'Focus on young swimmers' techniques'
Former first vice-president at the Amateur Swimming Association of Jamaica (ASAJ) Allan Roy Marsh says young local swimmers are struggling to make a transition from age-group swimming to competing at the senior level because of misplaced priorities in coaching them.
Marsh, who represented Jamaica at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, says too much focus is being placed on young swimmers winning at meets rather than them learning to get their techniques right.
"I think one of the first things we should look at, in terms of our programme, is that we should spend a lot more time focusing On the early years of the swimmers' development, particularly in the period before 10 years old, on technique and developing the mastery of strokes of all the different components of swimming," he says.
"The different strokes, turns, dives and streamlines so that as they get older, with the correct technique, it becomes second nature and is instinctive to them. As they get older, they'll be able to get stronger and more efficient when they swim."
Marsh says that the problem stems from improper coaching principles at some of the local swimming clubs, as he says it comes down to a combination of some coaches not giving enough focus to technical development, while others just do not know better.
"Some coaches do know better and are, in fact, focusing on those areas, but there's also the pressure for success," Marsh said. "That is a very challenging balance sometimes because the pressure might be there and everyone wants their child to be number one, but it could come at the expense of them not developing properly."
Marsh says that a part of the reason for a lack of transition is that many young swimmers gain scholarships at preparatory (private) schools in the United States and never return to represent the country after. He says that a way to address this is by offering scholarships at local tertiary institutions and attempting to create more swimming events at this level locally, although he admits that there would be a difficulty given the small number of tertiary schools in the island.
Former ASAJ president Martin Lyn agrees with Marsh about offering scholarships, but says that the Government also has a role to play.
"The problem with Jamaica is that we really concentrate on athletics, which I understand as it has put us on the map," Lyn said.
"As I've always maintained, there are so many other sports that Jamaicans can excel at and it gets no support either from sponsors. Sometimes, even the government is reluctant to put funds or infrastructure into other sports.
"We don't lack talent in Jamaica. I've said that on every podium I stand on.
"One of the main drawbacks is that once the athlete goes to university or college, it becomes a little difficult to finance training, so it really comes down to sponsorship."