UPDATE AS OF 4/25 TO INCLUDE THE TINMAN ELITE STATEMENT
By: Patrick Larson
In what might be the biggest story leading up to the Olympic Trials, Tom “Tinman” Schwartz has parted ways with Tinman elite per LetsRun. Schwarz has been the longtime coach of the Drew Hunter and subsequently the Tinman Elite squad. Coaching turnover is not unusual in the sport of professional running, but it certainly is unusual just 60 days out from the Olympic Trials where multiple members of the Tinman Elite team will be competing.
Let’s dig in. There are a few things that stood out to me from the LetsRun article as well as the timing of Schwartz departure from the team.
1. What is Joan Hunter’s role with Tinman Elite?
Joan Hunter is currently the head coach of high school powerhouse Loudoun Valley where Drew Hunter’s prep career took off. She had previously been offered as a coach on Tinman Elite’s Hammer and Axe coaching platform, but it would appear her page has been removed. It’s well known that Joan Hunter had been instrumental in guiding Drew throughout his high school career and presumably is still playing a large role to this day—but what is her role with the Tinman Team?
While Drew Hunter was the original Tinman Elite member coached by Tom Schwartz and was ultimately the catalyst for bringing a group together under his tutelage, the LetsRun article made it clear that Schwartz is leaving Tinman Elite altogether, not just Drew. Yet, Joan Hunter was quoted in the article, almost acting as the spokesperson for Tinman Elite.
In her quote she mentions that Cory Leslie, Tinman Elite's recently hired assistant coach, will be providing day-to-day guidance in addition to consultation from Joan and Marc Hunter. It’s unclear what Drew's parents' role is and ultimately who made the decision to part ways from Tom Schwartz. However, the fact that she was the one speaking on behalf of the team and not Drew, Sam Parsons, or any of the other Tinmen would suggest that this was a decision heavily driven by the Hunter Family.
2. Why would the whole team leave Tinman?
It’s one thing for a single athlete to switch coaches 60 days from the Olympic Trials, but it’s a whole different can of worms for an entire team to make a switch before one of the biggest races of all their careers. Could you imagine if the Bowerman Track Club parted ways with Jerry Schumacher right now? While Drew has struggled to perform up to what many expected he was capable of out of high school, for the most part the other Tinman Elite members have really improved since joining the team.
Sam Parsons: 13:52 --> 13:32. 8:03 --> 7:43
Jeff Thies: 14:00 --> 13:32
Reed Fisher: 28:48 --> 28:12
Joey Berritua: 14:13 --> 13:49
Brogan Austin: 29:32 in the 10k to USA Marathon champion
Sydney Gidabuday: 29:02 --> 28:15
This is just a sampling of the improvements some of the members of the Tinman Elite squad has made. Again, it’s not uncommon for athletes to make coaching changes, even when they are seemingly performing well. But it is uncommon for a whole team to make a change, especially one that seems to have performed fairly well under Tom’s guidance.
3. What does this mean for the Tinman Elite brand?
The other thing worth noting from the article is Tom Schwartz's very pointed comment when he said he would prefer that Tinman Elite ditch their name—a name that originated from Tom “Tinman” Schwartz. It’s unclear who actually owns the trademark rights to Tinman and whether either party currently has legal justification for keeping the name. However, in asking them to ditch the name, it’s clear that Tom knows just how much brand capital has been built with the name “Tinman.”
Tinman Elite has become one of the most well-known, if not the most well-known brand in the running world. From a business and brand perspective, Tom’s departure could have big ramifications for the team and their ability to maintain consistency with a brand and following they have built. Who knows if they will actually switch names, but to have that as a possibility in an Olympic year?! Were they unable to reach an agreement about the name before his departure? To an outsider looking in, it seems like it would be in their best interest to have this be a bit more calculated—but Tom saying he would prefer they change the name suggests that this may not have been the smoothest transition. Again, imagine if Bowerman Track Club had to change their name just 60 days out from the Olympic Trials.
4. Wouldn’t Tinman want to control this narrative by announcing the change on their own?
If there is anything we’ve learned from Tinman Elite, it’s that they are incredibly good at building a story around their team and the individuals who make up that team. For a team that essentially relies on themselves for public relations, they do a great job at building a compelling narrative. In what is already being seen as a surprise coaching change to running fans, why wouldn’t they want to control that narrative by announcing this move before it breaks on LetsRun? The message boards are running wild with speculation, and this article itself is filled with speculation. Tom Schwartz is even still listed on their website! Even if this was in the works for a while, I would think a more formal announcement coming from the Tinman Elite camp would have squashed a lot of the rumors circulating right now.
Like I said in the beginning, coaching changes are to be expected. Even in the best of relationships, it’s sometimes in the best interest of the coach and athlete to part ways. However, this is certainly one of the more surprising moves given how synonymous Tom Schwartz and the Tinman Elite brand had become.
What do you think about this change? Comment below.
Tammy Schwartz (Tom's wife) weighed in on the matter on LetsRun. A source close to Tom and Tammy have confirmed this was written by Tammy.
TINMAN ELITE STATEMENT, 4/25/21
First and foremost, we’d like to address our silence about the decision to part ways with Coach Schwartz. Our initial mutual aim with Coach Schwartz was to keep this news confidential until after the Olympic Trials in an effort to provide Coach Schwartz with time and space to determine his future coaching endeavors and to allow our athletes to focus on their Olympic goals.
It became clear to the team that Coach Schwartz's growing commercial coaching business and other pursuits made him unable to provide the individualized attention that the team needed in order to stay healthy and succeed long term. Despite parting ways with Coach Schwartz, the team has continued to uphold the mutually agreed upon compensation we committed to provide in our initial coaching agreement, allowing him time and support as he determines his next steps.
We wish Coach Schwartz well, thank him for his time with the team, and will work with him to address any additional concerns he may have. At this time, our team is focused on the future—the upcoming Olympic Trials and working to uphold our mission of pushing the sport of running forward through positive community outreach and athletic performance.
Thank you for the support.
- Tinman Elite