Claude Bryan – Track and field’s super agent
WHEN THE Sunshine Girls left Jamaica to play in the Fast5 World Netball Series 2016, expectations were high. Jamaica had performed satisfactorily in the inaugural competition and because of the natural speed and athleticism of the females, moving up the Fast5 ranking seems to be a given.
Not so. In the recently concluded competition in Australia, the Sunshine Girls played six matches, won two and ended the competition fifth, beating lastplaced South Africa twice – by one single ‘deggeh-deggeh’ point in two tries (34-33).
In the other four games, Jamaica never scored 20 goals.
Cable television enabled some of us to watch the games. The first game that I watched came as a shock. I checked and rechecked the caption of the coverage because I saw some big girls playing against some small girls. Could I have selected a women against girls practice match?
In the games that I saw we were outjumped, outs hot and outcoached. Against Malawi, a team that promised much in the last competition, we were literally mauled. We ended up losing by 46-12, our lowest score of the tournament.
The boast of the Sunshine Girls of being the best ranked international team sport in Jamaica is fast becoming hollow, unless the new hierarchy of Netball Jamaica recognises the inadequacies and does something to remedy the situation.
We can no longer sit back and bask in the fact that we are the best Caribbean ranked team in netball. Our international standing is fading.
There are some good moves initiated by the women in charge of Netball Jamaica. The introduction of professionalism to the local league and the strengthening of parish organisations is good. Giving young, precocious talent in netball the opportunity to travel and play internationally is good. The interest of club teams in England and Australia in local talent is good. Praise is due.
MOVING JAMAICA TO THE TOP
However, the continuing and persistent sidelining of arguably the world’s best netball coach is simply intolerable. Winston Nevers MUST be immediately appointed as a czar of local netball, with the mandate of (a) regaining the position of ‘sometimes third, most times fourth’ (we are now fifth), then moving Jamaica into the realm of challenging the world’s top two teams, Australia and New Zealand, to the pinnacle of World netball.
The fact that club teams from around the world are recruiting local talent to their squads underlines the notion that we have the skills. We need a coach who can recognise the strength and weaknesses of opponents and make adjustments DURING A GAME in order to secure a win.
We cannot allow the talent and skills of our Sunshine Girls to be humiliated on the world stage because we keep doing the ‘same old, same old’, no matter what the opposition is doing during the game.
When the pre-game plan is not working, we have to change the plan. What is so hard about that?
Secondly, Netball Jamaica has to target and recruit taller girls to the team. In the recent tournament, our girls were dwarfed by our opponents and the results confirmed our deficiency.
If I can paraphrase the words of a previous Prime Minister: “We are just too blessed with athletic ability and talent to be stressed in international competition.”
Madam President, netball in Jamaica is down but not out. We can begin to move up and challenge Australia and New Zealand, we need to acknowledge the greatness of Mr Nevers and invite him to take charge.
The fact that club teams from around the world are recruiting local talent to their squads underlines the notion that we have the skills.
FOSTER’S FAIRPLAY recalls a time when one of the main stakeholders in track and field received little or no recognition in local circles. They were not allowed to have a firm grasp on things as they now enjoy. Officially known as athletes’ representatives or agents, they carry branding by the world governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and now play a pivotal role in the management of several aspects of the affairs of the athletes.
For well in excess of 20 years, former analyst on local radio, Claude Bryan, whose outfit, the On Track Management group, is based in the state of Georgia, United States of America, has performed the supportive role for a few of Jamaica’s elite athletes.
Leading up to the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart, this columnist had sought to join the ranks of these professionals.
Bryan, at the time, was part of a small group, who would offer advice and guidance in an area where others so qualified were known to keep that type of information very close to their chests. Their modus operandi was more akin to raiding a fledgling barn than to suggest ways to enhance its quality.
HUGE LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Without hesitation or reserve, Bryan provided the support that encouraged a new participant in the field to stay the course. The fact that other influences halted a positive advance should in no way be laid at his feet. For this new kid, it was a short stint, but proved to be a huge learning experience in the twists and turns of the sport, thankfully enabled by the constant stewardship afforded by a man who embraces the Christian faith.
Despite the professional achievements during the Don Quarrie/Merlene Ottey era, Jamaica had not yet transformed itself into the copious talent supply as it emerged at the Beijing Olympics of 2008. However, Bryan had set his sights and was ready to take advantage of the golden breakout of our sons and daughters. Veronica Campbell, as she was then, was his first acquisition of the quality that was his clear mandate. Of the same ilk, Bahamian Shaunae Miller and sprint hurdles king, Omar McLeod, were subsequently to follow. A trend of attracting and accepting excellence and remarkable personality traits – top-drawer material – had been established.
Recently, news broke that 100m hurdles world record holder, Kendra (Keni) Harrison had been drawn under the umbrella where some shining lights were already aglow. This undoubtedly places the man who has been giving thankless support to track and field athletes at all levels, among the best of the best in his chosen field. The class, charm and charisma that Harrison brings to the group are compelling and will surely embellish the image of an already outstanding aggregation of the world’s best.
There is yet another feather in Bryan’s cap that begs prominent mention. It accentuates his stature among the top performers in his craft. A tally of Agents whose charges copped the most gold medals in Rio recently, sees him very high on the ladder, rubbing shoulders with the most elite of practitioners. When given the well-earned tributes from this columnist for his outstanding work, his response, while steeped in humility, was a mere, “I am just a trying man.”
TRUE SERVANT OF JAMAICA
At a time when the nation’s athletes are being accorded National Honours for their global exploits and the recognition and respect they bring to the country, Foster’s Fairplay calls on the powers that be, to take a serious look at the record of Claude Bryan. He has never been or is it expected will ever be one to draw attention to himself. That is left to those who have the insight and the will to let his tremendous success manifest itself through other channels.
Foster’s Fairplay stands ready to sound the trumpet on the achievements of a true servant of Jamaica. Bryan has been through the trenches and manned the ramparts of an area in a sport where no quarter is given. It is sink or swim based on an ability to stay focused on a sworn mantra of which being dedicated and devoted to high principles, forms just a part.
With all that in mind, Foster’s Fairplay sums it up. Let Claude Bryan be recognised for his work in Jamaica’s most successful sport. Equally yes, but can there be anyone more deserving who is still to be honoured?