Foster's Fairplay | Give Champs the attention it deserves
The InterSecondary Schools Sports Association's flagship event, the ISSA GraceKennedy Boys & Girls' Championships is just under three weeks away. The five day spectacle, known to the world of track and field as 'Champs', is once again expected to roll out top-drawer performances by the nation's young athletes. The runners, jumpers and throwers on show, will clearly demonstrate how talent-blessed is this piece of rock, discovered by Christopher Columbus approaching the close of the 15th Century. So much so, that if the Spain-funded Italian explorer's ability to foretell, matched his genius at discovering countries, he would have called this one, Atletico Xamayca instead. In time to come, its athletes would have removed any doubt among critics as to how appropriate the name had been.
Last weekend, athletes from two different age groups - Under 18 and Under 20 - participated in the country's Trials for the Carifta Games, which takes place during the Easter holidays in Curacao. Foster's Fairplay will allow the erudite statisticians to catalogue the plethora of brilliance which emanated from that event. Suffice to say, it provided further indication that, as the colloquialists would put it, "wi nuh tap yah." The coaches who guide the country's young sporting products have displayed that they too are of world class rating. They have prepared their charges to have them peak at what they deem to be the right time. This could be seen in the performing language of some name brand participants parading their skills while at the same time showing that, "I am not quite ready" or "I am holding back." It seemed to many watching from various vantage points, that it was not yet time to serve the "pudding'', the proof of its delectable taste, being withheld until Champs.
Hide and seek
There is absolutely no question that these "hide and seek'' games which admittedly enhance the hype and make the successful professional forecasters seem like geniuses, have their negative effect. The cat and mouse play advances the view that Champs is the pinnacle showcase for this generation of athletes. Several see the March/April event as the fulfilment of their dreams in the sport. What comes after in the Summer is not given as serious an approach as it deserves. This columnist has travelled with junior teams to international competitions and some of the talk coming from a few of the team members, is absolutely chilling. The words, "this is not Champs but I'll see what I can do'' swiftly comes to mind. In other words, it is equivalent to putting school over country. Bear in mind that the much maligned Captain Burrell, Jamaica's football supremo, will have none of this in his ranks. As far as he is concerned, representing Jamaica even as far as preparation exercises go, must supersede any other activity.
As a remedial response, there have been calls for the dilution of the Champs model and some of what it embraces. Stronger focus, those protagonists claim, ought to be given to national exploits. They continue to express the view that, "the schoolboy and schoolgirl model being the most important one, must go." Foster's Fairplay has time for that argument but it has to be structured in a manner that will not detract from the value of Champs. Neither should its component parts be seen as an overkill. As it stands, too many positives, which can be further developed, are woven into the fabric of Champs.
Champs is too high profile and by extension, highly marketable an event to allow for any diminishing of its format. All it needs is to be tweaked a bit to allow the dollars that it attracts to flow in with greater intensity and rapidity. The ISSA executives need to contract the expert services of the world's most efficient marketers to assist in selling the product to a more diverse set of buyers of sporting content. The annual Penn Relays forays can be utilised as working trips to launch this and similar initiatives.
Let Champs and how it has impacted the world, be a major contributor to the country's Gross Domestic Product.
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