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A THORNY ISSUE: Well done on Relay Fair


ANDI THORNHILL

A THORNY ISSUE: Well done on Relay Fair

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ONE OF THE THINGS I have noticed about the annual Relay Fair is that it tends to spark debate about who will do well at the secondary school sports.

Saturday was no different as the organisers staged what seemed to be a successful event given the size of the crowd, the euphoria surrounding the races and the general encouragement given to the athletes.

The buzz gained from the Relay Fair is great for helping to boost the rivalries and competitiveness associated with the school sports, but I don’t think people should get carried away and believe that because some schools do better than others that they will win the secondary championship based on relay performance.

It just doesn’t work that way because, as usual, many tend to forget that school sports aren’t only decided by what happens in the relays but the overall performance by the main contenders for the crown.

Therefore, I think it is pertinent to keep things in context, otherwise there will be hundreds of disappointed people as there are every year at the end of the secondary sports.

I am not trying to pour cold water on any of the outstanding achievements by any of the schools on Saturday, but it is still important to understand that the dynamics will be completely different in “the big yard”.

There will be much more than bragging rights at stake for school sports because the honour of representing and defending your school tie will mean much more then. The vibes will be much more intense than what we see coming out at the Relay Fair.

The regular suspects that vie for the crown regard their assignment like going to war to defend their borders, safeguarding their birthright and making sure that their school isn’t humiliated in the process.

Let’s not forget that in the past some athletes, to their detriment, have run injured just to get valuable points for their team at vital and game-changing moments at school sports. Some cry openly when things haven’t gone to plan or particularly if they reckon that they have failed their colleagues or the school tie in some way.

Yes, people, that’s the kind of passion and commitment I am talking about that you won’t see at an event that helps those at the helm of strategic planning to work out kinks and fine tune a particular area by the time the battle begins for the biggest prize of all.

So even from this perspective, coaches must also remember that now is the time to work assiduously to get the stick work right because as we have seen in recent years, especially in the boys section of secondary sports, the relays can play a crucial role in helping to decide who will win.

For me, the real subliminal meaning of the Relay Fair is to assist schools in getting to the point where they will be virtually flawless when it really matters. I think in many cases it continues to serve this purpose and we see the difference between those who have genuinely learnt anything from the exercise and those that haven’t.

Work to be done

Not only that. From what I have seen at the primary and secondary sports I have covered this season, there’s plenty of work to be done on the relay teams. This applies to the set-up, to the handing over of the baton and to the timing of takeovers.

So I hope those were some of the factors the coaches, if not the passionate layman, would have taken into account on Saturday.

I can concede that the anxiety that comes with tough competition on the day can cause athletes to foul up but this should be separated from the other nuts and bolts that form the basis for a successful execution of the game plan.

As we have witnessed, even at the highest level of competition, athletes have been known to drop batons and run out of the zone and so on, so even the best psychological preparation does not prevent costly errors when the pressure is on, but what excuse can be used if the basics aren’t displayed?

Even so, I don’t believe that the smart coaches usually expose all of their hand at the Relay Fair; they see it for what it is and work accordingly.

They know that unless they have the right balance on the track and on the field they have no chance of winning the title. Perhaps some may have already accepted this but at the end of the day the developmental aspect of the sport should also be a major focus because not everybody reaches their true potential simultaneously.

The athletes must always be encouraged to give their best, keep working to improve no matter what. This approach gives all of them a chance to have their day in the sun if they are serious about what they are doing. We can’t forget the academic possibilities either so the vision and the guidance must be clear.

I think the organisers of the Relay Fair must be complimented for another tremendous effort. They have stuck with it in the face of economic challenges and I believe it is true to say they have created a brand that Bajans have bought into.

I sense it can now be termed a national event given the feedback in the build-up and the large crowd who actually turned out to show solidarity with the athletes and the organisers.

Congrats on a job well done.

• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning sports journalist. Email [email protected]

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