Prioritise the athletes - Olympians weigh in on main objectives for new JAAA administration
With the new executive of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) now in place, Olympians Bert Cameron, Grace Jackson and Novlene Williams-Mills have weighed in on the challenges that the new administration will have to address in their upcoming term.
Former Honorary Secretary Garth Gayle will lead the association as its next president, having defeated iconic sprinter Donald Quarrie 236 to 28 for the position at yesterday’s annual general meeting held at the National Arena. Gayle replaces Dr Warren Blake, who opted not to seek re-election after nine years at the helm.
Gayle’s areas of focus will include Human Capital Development as well as Strategic Marketing and Brand Optimisation.
Cameron, a 1983 400m world champion as well as a member of the 4x400m relay team that took silver in the 1988 Olympics, says that the new body must improve the welfare of athletes throughout their development and not just when they reach the elite level.
“You cannot just take care of the athletes who already give you medals, you have to take care of the ones who are promising, the younger ones who are coming up,” Cameron told The Sunday Gleaner.
Additionally, Cameron says that this support must include both providing stipends and medical support for all athletes.
With eyes towards the 2021 campaign, which include the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, Jackson, who took silver in the 200m at the Seoul Games, says that determining new procedures in a COVID-19 environment will be important for Gayle’s administration, as well as being able to be open to progressive ideas that will benefit the country’s athletic programme.
“What is really important is that we have to start collectively putting together some sort of methodology for operating within a COVID environment. That would be important for our athletes, or coaches primarily because the result of what they do is a plus for the organisation,” Jackson said.
THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX
“They are really going to have to come together because it’s the new way of operating. All sports organisations have to be able to think out of the box. We have to look at what others have experimented with and we have to look at how it can work in our situation,” added Jackson.
The pandemic severely hampered the 2020 calendar, causing the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to next July, as well as the rescheduling and cancellation of several major meets locally and internationally. These included the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships and several Diamond League meets. However, the local professional circuit returned in July with meets being held at the Ashenheim Stadium at Jamaica College and the National Stadium.
Meanwhile, Williams-Mills, a multiple Olympic and World Championships 4x400m relay silver medallist, says that the new administration must allow for athletes to have healthy debates and discourse with members of the executive on issues affecting the country’s athletics programme, and not face backlash and retribution for voicing such views.
“Whoever is in office needs to take their personal feelings and put them aside and stop holding it against the athletes for everything the athletes do and say because too many athletes are being punished for even having an opinion,” said Mills, who also led Jamaica to the gold in the 4x400m relay at the 2015 World Championships.
Beside’s Gayle ascension, the only change to JAAA administration top brass is Marie Tavares’ promotion to the honorary secretary and Brian Smith taking her old role as assistant secretary. Ian Forbes (first vice-president), Lincoln Eatmon (second vice-president), Michael Frater (third vice-president), Vilma Charlton (fourth vice-president) and Ludlow Watts (treasurer) have all been returned to their respective offices by the membership.