Fri | Oct 30, 2020

Nine-to-five - Pandemic forces athletes into seeking employment outside of track and field

Published:Monday | July 13, 2020 | 12:12 AMAkino Ming/Staff Reporter

For the first time in four months, Jamaican athletes steamed down the athletics track at the National Stadium in competition on Saturday.

This as track and field burst out of the silence of lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic and resumed with new social-distancing order, in a sport where athletes rarely mingle.

Although many athletes were grateful for the opportunity to compete again, others weren’t as fortunate to take up the chance, as they had to cut their seasons short because of the financial strain the lockdown has caused.

Maurice Wilson, the head coach at Sprintec Track Club, one of the most populous track clubs in Jamaica, told The Gleaner that some of his charges had to swap their spikes for formal shoes over the past months, as they were forced to seek normal jobs to supplement their incomes, as their earnings from the sport were significantly reduced because of the lack of competition.

“A lot of people who were training have decided to stop,” Wilson said. “Some of them due to the fact that they have work that they do, so they weren’t as invested in training as they should be. Some of the athletes have had to get a nine-to-five job based on how things are going and they need to supplement their incomes. I’m a bit disappointed, but I try to work with them.”

New way of life

Sports psychologist Dr Olivia Rose Esperance commends the athletes who had to make the adjustments while withstanding the psychological impact of having to seek and get used to a new way of life.

“It is really good to hear that some athletes were able to transition into other work, because they were in a situation where they were no longer able to earn in an environment where they were comfortable and competent,” she said. “They could have responded another way, like being withdrawn from regular routine, but by them seeking new streams of income, it shows their mental fortitude.

“The nine-to-five structure is totally different from what they are accustomed to, so this will allow them to build different mental muscles, which can only be advantageous if they decide to continue with their athletics career.”

Athletes who do not have shoe contracts, could go a year without earning from the sport as the resumption of the European athletics circuit, where they normally run for prize money, is still in limbo.