Connecting American youth and today’s athletes to cultivate character and community
Athlete Development

Although the box in which In the Arena has clearly and resolutely placed itself is one of youth development, we believe that other parties benefit mightily from our programming. The broader and reverberating implications in the communities that are served are self-evident; but it also stands to reason that the group of elite athletes who comprise In the Arena’s Roster benefit greatly from their involvement in the organization.

Arena Athletes are college-educated individuals of the highest character and integrity, who are within arm’s reach of the remarkable goal of representing our country at the most elite level of competition. By encouraging these athletes to broaden their perspectives to include civic engagement, In the Arena asks them to shoulder a greater responsibility, but one that allows them to balance their daily physical work with equally rewarding social work. Ultimately, Arena Athletes are individuals who have come to realize and appreciate that their broad and unique skill sets can be deployed to advance the public good.

Even further beyond the personal growth embedded in an elite athlete’s participation in the organization, Arena Athletes are offered remuneration that allows them to move towards financial solvency. The USOC, with its myriad responsibilities, can afford to allocate only a small fraction of its operating budget to elite athlete support. As a result, this country’s elite athlete population is mired in what two time-Olympian and 5000m American record holder Bob Kennedy has referred to as a “feast or famine” situation: “The problem we have in our sport is that…if you are one of the better athletes in the world, you’re doing very, very well. If you are the kind of athlete who has a chance but you’re not quite there yet, maybe finishing 8th in the Trials or 6th in the Trials, then you are struggling. You’re scraping by. There is no equality there.” Kennedy is speaking specifically about Track and Field in this instance, but the observation is applicable over a wide range of Olympic sports.

It’s a bittersweet fact that many of today’s aspiring Olympians are under-funded: bitter because many of these hard-working individuals are incurring significant debt in an effort to pursue their athletic aims; and sweet because this creates the leverage to magnetize such athletes’ attention. It is precisely this market inefficiency coupled with the passion and talent of the underserved elite athlete population upon which In the Arena capitalizes.

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