IN THE CANDID CAMERA: My last track
“If the islands are serious about producing athletes the likes of Usain Bolt and others we need to develop and invest more time and money into sporting facilities and trainers.” – Erik Simmons Gros Islet, St. Lucia
Congratulations to the 2014 winners of the Barbados Secondary Athletic Championships – the Springer Memorial School for their unbeaten track record of success and to Queen’s College. I overheard a conversation among some of my colleagues in which the observation was made that this year’s championships gave each school a chance to shine.
It is against this backdrop that I wish to make a few observations about track and field in Barbados. For the past ten years I have sat as a secondary school principal from the box looking across Waterford and have enjoyed immensely the excitement as athletes from our secondary schools compete for athletic glory. I enjoyed those moments when my students at Graydon Sealy shone and also as a father when my own children Karessa and Richelle excelled.
As I write my swansong with one more term to go before I exit the public service after 41 years, it would be remiss of me if I did not congratulate the BSSAC committee for the excellent job they have done over the past decade to bring the championships to the level they have reached today. Once the early organisational challenges were put behind them, they executed the annual meet with a level of efficiency that it is highly commendable.
I also commend those athletes who by their hard work and effort brought euphoric excitement to their coaches, their clubs, their peers, their parents, their teachers and to the country as a whole. However, in spite of the high commendation which this level of athletic competition merits, as a country there is still a question as to whether athletics in Barbados has advanced commensurately with the level of excitement we all share every year around this time.
Without coming across as being critical of those young athletes who make their schools and their country proud, have we really progressed as a country in the field of athletics? Every year, we jump and scream as the schools compete among themselves. Every year we glory in the breaking of records.
There is as well the celebration as athletes qualify for Carifta and World Juniors etc. and we feel good, as indeed we should.
Unfortunately, many of the names that resonated across Waterford Bottom seem to fall off the athletic radar. We actually look very fast among ourselves. We go on the regional competition and then we often have to line up behind Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. In recent times, some of our smaller regional islands have put us to shame in extra-regional meets and even at the Olympics. I do not have the database to be more specific as to those names that seem to offer so much promise but then for whatever reasons “fall off the track”. I am aware that some go off to division one schools and junior colleges in the United States but many of our athletes suffer burnout when the rigour of training there hits them.
It is time for us to take track and field in Barbados beyond the euphoria of Waterford. It is time for us a country to devise a well-structured developmental plan for sport. We have been talking about it for years. My friend Erskine King was among those who spoke for years about what could have been but is yet to be realised. We talked about identifying talent from early and of developing a special league in which those who have the potential could get the necessary training and financial support without which no athlete will go anywhere. It is time for the many coaches and clubs to pool their talents and resources for the greater good.
Yes, some clubs do well, some schools do well but as a country, in spite of the annual euphoria of Waterford, we are underachieving as far sport and athletics go. Our youth deserve better. The reality is that if Obadele Thompson’s parents did not have the resources to support his talent, he could not have brought us Olympic glory.
It is my contention, that unless we invest in our athletes, Barbados will continue to underachieve in the field of athletics while fooling ourselves in our internal competition that “we real fast boy”. Unless we stop playing sport with athletics, we will remain euphoric in the “bottom” of Waterford and continue to wallow in our own glory.