Jamaica needs strong MVP
West Indies cricket is now more a source of sadness and depression than the vehicle of inspiration and pride it once was for the Caribbean and the Jamaican people.
The Sunshine Girls have fallen short of expectations in their most recent outings, which, in itself, is quite disappointing. The unpredictability of the Reggae Boyz make them a risky emotional investment going into the next round of World Cup Qualifying. The only major sport that continues to deliver emphatically and consistently for Jamaica at the highest level is track and field.
Beijing 2015 is still fresh in our minds. Jamaica finished an impressive second in the standings with 12 medals, including seven gold, two silver, and three bronze. Of those 12 medals won in Beijing, Maximum Velocity and Speed (MVP) Track Club athletes had a part to play in winning seven, including four gold, one silver, and two bronze.
The importance of the Stephen Francis-led MVP to the overall success of the Jamaican track and field programme cannot be overstated.
It is, therefore, of national importance that MVP continues to be strong and successful in turning out and maintaining top-class athletes. The recent trend of top athletes leaving the MVP track club is now becoming worrying.
Michael Frater, Melaine Walker, Asafa Powell, and Sherone Simpson left previously and are being followed now by Kaliese Spencer, Christine Day, Natasha Morrison, and more. Not only have they all walked away, but they all seem to have come out with the same acrimonious complaints aimed at head coach, Francis.
From the outside looking in and simply analysing the complaints of the athletes leaving the club, one common thread seems to be Francis' dictatorial style, as well as his club regulations. National 400-metre champion Christine Day recently summed it up, saying coach Francis wanted her - after a decade at the club - to revert to being the same person she was at 18 or 19 when she first came into the club. She quite rightly opined that was impossible, because she will never be a teenager again.
Francis is a dedicated student of the sport of track and field. He is totally consumed by his craft, which is why he is so good at what he does.
Like all of us, coach Francis has weaknesses. I think the weakness relevant to this unfolding situation is his people skills. Coach Francis needs to first realise and then accept that his style and method of dealing with a desperate, hungry, subservient teenager cannot be the same in dealing with an established athlete with an international profile, reputation, and status and some money in the bank.
The natural human reaction to the perception of that kind of behaviour is to exercise the choice to walk away. The fact that athletes the calibre of Spencer and Day have now actually walked away, is a function of them now being in a position to walk away.
If we extricate the egos from this situation and even assume that Francis and MVP will produce adequate replacements for the athletes who left, that is not necessarily the best possible outcome to this scenario.
It would be to the benefit of MVP, the athletes involved, and indeed to Jamaica if these quality athletes were able to remain at MVP and continue their development in addition to, and not at the expense of, the new stars who will emerge. The question is, will these egos ever be extricated?
One suggestion I've heard is that the other principals of MVP should totally assume the area of communication with the athletes within their ranks, and indeed with the public at large, and that Francis should stick exclusively to coaching. Great theory, but will that ever happen?
I would not bet on it.