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Max Siegel

For leading track and field forward–fast.

Max Siegel
Ready, set: The view from the start of the 60 meter hurdles heat at the 2014 USA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque. [Photo: courtesy of Image of Sport, and Max Siegel]

When former Nascar executive Max Siegel took over the U.S. track and field’s not-for-profit governing body in 2012, it was reeling from steroid scandals, an underperforming national team, and stagnant sponsorship. But in the past year, he has overseen an aggressive turnaround (including an estimated $500 million, 23-year commitment from Nike–one of the longest and most valuable sponsorships in all of sports). “Few people who aren’t involved in the sport know all the events we sanction: nearly 7,800 a year,” says Siegel. “We want to tell our story and reinforce that we have the top athletes in the world.” Here are a few of his initiatives:

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Streaming

USATF.tv, a new digital platform that Siegel’s team built from scratch, produces live broadcasts of dozens of USATF–sanctioned events as well as short documentary-style videos. A clip about retiring star Alan Webb garnered 500,000 views in two weeks last year.

Apps

Siegel is partnering with developers to add USATF stars to the training app Coach’s Eye, which helps competitors hone their technique by analyzing video footage of top athletes.

Giving back

RunJumpThrow, a youth-activity program that USATF developed with the Hershey Co., begins rolling out in 9,000 schools nationwide this year and will reach about 5 million kids.


Bonus Round

Where or how do you seek out creative inspiration?

I come from an entertainment family–my mother was a singer, my father was a record producer. So I love consuming culture and art. I study singer songwriters–Drake, Phillip Phillips, all of Kirk Franklin’s songs. It’s amazing that a songwriter can bring all this emotion in three verses and a bridge in less than four minutes.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

I’m predictably predictable. If I’m in town, I get up early–4:30 or 5–take the kids to school and get to the office before everyone else–7:30-7:45. The morning is my quiet time. Everyone knows to leave me alone until 9. I get organized. There’s so much coming at you, and I can’t stand clutter. Being organized keeps me calm. One of my first supervisors when I got out of law school taught me the art of trying to touch of a piece of paper one time–you decide right then what to do with it.

What is one thing about your job that you think would surprise people?

The global impact of the brand. We are the number one track and field team in the world and the largest federation. We’re the envy of all the countries both from performance and our resources, this being the number one sports market in the world. When I travel outside the U.S., in countries without an NBA or an NFL woven into the fabric of the country, people view our delegation with such esteem.

What’s your favorite Twitter or Instagram account and why?

One of my favorite people to follow is Russell Simmons, someone whom I admire who strikes a great balance of creativity, social activism, entrepreneurship, and spiritual awareness.

What are some things you do to refresh your mind when you’re in a rut?

My escape is great music. Or mindless entertainment. Everything on a daily basis is so intense all the time. You only have so much capacity. I need something to get away from the intensity, where my mind can become more free and free-thinking. It may be Empire or Scandal or the latest movie.

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About the author

Chuck Salter is a senior editor at Fast Company and a longtime award-winning feature writer for the magazine. In addition to his print, online and video stories, he performs live reported narratives at various conferences, and he edited the Fast Company anthologies Breakthrough Leadership, Hacking Hollywood, and #Unplug

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