Mon | Sep 25, 2017

The Wright View | Why are local meets struggling?

Published:Tuesday | February 28, 2017 | 2:47 AM
Runners from Wolmer’s and St Jago cross the line in the Boys Class 2, 4x200 metres final at the Gibson McCook Relays held at the National Stadium on Saturday.

The Gibson McCook relays, held at the National Stadium last Saturday, certainly lived up to expectations. Patrons who attended (including some from The Hague) certainly got their money's worth, as the pre-event hype definitely lived up to expectations.

The added benefit of live coverage on free-to-air and cable television ensured that there was an international audience as well. These relays began in March 1973, as an "anything you can do, we can do better" response to the ultra-successful Penn relays, an annual relay carnival in the USA which Kingston College (KC) was the first Jamaican team to enter. History may recall that there was a "KC Relays" some years previously, which somehow didn't gain traction with the 'authorities' at the time and died an uneventful death.

The Gibson McCook Relays afford all types of educational Institutions the platform to portray the skills of their students, as well as giving them an opportunity to experience the highs and lows of competing before a responsive crowd and a widespread television audience. Our national representatives, some well-established, some coming back, and some up and coming, were also on show. Not to be left out were the older folk (masters). However, when I look at the response of some of the invitees and the paying audience, I wonder what is going on.

 

Smaller crowds

 

Let me elaborate. The numbers of those attending this annual relay carnival has been falling in my visual estimation. I believe that there are two possible reasons for this. The first is that there are so many development meets and fans may be getting exhausted.

The second is that the cost of attending is increasing and the organisers may have to look at other ways of offsetting increasing costs of promoting the meet, instead of passing on the increase to an already cash-strapped fan. The other problem with this year's renewal is the withdrawal of some of the schools who were expected to figure prominently in the finals of some of the events. The official reason given by some of the coaches involved seems to be pointing to the fact that the many meets available for participation forces them to make choices as to where and when their charges will appear. However, the Digicel Grand Prix Series, where points are awarded for podium finishes, seems to be the attention grabber for coaches and schools. This fact may in the future adversely affect the attendance of name brand schools, and this may stimulate the Gibson/ McCook organising committee to look at the timing of the relays, vis-·-vis the schedule for meets in the Digicel Grand Prix series.

Finally, in the build-up for the ISSA-GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletic Championships, the performance of the non-traditional schools continues to improve, which is a living testimony to the quality of coaches at these schools, the majority of whom are trained locally at the G.C. Foster College. But, there are rumours that there is trouble on the horizon for the continued production of world-class coaches being produced by this formidable institution.

There are unconfirmed reports of major discontent among the present students and staff of the college. I am hearing of mass resignations and reduced input of students due mainly to discontent about the quality of teaching and the interpersonal relationship between staff and the principal.

I do believe that the ministries of sports and education should take an interest in the happenings at this college, as any disruption in the smooth running of the school may adversely affect the future of the nation's enviable legacy of producing world-class athletes in a variety of sports, all guided and coached by graduates of the G.C. Foster College.