“Sports do not build character, they reveal it.” – John Wooden
Baseball seems to glamorize cheating. From Gaylord Perry’s spitball, to Sammy Sosa’s corked bat, to Ty Cobb sliding “spikes high”, baseball sends a mixed message. Rules are rules only if you get caught.
Football sets a horrible example. From Belichick’s “Spygate”, to Brady’s “Deflategate”, to the Saints’ “Bountygate”, the NFL seems to treat rules the way invading armies treat the rules of war (don’t get caught).
I could write a book telling stories detailing the scandalous behavior of coaches.
I once worked in a football program that employed two sets of headphones above the press box, one for our communications, the other to listen to our opponents.
I once worked at a school where tall basketball-playing Europeans mysteriously found their way to a dying little town in Southern Illinois.
In my opinion, the “us vs them” of football, basketball, and baseball creates or attracts coaches who see themselves as Napoléon Bonaparte, Genghis Khan, or Stonewall Jackson. I wrote about this last summer, Who I Am & Who I’m Not.
I’ve always thought track & field to be different. In my opinion, track and cross country coaches are the most virtuous people in the world of sports. In my track & field career, I’ve witnessed countless acts of sportsmanship, decency, and integrity. In the ball sports, your opponent’s success always comes at your own team’s expense. Football coaches curse every touchdown scored by the enemy. Most track coaches don’t see their competition as opponents, adversaries, or enemies.
Despite my respect of track coaches, I must get something off my chest, again.
I first talked about “butt interference” in my article Through My Lens 2016, but it’s been a burr under my saddle for several years. If butt interference slows down your 4×1, it’s annoying. However, if butt interference causes a failed exchange and prevents your team from an opportunity to win a gold medal, it’s more than annoying. I won’t repeat the story of my team’s failed exchange, you can read it in my previous article. Instead, I want to present evidence of butt interference being practiced by several teams over the last five years.
The Correct Stance?
The baseball lead-off is NOT the correct stance for the outgoing 4×1 runner. Ricky Henderson pictured above must be ready to move in either direction. The outgoing runner on a sprint relay is going in only one direction. The feet should be pointed forwards or somewhat forward, definitely not perpendicular to the lane lines. If Ricky Henderson had no worries of being picked-off, he would absolutely point his feet towards the next base.
From the 2012 NCAA finals, we see everyone’s feet pointed forward with the exception of Auburn who has decided to try to interfere (butt interference) with 2012 NCAA 100m champion, Andrew Riley. Note that some teams teach the three-point stance, some two-point. I prefer two-point because vision is vastly improved. (Note: pictures are viewed best at full size)
The 2012 women’s finals, three down, one up. Everyone pictured has feet pointed forward. No attempt at hindering other teams. Note, both the pictures above are at the first exchange where staggers separate teams the most. Butt interference is much more prevalent in the final exchange of the 4×1.
Beautiful picture of 16 athletes sharing 8 lanes with zero interference.
Usually you don’t see butt interference in the 4×2 but I caught this one in the 2016 3A prelims.
Even though the Lockport runner in lane six didn’t run into the runner in lane five, notice how he veered to the outside. Also note the awkward twist of the body. I guarantee his time was affected.
This the most egregious butt interference I’ve ever photographed. The guy in the all-white is literally in out of his lane. I don’t think this is an accident.
The sequel of the previous picture. The poor incoming runner (red over black) had to veer to the outside of his lane, even though he is taught to hug the inside.
Another 4×2 pic from this year. Check out lane-four trying to slow down Minooka.
Edwardsville and York in the 2014 prelims … they won gold and silver the next day. The York team coached by Chris Korfist was lucky to survive this race. The team doing the interfering in lane-three was in last place.
Niles West was the victim here.
Travis Anderson of Edwardsville is getting the full treatment from the lane inside. It appears that Edwardsville has lost 1/3 of their lane … the 1/3 where the incoming runner is supposed to occupy! Aurora West will also be a victim here.
My team was the victim this year. We ended the season IL #4 (41.72) but we did not get to run in the finals due to butt interference.
So what’s the answer? Cease and desist. Just stop it.
Coaches may not be aware of their kids doing this, but it’s time to start paying attention.
When you see feet facing sideways with the butt backed into the next lane, say something.
Let’s be the sport of integrity, virtue, sportsmanship.
What would happen if the interfering runner was hit/knocked down and it was seen that his butt was in the other lane?
Here’s the deal … I don’t think it would ever be truly “seen”. The butt usually doesn’t go into the next lane until the last second. Officials are totally concentrating on the exchange happening inside the 20-meter zone (even though illegal early exchanges happen every year at the state meet).
No one sees the butt interference unless there are pictures taken (like mine).
As you can see, the incoming runner definitely sees it and must adjust.
I have no idea what would happen in the case of a collision, I would think it would be ruled “inadvertent contact”. Remember, there is no video review at the state meet.
The answer … coaches and athletes policing themselves.
That exact thing happened to the US 4x100m in the 2011 World Championships. Not only did it knock the US out of the race, but the US runner (Darvis Patton) rolled over and knocked Trinidad & Tobago out of the race as well. Nothing was done.
Excellent article. I coached at least 150 relay teams in my 35 years. I always taught two point stance with feet straight ahead. Standing sideways makes it very hard for the outgoing runner to run in a straight line. Three point stance leads to a lowered ability to gauge the pace of the incoming runner and to see accurately when he/she hits the checkpoint. I’ve seen many coaches who simply don’t know what they are doing. Clinics on this sort of thing are needed in many places. Passing a baton is fairly easy but there are many details that need to be covered. I hope coaches don’t teach this kind of interference. Officials need to be aware but there are so many things to watch for in relays. Thanks.
I find these interferences as DQ triggers.
A Red Flag should go up if anyone touches the lane line.
In NYC we have the additional interferences of (1) Indoor Start Officials who fire the gun, and stand with their elbows extend into Lane 1.
There is also a Bad Practice of 4x400m Relay Runners standing likee Pillars in the Relay Zone after Handoffs, instead of exiting (left) onto the infield; deliberately obstructing teams behind them. These recent ugliness is evident from High School to the IAAF Champs.