EDITORIAL: Chance to show mettle
BARBADOS’ BEST UNDER-20 track and field talent will be put to the test this weekend when the 44th annual CARIFTA Games are held in St Kitts and Nevis.
And by Monday evening, Barbadians will know whether the times and distances recorded by our athletes during the recent Barbados Secondary School Athletics Championships (BSSAC) were competitive enough to match those of other athletes in the region.
Perennial champions Jamaica have already signalled their intent to continue their decades-long domination of these games with a star-studded 78-member squad that includes World Junior and Youth Olympic Games’ champions.
While Jamaica’s continued ability to roll out phenomenal athletic talent year after year is admirable, we wonder why their template for success has not been replicated in some measure by us.
Is it a case that our administrators at all levels are not as well trained, well funded, or as serious about athletics as the Jamaicans? Is it that Barbadian athletes are not willing to dedicate themselves to the discipline, hard work and sacrifices needed to become successful Or, is it the case that as a society we still do not place any prominence on athletics, and that whatever the coaches do and the children want, their parents don’t see the value of sport when judged against academics?
The fact is that Jamaica’s success on the track is the result of a well organised system under which world-class coaches identify talent at a very early stage, then nurture and develop it. Some of these coaches are former competitors in the Olympics and other international events, while most of the children willingly work to better themselves.
We were informed no similar formal system exists here. Budding talent is identified by the various coaches who groom aspirants and bring them to the attention of the athletic association. However, some children show little interest in athletics after they leave primary school, and this trend continues through secondary school.
If our information is accurate, this approach is not good enough.
Clearly what needs to be emphasised to talented Barbadian children and their parents is that athletics is serious business from which lifelong career and financial benefits can be reaped.
Initially, children can benefit from scholarships to pursue their academic interests, while reaping rewards for their athletic prowess. And after their athletic careers are over, they can land high-paying professional jobs because of their academic achievements.
The numbers of successful former Barbadian athletes and professionals here and overseas demonstrates this.
Given this, Barbados should look to establish a well funded system to identify and groom young talent. We need, too, to enhance our coaches’ ability by exposing them to more training opportunities.
And, of course, we need first class facilities for our children to perform as our National Stadium has long outlived its usefulness.
In good times and bad, success in sport can lift the spirits of a population. Talented Barbadian youth need better conditions to perform at a higher level.
We look forward to our athletes achieving success this weekend in spite of these challenges.