Claude Bryan – Track and field’s su­per agent

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS -

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?

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