Dalton Myers | Rebuilding the image of basketball
As the race heats up for the presidency of the Jamaica Basketball Association (JaBA), I can't help but think about the mountain ahead for whoever is elected next Sunday, March 4, at the Jamaica Olympic Association.
The new president will have a lot of work to do and may want to focus on rebuilding the image of the sport, locally. Currently, JaBA is run by interim-president Calvin Martin, who came to the fore after Dr Mark Bloomfield stepped aside. Amid of all of these challenges, Jamaica hosted the NCAA Montego Bay Basketball Classic in which six NCAA teams competed. Although not a JaBA event, it is an important boost to our sport tourism product and exposes local athletes, officials, and spectators to top-level college basketball.
It is important to note that Martin accomplished what many have struggled to do: restart the National Basketball League (NBL) after a four-year hiatus. This is very important because an active and competitive event is needed for local players to hone their skills. The individual elected next weekend will have to focus on rebuilding this event over the next two to three years. While it is great to have the league, JaBA will also need to find innovative ways to get the average Jamaican involved as a fan - especially those who have the appetite for basketball and don't miss a single NBA game. Already, JaBA has indicated that it is resuming the NBL despite a shortfall of approximately $10 million to effectively run the competition. Part of the problem is that sponsors are still hurting from previously investing in the league. The new president will have to restore confidence and convince corporate Jamaica that this time around, the return on investment will be great. Without corporate support, the association could go into debt and/or be forced to pause the competition again.
There must be renewed focus on the training and recruiting of players, coaches, officials, volunteers, and managers to not just rebuild the NBL, but also to develop the sport in general. We do not have the benefit of replay technology in most local sports, so each decision may be questioned, especially if the players do not have confidence in the level of officiating. Capacity building must also be part of the focus for staff and coaches so that these individuals can help local players to significantly improve and consider contracts in European or American leagues.
Like many other team sports in Jamaica, JaBA depends heavily on overseas-based players for the women's team, and to a lesser extent, the male teams, for participation in regional and international competitions. The new executive must look at partnering with local universities to host academies and camps to not just introduce youngsters to the sport, but to have them playing at a very early age. We need to remember that the countries we hope to compete against have players who have been engaged in the sport for most of their lives.
GET MORE FEMALES PLAYING
With the 2018 Commonwealth Games fast approaching in Gold Coast, Australia, and the women's basketball team scheduled to start competition in April, I would hope that the new president uses this as a platform to relaunch the women's programme in Jamaica and get more girls playing the sport again. You may be surprised to know that many female athletes in other disciplines have basketball as their number-one sport, but there are no avenues for them to compete.
Finally, the new executive will need to clearly outline a plan that would look at the various developmental stages of the sport such as prep/primary, high school, tertiary (local and overseas) and the club/professional levels and see how they can partner with the respective stakeholders, including the Jamaica Intercollegiate Sport Association (Intercol) to grow the sport. These stakeholders have the available resources to help develop these athletes as well as provide training for coaches.
I hope the new boss remembers that sport relies heavily on 'stars' - popular athletes - and, to a lesser extent, coaches that fans can recognise. So start building the next star athletes and use the media to show us who they are so we are encouraged to support them ... but then again, what do I really know.
- Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @daltonsmyers