Aug 15, 2013; Moscow, RUSSIA; Nick Symmonds (USA) poses with the silver medal after placing second in the 800m in the 14th IAAF World Championships in Athletics at Luzhniki Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With Marketing His Focus, Symmonds Risks Performance In Move To Brooks

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(Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports)

(Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports)

Nick Symmonds caused a rumble in the running world last week with his announcement that he would leave his longtime sponsor Nike in favor of a new deal with running-specialty brand Brooks.

The general reaction to Symmonds’s move has been praiseworthy. Symmonds, one of America’s most decorated middle distance runners, has worked tirelessly both in training and self-promotion and now is seeing his efforts pay off — both in athletic success and in what we can only presume is a bigger paycheck from Brooks.

The decision appeared to be very much business and marketing related.

“It was actually a very easy decision when I saw the two contracts laid side by side,” Symmonds told Flotrack about the respective offers made by Brooks and Nike. “It was very, very easy to go with Brooks.”

Symmonds also noted his appreciation for Brooks’s commitment to make him an integral part of their marketing strategy, something he felt Nike was unwilling to satisfy.

Despite the switch, the five-time U.S. 800 meter champion still has lofty goals for 2014, according to his Runner’s World blog, highlighted by a desire to break the 800 meter American record.

But in pursuing his off-the-track goals, Symmonds looks to have placed his performance on the track on the back burner.

He’s taking a major risk leaving Eugene and OTC coach Mark Rowland, who saw him progressively improve year after year, culminating in a World Championship silver medal in 2013. Rowland, himself an Olympic medalist, has guided the successful careers of Symmonds, Olympic medalist Sally Kipeygo, among others.

Symmonds even admits he and Rowland had tailored a training system that really worked for him and that, going forward, he’d approach his training by asking himself, “What would [Rowland] have me do today?” Though Symmonds will have years of Rowland’s training logs as a reference, he’ll still be missing the expert eye of a veteran coach leading him through multiple workouts a week.

Symmonds’s new coach is Danny Mackey, who heads the Brooks Beasts training group in Seattle. Mackey has experienced success in his first year leading the group in 2013 with the likes of Katie Mackey and Brie Felnagle running multiple personal bests. But when it comes to experience, Mackey can’t match the track record Rowland has accrued over decades of coaching.

The risk Symmonds is taking is much like the one the Golden State Warriors took when they hired Mark Jackson to be their head coach three years ago. Jackson, a former 16 year NBA veteran, certainly appear to have the chops to lead an NBA team, but Warriors management made a big gamble in hiring a man who had never coached on the collegiate or professional levels.

Jackson has turned out to be a brilliant head coach, leading a basketball renaissance in the Bay Area.

Mackey could turn out to be the same and contribute to Symmonds’s rise to the mountaintop, but we just don’t know.


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