it 4-6 weeks in advance.
RE – From an administrative side I started to solicit clinicians 2-2½ months prior to the clinics. For the Union clinics years ago, I worked year-round on the program. I also used word of mouth, email requests and limited mailings. There was little pressure to those asked to present. The program was presented, we’d love to have you, please advise if interested. At six weeks out I organized those who had shown interest, got the flyers printed and distributed to clinicians. Information was also sent to the Association webmaster for posting and to start the email blasts. For March 2020 I am planning on weekly Tweets referencing the clinics. I will also have at least 1000 3-fold flyers printed to be handed out at indoor meets. There will be a limited mailing to about 100 high schools.
20. What type of signage did you use?
MF – Some USATF signage, not much.
RE – This is an area we need to work on. I plan on going through one more cycle of this project before this becomes a budget item. Banners are not cheap and with these clinics being a once or twice occurrence each year the purchase, shipping, collection, storage and re-distribution is one more task that I’m not prepared to handle at this moment.
21. Are there any additional products available for sale or distribution at your clinics? (i.e. – food, t-shirts, books, etc.)
MF – Not for sale, yet we included food at the clinics as part of the ticket price.
RE – Additional items are left to the discretion of the individual clinics. I have been more concerned with the presentation of good technical information from established coaches. If they can farm out t-shirts, food, books, etc. and still present a quality experience – great. The point here is not to get a captive audience and try to up-sell them with multiple products. There is space provided on the flyer for mentioning the availability of these products.
22. What are the three most important things to remember when you are doing a clinic or what advice would you give someone thinking of doing this clinic project for the first time?
MF – 1. Have a good vision for what you want to teach and why it is important.
2. Get the top clinicians around in the topic—really really good coaches and experts.
3. Talk to parents, kids, and coaches a lot in advance to determine if you are doing the right thing. If people keep asking about the clinic and give you specific feedback and suggestions, then you are on to something. If people shrug and nod, they are not interested.
RE – #1 – start you planning early and have a pretty solid timeline from a month out and an hourly timeline 24 hours out. #2 – Strive to have everything done (handouts, registrations, copies, cash box, equipment, etc.) the night before so the “day of” you can show up, set up and go to work. There is almost always some minor problem that will arise but if all the other ducks are in a row the new issue can be resolved quickly with your full attention given to the clinic timeline. #3 – Try to present “Monday morning information.” Ideally the information should be simple to implement, cost effective and safe to implement with regards to the athletes and coaches listening to you. You will have an intelligent, motivated and eager audience. Prepare so as not to disappoint them.
23. What were some of your clinic topics or what type of information was presented?
MF – I encourage readers to visit the Economics Athletes blog (https://www.econathletes.com/blog), where there are detailed descriptions of each clinic, as well as photos of the instructors and athletes. We ran four clinics total in Summer 2019:
1. Basic Track & Field Skills
2. Speed, Strength and Power
3. Mobility, Coordination, Endurance
4. Preparation, Recovery, Nutrition
RE – Initially we had presentations on the throws, sprint techniques, hurdles and distance running more geared for adults. In our second go round we will have the above with the addition of a program on injury prevention, the vault and the jumps. Someday I’d like to have a program on strength training.
24. What teaching format did you use? Lecture, PowerPoints, learn-by-doing, audience involvement, demonstration?
MF – It was a combination of formats, which helped to keep the athletes engaged for the entire time. We began with an introduction, then from 9:30-12:00 was very active on the track and doing learning-by-doing exercises. 12-1:00 for lunch included a PowerPoint presentation.
RE – Presentation formats were at the discretion of the presenter. There were lectures with audience involvement, straight-up PowerPoints and learn-by-doing presentations. My directions to clinicians was to “do what you do best.” This is their chance to put their best foot forward.
25. What type of handouts were given out?
MF – Each athlete was given multiple handouts, including a personalized assessment of where they stood based on tests done at the clinic, and take-home workouts and exercises.
