Tough to please all the ath­letes all of the time

Pretoria News Weekend - - SPORT -

THE TIGHTROPE Ath­let­ics SA (ASA) has to walk when se­lect­ing teams to rep­re­sent the coun­try re­minds one of a quote by English poet John Ly­dgate.

“You can please some of the peo­ple all of the time, you can please all of the peo­ple some of the time, but you can’t please all of the peo­ple all of the time.”

The crit­i­cism lev­elled against them over the last few years has been largely jus­ti­fi­able but they do seem to be try­ing to run a tighter ship.

This is ev­i­dent from ASA’s re­cent an­nual gen­eral meet­ing in Jo­han­nes­burg where a num­ber of new ini­tia­tives were an­nounced.

But there is still a lot of un­hap­pi­ness among ath­letes and coaches about the lack of con­sis­tency when it comes to com­mu­ni­cat­ing what is ex­actly re­quired to earn team se­lec­tion.

This week Com­rades Marathon women’s win­ner Ann Ash­worth pub­licly de­clined se­lec­tion for the World 100km Cham­pi­onships in Croa­tia.

Ash­worth took a stand be­cause she felt the Fed­er­a­tion was not do­ing enough to sup­port road run­ning ath­letes in the coun­try.

“Thanks @ASAath­let­ics (ASA) but un­til you ac­tu­ally start do­ing some­thing to as­sist road run­ners in our coun­try with fund­ing and other sup­port I’m not happy to com­pete in SA colours #no­sup­port #not­work­ing #not­bein­gused,” As­worth said in a scathing Tweet.

As­worth re­ceived praise for her stand against ASA while some ques­tioned her loy­alty to the coun­try.

“It is not about be­ing re­warded for my se­lec­tion to the team. It’s about ASA chan­nelling fund­ing into the de­vel­op­ment of ath­letes over time so that they can be se­lected to rep­re­sent their coun­try. With­out sup­port very few ath­letes have the means to reach their full po­ten­tial,” she said in a re­sponse to one of her fol­low­ers.

Ash­worth had given up her full-time job as a lawyer in the pur­suit of her Com­rades dream which left her with a moun­tain of debt.

When she tried to ap­proach ASA for fund­ing she was told the Fed­er­a­tion’s pri­or­i­ties were in the grow­ing the earn­ing po­ten­tial of track and field.

While there is no doubt more should be done to sup­port South African ath­letes whether they are road run­ners or track and field ath­letes, one needs to ask where the money should come from and how it should be spent.

Speak to some of the élite ath­letes and they would say it should go to them as they rep­re­sent the coun­try the best at ma­jor cham­pi­onships.

Or do we spend the little money the fed­er­a­tion has on young ath­letes that may or may not give South Africa a re­turn on in­vest­ment?

The role of the Fed­er­a­tion comes into fo­cus and some may ar­gue that it is not their job to fund in­di­vid­ual ath­letes or get in­volved with the élite side of things.

That is per­haps bet­ter suited for the run­ning clubs and the pri­vate spon­sors who have a vested in­ter­est in the ath­lete.

ASA tends to claim re­spon­si­bil­ity when ath­letes per­form well on the global stage, when in fact they have done little or noth­ing to sup­port them in their growth.

I will sit com­fort­ably on the fence on this one as I feel for Ash­worth but also be­lieve ath­letes have some sort of an obli­ga­tion when their coun­try calls.

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