EDITORIAL: Get athletes on right track early
FOR THE NEXT ten weeks there will be tremendous focus on track and field in Barbados. From intra-school competitions to the CARIFTA Games in Martinique, the spotlight will be on the best of our juniors who strive to make a name for their schools, their country and themselves.
Sporting events today are as much about sponsorship, marketing and public relations, intellectual property rights and healthy lifestyles as they are about on-track performances. They can also give the country international exposure and in a manner not normally afforded.
After so many years of exposure to first-class competition, our list of athletics successes – Jim Wedderburn, Obadele Thompson, Andrea Blackett and Ryan Brathwaite – is simply too limited. It is important that Barbados joins Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago among the Caribbean countries that move beyond potential to become leaders in track and field.
At this time when there is such a concentrated focus on this area, it is important that teachers and track coaches work together from the earliest stages to ensure our athletes exploit their full potential.
The sport now offers as many opportunities as were once expected only from cricket. The students must be shown how their excellent performance in track and field can be a roadway to academic success. Coaches and other talent scouts from North America will be on the lookout for our best juniors.
It is equally important that principals and teachers looking to deliver the best academic results appreciate what success in sport means. Parents, too, must play their part and appreciate that the road to success will not be cheap or easy.
The myth must also be discarded that track and field should take a back seat to academic pursuits. Truth is that there must be that balance, since success on the track can lead to greater academic opportunities.
It is at the inter-school track level that our students must also be told of the risks professional athletes must avoid, such as doping. Injuries can also be crippling, but in many cases they can be overcome.
Athletes must also strive to return the fastest times and the best distances; second best simply will not cut it.