Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Paul Wright | Hope springs eternal in 2018

Published:Tuesday | January 2, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Omar McLeod after winning Jamaica’s only gold medal at the IAAF World Championships in London in the 110m hurdles last August.

The year 2017 is over. Gone. Never to return, except in our memories. What we can do about 2017, however, is to reflect on the year that was, mainly to find out how can we learn from mistakes made and, ultimately, how can we do better in 2018.

In sports, the glory years of track and field seems to have morphed into memories as we accept that Usain Bolt and the other mainstays of our dominance have either resigned or moved on to a different phase of their life, resulting in what many termed "a disappointing year".

Champion hurdler Omar McLeod and the resurgent Ristannanna Tracey proved to be the sparks that threatened to ignite the flame of continued dominance in international track meets, but I do believe that the retirement of our track king, Usain, left the rest of our track stars demotivated.

The lack of major meets this year (except for the Commonwealth Games) may not be enough to herald the resurgence of our usual dominance, but our young, up-and-coming stars may yet surprise us. Overwork of these youngsters remains the major reason for the lack of Champs high achievers moving on to Olympic and World Championship glory. But, the good news is that the governing body of Champs seems to be aware of this danger and is making changes in the programme that may assist in the preservation of our teenage sensations.

 

PLAYERS HAMPERED BY FIFA RANKING

 

In football, the poor FIFA ranking of our nation has prevented many of our local stalwarts from making the much sought-after progression to the English Premier League, but wherever they played football, their exploits always seem to make the headlines.

At home, the governing body, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), has at last realised that the tried-and-proven, failed way of progressing our football, by scanning the globe for skilled players with only a tenuous relationship to this island, needed a change. The appointment of a previously successful coach, local-born and developed Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore, is a welcome change and augurs nothing but good for 2018 and beyond.

For the first time, at last, local footballers truly believed that with good and consistent performance, international selection in games that matter would be their just reward, opening the door to opportunities previously denied by the myopic policies of the administrators at the JFF. The leadership has changed, which gives rise to hope, but (and this is a big 'but') the other members of the board are basically the same. As the say, "We live in hope".

In netball, our Sunshine Girls, (sometimes third, most times fourth) won an important Test series in England, only to have the successful coach resign almost while in the air returning home.

A Kellyanne Conway soundalike then tried to justify the appointment of a coach with very little experience at the highest level of international netball, only to have that "experiment" (spectacularly) fail.

 

IMPROVED PERFORMANCES

 

The suggested but previously discarded idea of dual coaches, with ladies tried and proven in all aspects of netball, has now been implemented. Our first - and to date only - foray into an important competition has resulted in a marked improved performance by our ladies. But, alas, 2018 brings us hope! Hope that the most athletically gifted group of netballers in the world can, for the first time, at last, be consistently playing in international finals.

Finally, cricket. As West Indies cricket continues to embarrass us (and hopefully) themselves on the international scene, there is very little to hope for in 2018. Prime ministers, selected experts (by the board itself), past players, fans, knowledgeable scribes with years of cricket knowledge and experience, have all tried and failed to get the people that matter - the board and its leader - to understand that the present way of administering cricket in the region cannot rescue our game. When you listen to radio talk shows, television discussions, and some (so-called) fans, who have access to electronic media, an uninitiated listener could not be faulted for thinking that it is only 'bad mind' why all the previously mentioned persons want the board to remove itself and give cricket a chance! So while some receive money and other forms of reward to keep the status quo, international cricket involving the West Indies cricket team continues to be an abject embarrassment. The year 2018, for cricket, hope and success will remain fading dreams to regional and local sport fans. Our only glimmer of hope lies in a well-known cliche and truism "this, too, must end".

I wish for all, a happy and prosperous new year. Continue to support our local sportsmen and sportswomen. They need it.