France track boss lauds JAAA partnership
André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
President of the Fédération Française d'Athlétisme (FFA), Bernard Amsalem, believes his country, France, and Jamaica, stand to benefit significantly from closer relations between his organisation and the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA).
Amsalem, along with outgoing CEO of the FFA, Jean Gracia, and head coach Ghani Yalouz, arrived in the island last Wednesday to discuss the points of cooperation and sign a memorandum of understanding with JAAA officials in a deal which is expected to see both federations sharing technical knowledge in their areas of expertise, administrative support, as well as the donating of equipment to local schools.
All points have reportedly been agreed upon, and the deal was expected to be signed by both bodies yesterday evening.
The three members of the French delegation were guests at Saturday's Douglas Forrest and JAAA/PUMA Development meets in Kingston and Manchester, respectively, as they continued a learning experience into Jamaican athletics, which started last Thursday.
Amsalem, who told The Gleaner that one of his most surprising observations so far was to see athletes compete and train on grass tracks, was impressed with the level of passion exhibited, as well as the system of competition that exists, particularly among Jamaican high schools.
"It is my first time here in Jamaica, and I am happy to be here," said Amsalem, speaking through Gracia, who acted as translator. "I have seen many things. The first thing that I have noticed is the humility of the people here, the competence of the coaches to drive the athletes, and very importantly, the system that has been established with the high schools and colleges.
"The most important thing that we could have between our federations is the sharing of our experiences," Amsalem added. "There are some areas where France is ahead of Jamaica like pole vault and 3000m steeplechase, and there are other events where Jamaica are much better than France like the sprints and hurdles as well, so it could be important for both federations to share this experience to improve in the areas where we are not so good."
Since touching down on the island, the French delegation has been to the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, where it spent time at the UWI/Usain Bolt Track and visited the High Performance Centre; the University of Technology, where they observed a MVP Track Club training session; and Jamaica College, Kingston College, and St Andrew Prep, where they also sat in on training sessions. The team was also taken to the GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sports for a tour of the facilities and museum.
"They have ad quite a hectic time since arriving," said JAAA president Dr Warren Blake. "They have had exposure to training at different levels for athletes and have gotten a chance to see how we train here.
"So far, they have been pretty amazed and they know our results at the end. It's interesting that the FFA's coaching staff consists of 94 coaches paid by the Government, and the CEO has 60 persons under his supervision there. That's a far cry from us here. We have two receptionists and two others that are loaned to us," Blake added before noting that the JAAA could be sending an official to France in the near future to study the FFA's system of administration.
"There is an invitation open for us to send someone to France to look at how they administer track and field there, and I think that from and administrative position, they are ahead of us, so we can benefit from that. They also have a full-time IT person that helps them with their website and statistics, and so on, so we are going to be learning some techniques in that aspect as well," said Blake.
He added: "They will be helping us with our jumps and pole vault, along with other technical events. We also expect to get some equipment from them. We will also be seeing how well they can help us in terms of facility development."