Tue | Sep 26, 2017

The Wright View | Let's listen to the most important people in sports

Published:Friday | January 6, 2017 | 1:00 AMDr Paul Wright
Members of the victorious Sunshine Girls who defeated England 2-1 in a three-match series in England late last year.

As we usher in the new year, it is customary to reflect on the year that was. In sports, Jamaicans excelled, not only on the world stage, but locally.

We, the fans, revelled in the performance of our fellow citizens, who overcame fantastic odds while excelling in their respective activities. What seems to be forgotten or sidelined in 2016 is the great amount of personal pain and sacrifice our sportsmen and sportswomen go through, day in day out, in order to excel at sports. The impression was created in 2016 that the administrators/organisers were just as or even more important than the performers!

In nearly every major sport, the administrators and the performers (athletes) had differences that affected the performance of the team or individuals. In cricket, it seems that for the regional team, every forward step, seemed to be followed by a step backward.

The achievement of three world titles in a calendar year is unprecedented, but the almost Trumpian 'tit for tat' between players and administrators left many West Indians, simply fed up and longing for a change. But, (and this is a big but), there is as yet no hint that things will be better in the new year.

Politicians, fans and the players themselves have agitated for a change at the top in the administration of the game, while those accused of being the cause, 'hunker down' as the team continues its relentless slide down the ICC rankings.

Football, unfortunately, was no different in 2016. Poor decision after poor decision, has resulted in a similar slide of the Reggae Boyz down the FIFA rankings, while the president plays a game of 'see me now, see me soon'. The belated (stated) plan to use local players in future international games, seems not to be a realisation that the opposite policy since 1998 has failed, but seems to be driven by purely economic reasons, as sponsors have belatedly discovered the fact that they have an important role to play in 'shaping policy'. In a cash-strapped environment, withholding donations/sponsorship of major sports has proven to be a major 'attention grabber'.

Hopefully this 'fact' will resonate in the minds (and pockets) of businessmen when contemplating financial support for sports. Netball Jamaica saw long-time president and major cheerleader Marva Bernard leaving the top job. What followed was a roller coaster ride that saw the Sunshine Girls plunging to unprecedented lows, then rising to unusual heights. The defeat of the English netball team (in England) in the final and deciding game of a three-match Test series, must be acknowledged as the first time (in my memory) that tactics adjusted during a game paid rich dividends.

But as we have seen in 2016, highs are inevitably followed by lows. The coach of the Sunshine Girls promptly resigned as soon as she returned to the island. Will we ever learn the 'real' reason for her unusual decision? Maybe not, but there are many fans who now wait to see if the nation's leading netball coach (Winston Nevers) will get a chance of proving himself on the international scene.

We are waiting to exhale. Space does not permit this column to reflect on every sport in 2016, however, in the tradition of having a New Year's wish/resolution, let us all hope that in 2017, the organisers and administrators of sports will resolve to LISTEN to, and sincerely consider, the hopes and requests of the most important people in sports: THE ATHLETES. May every reader of this column get enough in 2017 not more, not less of all that you wish for.