Laurie Foster | No time for complacency
The president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), Dr Warren Blake, has been talking up a storm recently. To put it mildly, Foster's Fairplay is not in sympathy with some of his thoughts and in fact, find them to be quite surprising.
It is obvious that the sport is gone into an expected decline with the retirement of the superstar Usain Bolt. The country was never going to enjoy double-digit global medal hauls, once the big man said goodbye. No sane person who has followed the sport from its relevance on the world scene, should be surprised by the plunge in fortunes which Jamaica is now experiencing.
What is disturbing is Blake's reaction, as he attempts to calm the nation, uttering words to the effect that the country's athletics is in safe hands. That type of assessment as to where the sport is, could lead to a feeling of complacency which is far from that which is required at this time.
The president is using as his reference point, another resounding thrashing of Jamaica's Caribbean neighbours at the Carifta Games. Sure, it was tantamount to what is called in cricket a 'whitewash'. However, it should not be misinterpreted as the cricket bosses did during their period of ascendancy, that the habit of winning will automatically be adopted by those to come.
Also, what Blake seems to forget is that the Carifta Games is a regional event and Jamaica has been dominating it for well over 30 years. Success at that level should not be seen as an indicator, nor can it guarantee similar results as the ladder is climbed leading to international events. A whole lot more has to be done by the Blake group to even come close.
Now that the great one, Usain Bolt, has slid off into the sunset to enjoy the fruits of his time on the track, Foster's Fairplay has some further words for Dr Blake. The same junior athletes who are receiving well-earned plaudits for their efforts need administrative support. They have done exceptionally well, creeping into areas of competition hitherto unattainable. Their results in the throwing rings, thought to be the domain of the foreigners, provide a case in point. They have proven that there is no magic. It is simply the result of hard work and passionate coaches, operating with limited resources, but who believed that 'we, too, can do it'. The jumps are nowhere close to where they should be and is another area where emphasis needs to be centred. What has become of the suggestions to ask Cuba for assistance or that of bringing in the Kenyan expertise to upgrade our middle- and long-distance athletes?
Another area in which Blake needs to concentrate his effort and those of his crew, is the post-Champs and Penn Relays syndrome. The school communities bear the burden of expense to fund these two events. The JAAA needs to step into the breach and do some funding on a more regular and expansive basis than now obtains. Camps for the national aspirants need to be established at strategic points throughout the country and these should be afforded administrative oversight. Transportation costs to the June trials must be adequately funded and the cost for rural athletes to overnight should also be addressed.
Of course, this will require additional sponsorship. Track and field at the junior level is attracting the gaze of those who seek to benefit from the prowess of our athletes. One hears of secret deals to invest in the young ones, and this includes their coaches. The JAAA seems not to be involved in this aspect of the athletes' early development. If only to protect the youngsters from the greed of those who seem to have them eating out of their hands, they need to change that mindset.
Come on, Dr Blake, all this is happening very close to you and your team at the JAAA. Put the athletes in your collective ''safe hands'' and do what is in the power of your organisation to ensure that the future is really as bright as you pronounce it to be.
As the coming of another Bolt is anticipated, this is what should be in the forefront of your mind at this time.