Mon | Oct 26, 2020

Dalton Myers | A broader view of track and field success

Published:Saturday | September 28, 2019 | 12:00 AM

The 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships are here and over the next nine days we expect nothing but some great competition both on the track and in the field in Doha, Qatar. Expectations are high, and Jamaicans have already started making the customary medal predictions, and in some cases, experts have been having their say on the athletes they think will do well.

For me, this edition of the World Championships is less about the medals themselves and more about the progress we have made since the last championships in London. Additionally, it will give ideas as to the strategies we will need to implement to advance our track and field programme. The measurement of success should not be solely based on medals but rather should include personal bests, season’s bests, etc., as well as a genuine appreciation of the work put in by our athletes.

Doha 2019 is no ordinary World Championships event. The timing and the weather have made the 2018-19 seasons interesting ones. Most global track and field calendars have had to be adjusted, and controversies abounded with our own calendar. When our National Championship date was first announced it didn’t end there. The JAAA was forced to back-pedal on their initial decision; then later forced to add athletes to particular events due to not having enough qualified persons in certain events. Of course, a doping scandal has also rocked us but now the athlete has been cleared, we hope that this aside we can perform to our best.

There is some glimmer of hope from the JAAA. President Warren Blake was willing to hold a media conference and did well in explaining to journalists the issues, complexities and reasons for solutions used in selecting the team. The camp is a good idea and some stipulations have been relaxed to assist some athletes. There might still be several issues, but I can only hope the JAAA makes steady improvements leading up to Tokyo 2020.

In moving forward, I think the JAAA needs to find more effective ways of communicating with stakeholders, including athletes and the general public.

There are things being done that never make the news; and maybe just like the media conference to name the team, the president and his board can use similar channels to explain the decisions of and challenges facing the athletics body, as well as to galvanise support for its position on major issues. Doha 2019 should not be just another trip but should be used an opportunity for the local body to have games-time stakeholder consultations with the coaches there where applicable. We now have in the Qatari capital some of our best and most experienced coaches, agents, athletes and administrators. Here’s a chance to discuss with them the challenges faced and opportunities available for not just them but others to add value to the athletics association.

The medals we win over the next few days are important, but the opportunities around may be vital to the survival of the sport in Jamaica. The local athletics body must also use this opportunity to seek other avenues for funding through partnerships with other national federations who will be gathered for IAAF council meetings.

Discuss partnerships

The JAAA has indicated that it has financial challenges. Doha must be used as the space to discuss possible partnerships that will benefit the nation so we can invest more in our athletes, officials and administrators for the future of the sport.

We must recognise that the sport of athletics is still a priority in Jamaica. However, like cricket, one day it too may not be that important to the next generation. So for now, we have to use these opportunities to ensure we can garner more resources to help the sport grow. I am not just talking about high school or ISSA Championships now but rather investment in academy-style development for the continued success of the sport while utilising tertiary institutions more.

I am wishing all our athletes nothing but success in Doha. Many of them have had a tough season and/or career. For some, this is redemption while for others this is their swansong. Whatever it is, you have my support, and I wish you all the best.

- Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to daltonsmyers@gmail.com or tweet @daltonsmyers