Thu | Dec 14, 2017

The Wright View | Inclusion over exclusion

Published:Tuesday | July 25, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Newly elected Jamaica Olympic Association president Christopher Samuda.

The expulsion of swimmers Jesse Marsh and Emily MacDonald from the team selected for the Commonwealth Youth Games in Nassau, Bahamas, last week, has resulted in a court injunction that forced the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) to hurriedly arrange for their arrival in Nassau, and to facilitate their appearance in races for which they were already entered. All of this came about because the two children did not fulfil the mandatory requirements of a hastily called camp for selectees to the Games. The camp was to be at two venues: the University of the West Indies, and the Caribbean Maritime Institute Dormitory.

 

SPECIAL PERMISSION

 

Some of the children selected for the Games sought and received permission to be excused from the camp. As I understand it, the swimmers objected to the main facility, the pool, as its configurations did not meet the required standard for training for International competition. The JOA made arrangements for the children to use the pool at the National Aquatic Centre. The parents of Marsh and MacDonald were unhappy with the dormitory aspect of the camp, and after a day or two, these two children attended the daily aspect of the camp, going home at nights and returning for the day's activities in the mornings.

Prior to departure, the two swimmers were excluded from the team. The parents sought explanations, and the Amateur Swimming Association of Jamaica lodged an appeal on the children's behalf. Despite the appeal and pleadings, the JOA was adamant that the children would not be competing at the Games, and their expulsion was confirmed. This triggered an application to the courts, and an injunction was obtained advising the JOA that the children were to be allowed to compete in Nassau. That apparently did not phase the newly selected board as it did not comply immediately with the instructions of the learned judge. However, as an application was made to hold the JOA in contempt of court, word was received that members of the JOA already in The Bahamas relented, and the children were allowed to leave the island and compete in some of the events in which they had been previously entered.

Why did the selection of children, after months of intense training and sacrifice, have their dreams of representing their country in the Youth Commonwealth Games shattered by a body, seemingly intent on showing muscle, when meetings with the parent association, the children themselves and their parents, possibly could have come to an amiable conclusion?

 

INCLUSION FIRST

 

I am firmly of the opinion, that when it comes to international competition, the idea should be: 'the best of ours against the best of theirs'. That means that inclusion should take priority over exclusion. There is a quote from a man called Tommy Lasorda that should resonate with every leader who has to manage men and women. He said "Managing is like holding a dove in your hand. Squeeze too hard and you kill it ... not hard enough, and it flies away".

This rush to exclude rather than include has been adopted by the cricket authorities of the West Indies. The result: The West Indies one-day international and Test teams now languish at number nine in the ratings, when the top eight teams automatically qualify to play in the lucrative International competitions. The groundswell of support for high achievers and banished players has eventually forced the group to come down from a very high horse, (hopefully without appendage-threatening injuries) and call the once forsaken players to 'please come back'. Similarly in netball, this bewildering policy of exclusion over inclusion resulted in the team being beaten in a match by, and eventually drawing a series with minnows, Barbados, and the well-established rhyme of "sometimes third, most times fourth, now becoming luckily fifth".

I do believe that there must be leaders in our beloved country who understand the importance of dialogue and compromise vis-‡-vis 'obey or else'. I hope that the administrators of sports, having achieved the position of president, chairman, or board member, remember that the paying public and fans do not attend events to see the administrators or curtsy and bow whenever they make an entrance.

The game is mostly about the athletes who sacrifice a lot of blood, sweat, and tears (and time), in order to become competitive on the world stage. They are the ones who matter! Whenever exclusion seems inevitable, and sometimes it will, make sure that every attempt and dialogue and compromise was tried. It was motivational speaker Pat Williams who said "no one can go back and make a brand new start. Anyone can start form now and make a brand new ending."