Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Jamaica must play in regional competitions

Published:Tuesday | April 14, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The results last weekend at the annual UTech Classic confirm the greatness and potential of Jamaican athletes.

World-leading times in the women's 100 metres of 10.92 by new sensation Elaine Thompson; and women's 400 metres of 51.39 by Shericka Jackson; and the emergence of hurdler Megan Simmonds as a possible finalist in the sprint hurdles at the World Championships this year, were the main highlights.

World champions Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce didn't disappoint, with victories in the 200-metre events.

All looks well for this year's World Championships.

However, an article by sports journalist Orville Higgins that appeared in this newspaper on Saturday has tempered my joy at the dominance of Jamaican sportswomen and men. Mr Higgins reminded us of a decision some years ago by the head of Netball Jamaica, Marva Bernard, to forgo participating in the regional netball competition - because the calibre of the opposition did not give us much of a competition - instead embarking on a tour Down Under for a series against Australia to seek 'better' preparation for the World Championships as the association did not have enough money to participate in both.

After reading the article, I got the distinct impression that there are persons of influence in Jamaica who are of the opinion that once you reach the peak of excellence in a particular event or sport, you can turn your back and forget where you once were in the pursuit of excellence.

finance ALWAYS

a reason

Further, finance is ALWAYS the reason when people do not want to do what they should. The bald fact is that as far as they were concerned, going to a regional competition was not worth it as the girls were never extended.

A lesson can be learnt from the former outstanding British decathlete Daley Thompson, who said: "It fulfils me to compete. I never worry about winning or losing because when you compete, you are already a winner."

That for me (and Daley Thompson) is what competition is all about.

International competition is more than winning. It allows interaction with contemporaries of different backgrounds and cultures, as well as the potential for the forging of contacts and friendships that may come in handy when the glamour of victory is but a distant memory.

I wonder what the response of the president of Netball Jamaica would be if Australia decided that it was a waste of time competing against Jamaica because "we always win", or what Mr Higgins would write if France were to decide not to play football against Jamaica because they 'always win'.

every loss a lesson

Jamaica has a long history of competing against other countries in different sports, sometimes losing, but using every loss as a lesson in adjusting preparation, enabling us to improve the next time.

I do agree that it seems to be taking a long time for the other Caribbean countries to improve and catch up, but a review of inter-regional cricket, after complete domination by Jamaica in the four-day competition, reveals that the other islands have improved to the extent where winning a match by Jamaica would probably result in the declaration of a public holiday to mark the historic occasion.

Let us remember the words of Arthur Ashe as we contemplate dissing the competition.

"You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limit, that is real joy."

Let us continue to play in the regional netball competitions and let us continue to send our young boys and girls to the Carifta Games.

Like former New York Knicks and Baltimore Bullets NBA star and Hall of Famer Al McGuire said: "Winning is overemphasised. The only time it is important is in surgery and war."