RE – Again, this is at the discretion of the presenter. What has worked for me in the past is a 2-sided summary handout and an option for the audience to receive the PowerPoint electronically if the participants give me their email address. This cuts down on paper, print costs and loading people up with paper that they don’t want or need and winds up getting thrown out. Getting an email list also helps with future contact.
26. What type of follow-up did you have?
MF – We conducted an exit survey, where we received feedback on which parts the athletes liked most and where we can improve.
RE – I had a simple evaluation for the clinicians listed below.
- What do you feel worked best about your clinic?
- What would you do differently?
- If you could give two bits of advice to a new clinician what would they be?
- What do you wish you knew beforehand?
- How did you… Collect money; Handle registration
- Regarding the money…if you used an electronic collection (PayPal, etc.) were you pleased with the service? Would you use it again?
- If you could get some USATF signage, literature, posters, etc. what would work best for you?
- Did you feel that the orange strip flyers helped? Did you have enough? How did you distribute them?
- Looking ahead to March 2020. Which date do you feel would be the best for the next Clinic Weekend?
27. What are your future plans?
MF – Our plans for this coming summer include similar clinics, and potentially a week-long camp that would cover similar content in one full week, and potentially cover additional topics.
RE – The Niagara program is a slight financial burden to the Association but it is my hope that the Association sees a bump in membership that helps offset program costs. It also helps that these programs promote a sense of goodwill within the Association that the officers are working diligently to offer opportunities that will improve the participation experience in the short and long terms.
28. Any final thoughts? (anecdotes, funny stories, etc.)
MF – The “Speed, Strength, and Power” clinic was targeted for high school sprinters and jumpers, and the attendees included talented high school freshmen and sophomores whose long jumps were in the range of 18-19 feet (boys) and 15-16 feet (girls). One of the coaches was Bashir Ramzy, a formidable competitor in the long jump and triple jump and currently a coach for some of the top athletes in the world at the Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista, CA.
At the start of the clinic, once the athletes had arrived and taken their seats, I began introducing the coaches, reading off each of their resumes and accomplishments. Bashir is a humble and quiet coach, and he was casually standing next to me wearing a hat, sunglasses, and track jacket. He looked more like a regular guy than an elite athlete. When I introduced Bashir, I slowly read off his personal bests, including long jump (27’1”) and triple jump (53’8”) – the kids were astonished. Their eyes lit up, their jaws dropped, and they gasped. They knew they were in for a treat. For the next 2 hours, Bashir rose to the occasion. He delivered an excellent clinic, teaching and guiding kids in running and jumping technique, and demonstrating drills in ways the kids couldn’t even imagine possible. It seemed he truly opened their eyes to the possibilities in athletic development and their futures.
RE – When Kevin McGill did my Union clinics he brought with him a treasure trove of audio-visual materials that could rival the Library of Congress. By the second year I whimsically advertised his talk as “The Weapons of War – from David and Goliath to the Present Day.” He requested a Super 8 projector, an overhead projector and some Coca-Cola.
I scheduled him for two one-hour talks and directed him to the southeast corner of the Fieldhouse. He led a legion of 50 coaches and athletes to that corner and proceeded to talk “shot put” for 6 hours, non-stop!
Fast forward to 1999. I am the chiro for the US team at the Indoor Worlds in Japan. Our shot putter was Andy Bloom. Bloom was an NCAA champ from Wake Forest in the shot and discus and was having his best year topping 72’ in the shot. He grew up in Niskayuna, NY, a suburb of Schenectady, where Union was. In high school he was a NYS champ and still holds the state record in the discus. I had never met him.
With a local kid on the team I introduced myself and told him I used to coach at Union. He laughed as he said, “I used to go to your clinics with Kevin McGill,” and then, “that’s what got me started in this,” as he gestured towards the arena. You never know where efforts like organizing a clinic are going to go, but that’s the point, this is how it happens.