Paul Wright | Who’ll protect our national treasures?
The study of the life of a successful athlete would make fascinating reading. First of all, the athlete would have had to convince parents and teachers from as early as pre-puberty that he or she had the skill and the temperament necessary to make the grade in competition with similarly gifted individuals from different ethnic, economic and social backgrounds.
But the great ones persist. They persist even though the path to the top is littered with many real and perceived obstacles. Once parents and coaches are convinced that the athlete has the necessary traits to be great, the athlete now faces the real and ever-present prospect of injury and the availability of the best that medicine has to offer for a speedy and complete recovery.
In today’s modern world, expertise in the speedy and correct identification of sport injury and recovery does not come cheap! Then comes the reality of the isolation and loneliness associated with the dedication necessary for hours, days, and weeks of detailed preparation and ‘stick-to-itiveness’ in order to be the best. Understanding and respecting the rules of the sport chosen should not be an aside but must be an integral part of the pre-participation ritual necessary for success. Then comes listening to and respecting the coaches’ ideas and instructions, and, finally, understanding the role that supporters and fans can, and will, play as their career unfolds. Overcoming all of this is never easy as the psychological make-up of these superstars reveals them to be different from the average citizen of whatever is their country of origin.
So the athlete has made it. Conquered most of the obstacles in the path to greatness and now on the path to economic well-being, hopefully for life. But in today’s modern world, there are new and real obstacles.
The non-athletes who fight and scratch their way to positions of authority in the administrative bodies necessary for the many leagues and competitions that give athletes the platform for their skill and expertise to shine now, oddly enough, have the power to curtail or assist this special person in their chosen path. This has proven to be, in many instances, detrimental to the athlete themselves. And recently, there has been a drive to get past and present athletes integrated into these organisations, mainly to protect athletes from overzealous and ‘bad-mind’ administrators. This process, however, is slow and not as smooth as the athletes themselves would like.
In the past week, there have been two incidents that demand review. The historic movement of our senior women’s football team to the FIFA Women’s World Cup has been due in no small way to the intervention of a daughter of reggae superstar and icon Bob Marley. Cedella Marley used her contacts, cash and friendship with outstanding coach Hugh Menzies to propel a Jamaican team to the final in France. However, history has now recorded the incompetence and near-sabotaging actions of the administrative body in charge of local football on the road to France.
A letter to the editor last week, that has not been refuted, identified the real reason for the suspension of Andrew Price, one of the coaches intimately associated with the team’s success. An email to a friend in which an official of the Jamaica Football Federation is called a “dunce” was leaked to the official, and, apparently all on his own, the offended individual use his power to deny the team the presence, for two weeks prior to the World Cup, of one who had been an integral part of the successful journey.
The team lost all their matches and scored only one goal in the tournament. But suppose, just suppose, that team chemistry had not been disrupted?
WILLIAMS’ CONTROVERSIAL FALSE START
In athletics, former World champion over the obstacles in the 100m hurdles event, Danielle Williams, trains hard, is ready, and comes to the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA)/Supreme Ventures National Senior Athletics Championships in order to qualify for competition later in the year.
According to the rules, she false-started. Of that there is no doubt. The identification of a second sound from the stands at a crucial moment in the pre-start scenario is not taken into account as, according to the JAAA, the race has been declared null and void! Then, as athletes and supporters scramble to find ways of insuring the possibility of her inclusion in the team at the IAAF World Championships, out comes a statement from the local administrative body essentially pooh-poohing any attempt at qualifying in the next few months.
A career now on the brink. Why? To satisfy the egos of officials with proven track records of peculiar and controversial decisions over the past two years? How much longer will we stand aside and watch the careers of our national treasures ruined by egotistical administrators? That is the question. In cricket, it took us years before change. How much longer for football and track and field?