Coaches de­serve bet­ter

Jamaica Gleaner - - TUESDAY SPORTS -

THE RIO Olympics ath­letes celebration and awards pack­age was an­nounced by Min­is­ter of Cul­ture, Gen­der Af­fairs, En­ter­tain­ment and Sports Olivia Grange last week. It was rolled out as a three-day event, most ap­pro­pri­ately slot­ted into the Na­tional He­roes week­end and would have its cli­max in western Ja­maica, of which the Ja­maica Na­tional 5K Run/Walk was a con­stituent.

The first af­fair – a re­cep­tion for the ath­letes – hosted by the prime min­is­ter, hap­pened on the lawns of Ja­maica House last Fri­day. Then the ac­tual pre­sen­ta­tion of trib­utes and prize monies took place at the Rio Sports Gala on Satur­day at the Na­tional In­door Sports Cen­tre. The cul­mi­na­tion of the cel­e­bra­tory ac­tiv­i­ties took place at the Melia Braco Vil­lage in Trelawny.

One is not sure how co­in­ci­den­tal this is, as the ath­letes func­tion mir­rors the pres­tige of the Mer­ri­tone Re­u­nion week­end’s 26th an­niver­sary, tak­ing place si­mul­ta­ne­ously at the re­sort venue, for­merly known as the Grand Lido.

Also an­nounced at the press con­fer­ence was the Gov­ern­ment’s in­ten­tion to recog­nise and pay homage to four of the coun­try’s most out­stand­ing ath­letes in re­cent times by com­mis­sion­ing stat­ues in their hon­our.

Those named for this life­time tribute were Veron­ica Camp­bell-Brown, Asafa Pow­ell, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and the world­wide ac­knowl­edged leg­end in his time, Usain Bolt.

There was an out­cry from cer­tain quar­ters that triple world record-holder Pow­ell was not de­serv­ing of this ac­co­lade. Look­ing at his lack of suc­cess by not hav­ing a sin­gle gold medal at global events af­ter a mul­ti­plic­ity of mak­ing fi­nal rounds, the youngest of a fam­ily of sprint­ers was even called a fail­ure.

An­other sit­u­a­tion com­ing out of the min­is­ter’s ad­dress was the cash in­cen­tives af­forded all par­tic­i­pants in the Rio spec­trum, which in­cluded the of­ten dis­re­spected Par­a­lympians. The range of amounts pre­sented was from US$10,000 for in­di­vid­ual gold medal­lists through to US$2,500 each to those who merely made the team, but not a fi­nal, to the low­est on the cash rung, an amount of US$1000 to coaches and of­fi­cials.

Foster’s Fair­play will not dig­nify the sug­ges­tion that Pow­ell should not have a last­ing mon­u­ment to his per­for­mances by dwelling on it. Not to so re­ward him should be con­sid­ered the clos­est thing to track and field vul­gar­ity, if such a dis­taste­ful word can be bor­rowed from other less-than-de­cent ex­ploits.

REAL IS­SUE

To even con­tem­plate omit­ting the man whose pi­o­neer­ing role in the na­tion’s sprint­ing prow­ess is so sig­nif­i­cant and sem­i­nal in chart­ing the way to 9:58 (Bolt’s cur­rent world record) is in stark con­flict with san­ity.

Where this col­umn has a real is­sue with the min­is­ter is the bot­tom-of-the-lad­der al­lot­ment to the coaches – a mea­gre US$1,000. It is in­dica­tive of a per­cep­tion that those pro­fes­sion­als do not re­ally mat­ter. Of­fi­cials, for the most part, if not all, have their nine-to-five. They do not – and there is open­ing for dis­sent here – seek to re­mu­ner­ate them­selves for the time they take off to rep­re­sent their coun­try.

Coaches are dif­fer­ent. This is what they do, at home or on over­seas as­sign­ments. Un­told and un­re­warded are the sac­ri­fices they make to hone that pri­mary-school-re­cruited tal­ent and nur­ture and es­cort it to na­tional fo­cus and at­ten­tion, that can lead to the pro­fes­sional level.

At that stage, that un­for­tu­nate coach and the im­por­tant de­vel­op­men­tal role played are some­times for­got­ten, as the new play­ers and the now well-tuned ath­lete reaps all the ben­e­fits. Thank­fully, the hith­erto side­lined coaches are now ‘smelling the roses’. They share the high-school train­ing fa­cil­i­ties with adult coach­ing ses­sions as they seek to have a slice of the big­ger cake.

In all this, Foster’s Fair­play is not speak­ing to the Rio con­tin­gent of coaches, a por­tion of whom have al­ready seen the light and have stepped up a notch. The ar­gu­ment is an over­all as­sess­ment of the think­ing from above, that it is an arena where ath­letes alone rule supreme and those who pre­pare them to get the ul­ti­mate recog­ni­tion are of lit­tle or no mo­ment.

Per­ish that thought. Coaches de­serve and must get greater re­spect. A pal­try US$1,000 can­not cut it. Feed­back: Email lau­riefos­ter2012@gmail.com

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