Part I: Pioneers in the Internet Landscape of Track and Field.
PreraceJitters.com is embarking on a series for the month interviewing pioneers in the internet landscape of track and field. We aim to look at the individuals who have shaped and influenced track and field. One of the biggest stories in professional track and field this season is taking place track side--the expansion of Trackshark.com.
He came, he saw, he redefined the track and field internet landscape as we know it today: when Tom Borish stepped on the scene, there were just a few track and field websites, but none focused on the sprinters, jumps, and field events. That is until Trackshark.com began to deliver to fans interviews, breaking news, live meet coverage, athlete blogs, and photos. Marvelous! Absolutely amazing! FAB-U-LOUS! Simply put, the primarily collegiate-focused track website and its founder are iconic figures– changing and upgrading track and field on the world wide web.
PreraceJitters.com has managed to catch up with Tom Borish to get a rare look at the man behind Trackshark.com to discuss his joys, pains, and thoughts on managing track and field’s premier website. You heard it here. He also gives PreraceJitters.com an exclusive insight into the Wasserman Media Group LLC acquisition of Trackshark.com and his new leadership position as Senior Editor of Track & Field with the company.
PRJ: What is your background in track & field?
TB: I competed at the NCAA Division I level from 1996-2000 at Kent State University. My main events were the 200, 400 and relays. I was also a volunteer sprints coach at Kent State for two years after I graduated in 2000. During this tenure, I was fortunate to be surrounded with great coaches, teammates and mentors that have molded me into who I am today.
PRJ: What is it about track & field that makes the sport special to you personally?
TB: The fact that I was able to be a part of it at some of the highest levels makes it much more enjoyable and passionate. I will always look back to my days on the track to remind me just how hard we all worked to achieve the goals that we wanted to meet. That same drive keeps me on my toes to this day.
PRJ: What was your inspiration to launch Trackshark.com and why focus on collegiate track and field?
TB: We can trace back the evolution of Trackshark even further. During my time at Kent State, I noticed there was a lack of coverage for the conference that we competed in, the Mid-American Conference (MAC). As I began to dabble as in some of the current technology at the time such as programming and design, I launched MacTrack.net in 1997 which covered the sport within the MAC. At the time, it was the only track & field website devoted to covering the sport within a conference. As the popularity grew to its peak in 2001, I also saw a void at the collegiate level. Dyestat.com was starting to emerge as the leader at the high school level and there was an audience for an array of sites at the professional level. Trackwire.com existed as a weekly college rankings and recap publication (until they shut down last year), but there was not one service covering the collegiate level on a daily basis. I wanted to see coverage of meets, interviews with the top athletes, rankings, photos and a way for a community to interact with each other at the collegiate level. Trying to find a niche audience is key and Trackshark launched in 2002 in an attempt to fill the void. I must also note that I designed and programmed the entire site. My background is in web design so that also was an important factor in the site layout.
PRJ: What were your goals when you started Trackshark.com and where do you see Trackshark.com in 5 years?
TB: It’s funny that you ask this question as we just announced that Trackshark will now expand its coverage into the elite aspect of the sport. We’ll still cover the collegiate action – and perhaps scale back a bit – while also serving our audience the chance to follow the best of track & field at the highest level. The focus will be USA and International elite athletes who compete in track & field. We’ll even dip into some marathon and other coverage that cross-pollinates all audiences. As an example, we now have rights to broadcast all the IAAF Golden League meets as a platform to broaden our audience at the international level. Before all of this, we usually took a break from coverage after the NCAA Championships concluded. Trackshark will now be your one-stop hub of news and results from all collegiate and professional track & field coverage. In 5 years, I hope that we can serve a much broader purpose that will best serve the fans while also keeping up with technology. The fans usually shape the landscape of coverage.
PRJ: Talk about the time when you started Trackshark.com, what did the internet landscape look like in the track & field community?
