Paul Wright | Peak performance coaching
To say that Jamaicans are 'athletically gifted,' is really an understatement when you compare the performances of our natives (born-ya) against men and women of different countries and cultures, where money invested in training and infrastructure dwarf the sums provided for similar gestures here at home.
Our exploits during the 1948 Olympics heralded the onslaught of extraordinary results on the world stage, no matter what the sport was. On land, in water or on ice, there is a Jamaican whose performances defy athletic logic. Many reasons have been proffered for our mind-boggling performances. The one that seems to be the most appealing (to me) is based on our genetic make-up.
Our ancestors were transported to Jamaica from Africa across the dreaded Middle Passage. The most aggressive and rebellious slaves who gave endless trouble during the passage were among the first to be disembarked when land was sighted. These troublesome slaves were then selectively paired in order to produce strong and robust progeny who would be an asset to the hard work required on the plantations, being theoretically lees prone to illness and fatigue. This, I believe, is the template for our athletic prowess. Yet, something seems to be missing. Dominating our Caribbean counterparts in most sports is a 'given'.
Individually, our sportsmen and women are sought by clubs, and, recently nations, to improve their chances at victory in sports. However, with all of these facts seemingly in our favour, dominance on the world stage is always 'just around the corner'.
I am convinced that mental preparation and coaching is what is missing. In cricket, Rudi Webster tried to introduce this concept during the short lived High Performance Center in Barbados.
But, any group that invests in this method of preparation seems, based on results, to reap rewards that seem to prove that mind training works. Recently, a radio interview with a peak performance coach, revealed success after success which begged the question: Why is there no peak performance coach, permanently assigned to the Institute of Sports, or better yet, being made available to National teams?
Christine Morris, the coach interviewed on radio, has a very impressive resume of success stories while working with Jamaicans in several different sports. In football, from schoolboy teams to working with Andrew Edwards, head coach of Jamaica's under-17 team; water polo, cricket, boxing, track and field, and the list goes on. She has even worked with our International sensation Leon Bailey, who had contact via video with the athlete in Belgium and peak performance coach in Jamaica. When the exploits of our Sunshine Girls, who in world rankings are "sometimes third, most times fourth," are compared with the obvious athletic superiority of our ladies, it is my postulate that mental tenacity could be the missing ingredient in the potpourri of various things that could ensure a marked improvement in athletic performances from netball to bobsled. Mental preparation and reliance on a peak performance coach, should be mandatory when the selection for ANY national team is contemplated.
The cash incentives now being introduced to schoolboy and schoolgirl competitions has begun to reveal a disappointing conundrum pitting performing for monetary reward, vis a vis performing for joy of sport.
We already have our major and best cricketers making use of well-paid competitions enhancing their economic well-being instead of regional representation.
Athletes are increasingly becoming 'injured' before international competition, but making recovery just in time for more lucrative Diamond events. The life span of an athlete of any standard is fraught with danger, as injury, even during training sessions, can mean the end of a career.
Therefore there is very little merit in frowning at those who chose economic well-being over the cheaper and less financially rewarding competition for country or region.
But, as a fan and a nationalist, sometimes I sigh when my "national treasures" opt out of representing us preferring instead to "eat-a-food". I guess that I am just an old fuddy duddy who longs for the days when representing your country was the ultimate honour.