Tue | Feb 18, 2020

Laurie Foster | Let’s work together for our student athletes

Published:Wednesday | April 17, 2019 | 12:26 AM
Alando Terrelonge (left), then State Minister in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, chats with male captain of Jamaica's 2018 Carifta Games team, Christopher Taylor (right), while president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, Dr Warren Blake (second right) and standout sprinter Briana Williams listen in.

Foster’s Fairplay has always held the view that coaches are allowed to play far too overpowering a role in the fortunes of student athletes. This is not to suggest that the persons who are employed to guide and steer their early careers are not crucial to what the youngsters may or may not become. In most cases in this specialised arena, the parents or guardians of these children know very little, if anything, about what it takes to mould youthful minds and promote excellence, utilising the talent and skills with which they are blessed. Further, a large percentage of the youngsters see sporting exploits, moreso in track and field, as a means to acquiring scholarships for tertiary education, while considerably reducing the financial burden on their families. That desire deserves to be satisfied as a matter of priority.

Bearing all this in mind, the recent outburst by a set of coaches protesting the scheduling of the Carifta Games Trials, normally slotted in before the ISSA GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships (Champs), should be examined.

Too much pressure

Let us accept the coaches’ cry that their top athletes are, with this new format, under too much pressure to compete in a five-day event followed less than a week after by three days of Trials action. Why has this come about? The main reason, in Foster’s Fairplay’s opinion, is the lucrative Digicel Grand Prix series where schools can earn substantial and much-needed funds from the performances of their athletes on that stage. This immediately precedes Champs, and one cannot see it being removed from the schedule. Given the enormous cost of preparing the athletes for competition, it should be respected and allowed to thrive. The sponsors seem to be happy with the present format and placement and that, too, should be borne in mind.

However, what is unacceptable is the late call by the coaches when the schedule of events for 2019 was available as early as the last quarter of the previous year. Very little, if anything, has come from the parents of the athletes concerned, but maybe that is a good thing. Primarily because it provides an opportunity to bring them into the equation for decisions to be taken in the best interests of all concerned. It would border on a serious breach of ethics and good manners to exclude that sector from any discussions involving the development of their children whom they allow to participate in sports.

The Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association is not to blame here, but it has an additional role to play. It should not be that they come out with a schedule, as questionable as it may be, and say “take it or leave it”.

Matters of this nature are most important when the future of the sport is considered. Everything possible should be done to create an environment where all stakeholders – athletes, coaches, parents and administration – can come together and work out these small glitches from which the sport is affected. There should be no open or even secret stand-offs, where each party is digging in their heels and holding relentlessly to a position that can only escalate resentment and bad blood. Self-centred egos should be back-seated, and the greater good should be the unwavering focus.

It should not be a tug-o-war as to whether Champs or Carifta Games serves the sport in a more advantageous manner. Both events serve a purpose in enhancing the image of the sport and, by extension, the athletes. Our athletes do not need this conflict, and neither does the country which they are committed to represent.

It is equally crucial here, as it is in other spheres, to put Jamaica first.

For feedback, email: laurieFoster2012@gmail.com.