TB: It certainly isn’t what it is today. To only think that only 6 years ago, on-line video was just getting off the ground including user-generated content. Back then, most of the direction was geared towards what each general writer, photographer or editor can provide for the audience. Now, the community has a strong voice on what will drive content. This is why many newspapers and some magazines are failing. They haven’t built the bridge to allow their readers, their community, their audience the chance to be a part of their venture. I know we still have plenty of work to do ourselves – such as more rich-media interaction – but we’ll do our best to serve what our audience wants to see.
PRJ: What is the most difficult or frustrating thing about your role as webmaster and CEO at Trackshark.com?
TB: Let me first state that my new role at Trackshark is as Senior Editor. Trackshark was recently acquired by the Wasserman Media Group, LLC. The company also holds the exclusive marketing rights for USA Track & Field, USA Swimming and USA Gymnastics. This was one of the reasons why I felt very comfortable working with them. Before the acquisition, Trackshark was a part-time venture as I also held a full-time job working for a real estate web design firm outside of Boston. On that note, the most frustrating aspect of the site was actually finding time (and it was all free time, mind you) to update the site. My wife and I also welcomed a baby into the world last year, so the time was definitely a drawback in terms of site coverage. There would be days where I would literally work 10-12 hour days from my full-time job and Trackshark. Also taking personal vacation time from my job to attend a meet. Let’s not forget to mention that the most important job is being a father. That is number one on the board and to have the opportunity to now publish Trackshark full-time has given me much more time to spend with my family.
PRJ: What gives you the most pride about founding and operating Trackshark.com?
TB: When I look at the site every day, I see all of my hard work poured into the project. I look at the logo, knowing that I designed it. I look at the blogs, knowing that I programmed it. I look at a lot of things knowing that this site literally started on my old computer in my apartment after leaving college broke and without a job. Now, I look back at all that hard work during a time when there was no venture capital, very little ad revenue to now where I can finally stabilize something where it can meet all ends of my career. Moreover, I’m proud that it serves as a voice for the athletes, fans, coaches and everyone involved in the sport.
PRJ: If you could change one thing about track & field, what would that be and why?
TB: Bottom line, I wish there were more meets on U.S. soil and that the top athletes would compete more often. It’s about competition, not chasing marks or records. That’s what our sport is dearly missing right now. Trying to find the right conditions at the right time with the right athletes will not cut it for the general public in terms of growing the sport. We all need to get to the line and race, not chase.
PRJ: What do you work related, when you are not publishing Trackshark.com?
As noted previously, I used to work for a web design firm, RLS2000.com. In fact, when you go there now you’ll see all of my old designs from some of the top real estate offices in New England. You can also view all of my design work on my personal site, at TomBorish.com.
PRJ: What are you hobbies, activities, and/or interest outside of Trackshark.com and track & field?
TB: I enjoy spending time with our 15-month old daughter. There is no other joy in the world right now. I’m also getting into a bit of weightlifting and to start training for the Ironman.
PRJ: What do you want readers to know about you?
TB: That I’m by no means an expert in everything that I do. I consider myself someone who tries to hold a lot of traits at many levels (design, programming, writing, photography, etc.) to give back to the sport. In other words, I consider myself knowledgeable across all events, but my no means do I know everything. I don’t think anyone does either and they’ll tell you the same thing.
PRJ: Who has been your favorite individual to interview?
TB: Without a doubt, it was Thomas Chamney of Notre Dame from the 2006-07 seasons. He also conducted a journal series for Trackshark that season and was very open, funny and opinionated. Some did not understand his humor, but it was refreshing to hear from someone who wasn’t afraid to speak their mind.
PRJ: Who would you like to interview that you have not if given the opportunity?
TB: I’d love to sit down with Michael Johnson one day. He was my idol – and still is to this day – during my track & field career.
PRJ: Is there a question that you wished I would have asked you?
I think you hit all the angles. Thank you very much for the opportunity. It should be a busy month ahead of great track & field action. I’ll be on the road during the Prefontaine Classic, NCAA Championships and U.S. Olympic Team Trials. As always, make sure to visit Trackshark.com for complete coverage.
PRJ: Thank you Tom for your time and good look in your endeavors with Trackshark.com. We look forward to having you back again in the future.
By Jay Hicks.