Hubert Lawrence | Protecting the future
David Hunt, the editor and publisher of the popular Champs Preview, consistently urged the authorities to reduce load on student-athletes in track and field. He did so by showing the difference in Champs loading between those who fell by the wayside and those who became Olympic medallists. Accordingly, In 1992, he suggested that no athlete be allowed to do more than 3 events in total at Boys Champs with no more than 2 on the track.
When ISSA cut the allowable load limit to 3 track events, he called it "a good start?". He wrote, "No longer can top-class athletes be asked to do 6 events, plus relays, in an attempt to garner as many points as possible."
That was 23 years ago. Since then, Jamaica has won more medals at the Olympic Games and World Championships than it used to. The reduction of the load at Champs, improved coaching, injury management, and the emergence of stay-at-home post- high-school training programmes have probably all contributed to the success Jamaica enjoys today.
David's 1994 editorial has another striking passage. It reads, "The history of Boys' Champs is replete with talented overburdened athletes, who failed to go on to further glory at the senior level. There may be other reasons for their failure, but the early abuse is a common factor."
This may be why there aren't too many arguments voiced against the intent of the 2017 vote by ISSA to further restrict the range of events student-athletes can do at Champs. Most coaches simply wish they had more time to adjust their training programmes to the new regime. With Champs due on March 28, there's no time to quarrel anymore.
FOCUS ON OTHER FACTORS
With that debate done for the time being, perhaps the focus should turn to the other factors that influence Jamaica's success in athletics. The US track scholarship has played a huge role in our nation's advancement with many of our champions, from Herb McKenley to Veronica Campbell-Brown and Omar McLeod benefiting. Yet many good prospects have taken that route and disappeared.
Eight of the boys and six of the girls who won Class One or open events at the ISSA GraceKennedy Boys and Girls Championships 2016 have gone off to scholarships in the US. Together, they won 17 individual events at Champs last year, and their departure is testimony to how valuable the US track and field scholarship still is.
It's probably time that the scholarship prospect be provided with more information on how to choose wisely. A central repository of information would really help to shed light on academic faculty and the athletic coaching staff and weather so the young ones could choose wisely.
While some scholarship seekers might have been early bloomers athletically speaking, all including blue chip prospects would benefit from better information. Coach movement should be included because there are times when the student's athlete finds that the coach who recruited them is long gone when they arrive in the US.
By helping young prospects make better choices, this scholarship information centre would protect the promise of Jamaica's future in track and field. Not everyone will be an Olympic champion, but all can seize the opportunities that do exist. Should it come to pass, It would be an important step forward.
- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.