Support athletes all the way
By Andi Thornhill | Wed, August 15, 2012 - 12:00 AM
Academia first and anything else after.
Sportsmen, no matter how outstanding they are, always find themselves in the anything-else-after group in this country.
How much better do we expect them to be when they are never treated as a priority?
Their roles are only given consideration when major games like the Olympics come around and we have to sit and marvel at the successes of other Caribbean athletes while we can only wonder what could have been if only we had put more resources in place to assist our hopefuls.
It is really quite disappointing to hear the same question being asked over and over: what more can be done to make our athletes more competitive at international meets?
And, oh yes, the answers are usually the same. We will move the earth to put things in place for the next time.
It gives great pleasure to talk about the next time. The thing is, not many of the promised structures and resources are put in plac. What’s the point of giving our sportsmen false hope?
Do we understand what we are doing to their impressionable minds when we set them up just to fall?
Can we truly expect them to perform at their best knowing that they have been let down by the system?
I don’t understand why it is felt that athletes should give more when they are given neither the tools nor the support to get the job done in the first place.
Obadele Thompson’s recent hard-hitting comments on the issue may have given a clearer perspective than mine. After all, he was speaking from experience and in spite of it all, he was able to earn a bronze medal in the men’s 100 metres at Sydney 2000.
Despite the poor handling of athletes prior to gaining success, Ryan Brathwaite managed to become World champion in the 110-metre hurdles in Berlin 2009 and earned a commendable fifth spot at the London Olympics.
It is the national psyche that is responsible for the way sportsmen are treated. Sport continues to be regarded as merely incidental in national development and not even the state plans as though we could be successful in this area.
The reaction to success and failure is knee-jerk when there should be a deliberate strategy to put the athletes on course to hold their own against international competition.
An annual multimillion-dollar budget should be set aside to assist those who excel. Those who qualify should lack for nothing in their quest for individual and national glory.
Checks and balances can be put in place to ensure that athletes are keeping their part of the bargain.
I do agree with the observation of Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley that the various associations must become more proactive in helping the cause of their constituents and they must move, in some cases in key sports, to have full-time paid secretariats.
I have suggested before that associations should form partnerships with marketing professionals who can help them raise funds for their programmes.
I also believe that in the holistic approach to reforming sporting attitudes, local media houses must also be prepared to provide more opportunities for reporters to cover major events as they need to grow as well.
From my observations, it is only the Nation Publishing Company that provides those opportunities consistently for its staff.
In short, we must continue to support academia at all costs but sport should be on par in terms of its recognition and funding.
Let’s cut the long talk and keep the promises we make to our youth.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced award-winning freelance journalist.
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