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A THORNY ISSUE: Invest now in rising stars

Andi Thornhill

A THORNY ISSUE: Invest now in rising stars

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THEY?PERFORM, they entertain, they uplift and their work shouldn’t be in vain.
We have been given another timely reminder that we need to invest much more in our young athletes at the foundation level.
Last week the cream of the primary and secondary school athletes answered every question asked of them in the affirmative.
They ran, they leapt, they threw, they jumped like people possessed and they established several records in the process.
We sat in the stands and enjoyed the signal moments unfold and those who weren’t fortunate to be at the National Stadium were informed via print and broadcast media.
We were in awe of the epic performances.
Then again, we usually are, but somehow it seems that all is forgotten until the following year when school sports come again or when they excel at the CARIFTA Games.
It makes the showering of praise on the athletes and the photo ops by those who want to pose with them, seem superficial and even shambolic.
Seriously. Is that the best we can do?
Facts and figures make it simple to identify those who have earned the right to get extra support in their bid to keep excelling.
Actually, I think businesses should be lining up to adopt athletes who show promise especially at an early age.
If it is our culture to identify with them after they win something big, why not get on board when they are taking those small steps to international glory?
Which house can truly stand without a strong foundation?
I don’t believe it is asking too much for a company to sponsor a potential star for two years in the first instance with an option to continue if the person satisfies the terms and conditions agreed to.
This sponsorship can cover areas such as nutrition, training equipment, personal development and travel.
It is known that athletes who are free to focus exclusively on training tend to perform better than those who have to deal routinely with bread and better issues.
Wherever possible, I think it would be a perfect fit if an athlete could be adopted by a business from within their community or close enough to it.
I know in some instances some schools are beneficiaries of this concept but I feel strongly that it can be extended to individuals who make their communities proud.
I believe, too, that organisations like parent-teacher associations can play their part in such ventures as they will also derive satisfaction and recognition from a student’s success.
Neighbourhood groups can also fall under this umbrella because they aren’t immune from jumping on bandwagons when a home boy or girl does well.
I would like to think there’s an opportunity here for constituency councils to be involved in the process because they should invest in the social capital as a priority.
I think central government along with the university, teriary institutions and non-governmental organisations can facilitate more programmes to help emerging sports personalities in strategic areas that are vital in their development.
The network has to be as broad as possible because I don’t think we can reasonably expect a single entity to carry all the weight.
We have lost many promising young athletes in the past and I wonder if in all of those instances there were support systems in place to produce a different outcome.
Accolades are fine but the most tangible form of appreciation for our outstanding athletes is for us to provide adequate funding for them from the time they start to blossom.
That should be an inspiration for those who need to raise their standards.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning sports journalist.