The JAAA and the way for­ward

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS -

AS IT seemed likely, the highly re­spected or­thopaedic sur­geon, Dr War­ren Blake, will be the pres­i­dent of the Ja­maica Ath­let­ics Ad­min­is­tra­tive As­so­ci­a­tion (JAAA) for the next four-year cycle. De­spite whis­pers of op­po­si­tion to a re­peat term, there was no show­ing at the time of ask­ing to top­ple the Kingston Col­lege old boy.

The near-miss politi­cian had as­sumed the of­fice in 2010 on the sud­den pass­ing of the then in­cum­bent, Howard Aris, an­other prod­uct of the North Street in­sti­tu­tion, from which ster­ling con­tri­bu­tion to the sport has be­come a brand. Two years later, Dr Blake faced the elec­torate and se­cured his own man­date.

Foster’s Fair­play will be si­lent as far as judge­ment is con­cerned on the gains or losses ac­cru­ing to the sport dur­ing Dr Blake’s ten­ure. What mostly con­cerns this colum­nist are the an­i­mated ac­tions, al­beit in words only, that spoke to the need for him to be re­placed. They came from per­sons, some close to the seat of power, who felt that the im­age to carry track and field for­ward was ab­sent. As to what hap­pened to these dis­sent­ing voices, as it drew closer to elec­tion time, re­mains a mys­tery. They seemed to have dis­ap­peared as if they saw no fu­ture in mak­ing their mark and hav­ing it counted. How will that re­fusal to be a part of a new par­a­digm af­fect the nation’s most suc­cess­ful sport?

BEI­JING OLYMPICS

Great strides in track and field had been made be­fore the ad­vent of Dr Blake in the steer­ing role. It all came to fruition at the 2008 Bei­jing Olympics, adding the Usain Bolt, Veron­ica Camp­bell, Shelly-Ann Fraser and Me­laine Walker golden glory to the ex­ploits of the McKen­leys, Wints, Rho­dens, Quar­ries and Otteys of pre­vi­ous years. The ground­work that brought all this honour to the fore was laid by a com­bi­na­tion of Aris and his JAAA boss Dr War­ren Blake.

pre­de­ces­sor at the helm, the late Teddy McCook. One is sure that Dr Blake will credit a sub­stan­tial por­tion of his readi­ness to take over to the men­tor­ship and groom­ing pro­vided by those two stal­warts. How­ever, there can be lit­tle doubt he will agree that more needs to be done. The coun­try can­not hope to rest com­fort­ably on the achieve­ments of those named and not put pro­grammes in place to main­tain the global im­pact that has been made. One has only got to look at the con­tin­u­ing demise of the once all-pow­er­ful West Indies cricket team for an illustration of the re­sult of ne­glect.

Track and field, while en­joy­ing the im­age with which it is now blessed, should be steered clear of that down­ward and de­press­ing slide. There is one major and al­most all-en­com­pass­ing project that Blake and his new ex­ec­u­tive is urged to un­der­take. The per­for­mance of Ja­maica’s ju­nior ath­letes on the world scene is ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing. The world renowned Champs is gain­ing more pop­u­lar­ity as it con­tin­ues to pro­duce ath­letes of supreme qual­ity at a rate that is sat­is­fy­ing. What is not, is the sus­te­nance of the per­for­mances go­ing into the in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion three months af­ter the March/April show­case.

This short­fall on what was promised from the early show­ing needs to be ad­dressed. The new JAAA regime, hope­fully re­freshed in cer­tain ar­eas that have come up want­ing, has got to cre­ate a ju­nior pro­gramme to take care of the ath­letes dur­ing the post-Champs pe­riod. Funds must be iden­ti­fied and ear­marked to meet the at­ten­dant cost. No longer can it be left to the schools to meet these ex­penses, as they are al­ready strapped for funds to carry out other core func­tions. The old boys and old girls of the schools tend to carry the pro­grammes up to the Penn Re­lays with lit­tle fo­cus on what comes up af­ter.

The ap­proach that is be­ing asked of the JAAA is noth­ing new and it should in­clude a sec­tor for per­sonal devel­op­ment, as pre­vi­ously ex­isted. Ath­letes need self-con­fi­dence and self-be­lief, which can only en­hance their per­for­mances on the track.

All that said, the new Dr Blake team is what the sport has to take it through an­other four years. It now has to come to the party and dance to the ul­ti­mate ben­e­fit of the im­age the coun­try needs to main­tain.

The band has started play­ing.

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