BSSAC just as important as Carifta
I AM WRITING you with regard to the March 27 SUNDAY SUN Writers’ Roundtable. First off, I respect the viewpoints made by Ezra Stuart, Petra Gooding, Justin Marville, and Kenmore Bynoe in this article as well as their overall body of work in bringing informed sporting news to your readers.
School track and field and the thousands that follow it are very fortunate to get the amount of detailed coverage the NATION brings forth. The profile of school track and field is high in Barbados and the NATION both reflects this and plays a significant role in cultivating and nurturing its popularity.
The gist of the opinions offered in the Writers’ Roundtable article, with the exception of Kenmore’s remarks, was that BSSAC should take a back seat to CARIFTA in the minds and practices of school track and field coaches. To this end, three of the journalists expressed concern that school coaches were over working their star athletes at BSSAC – athletes who were most likely to qualify for CARIFTA. Both Petra and Justin clearly supported placing a much higher priority in preparing student-athletes for international competition than on excelling at BSSAC in any events where high success can be achieved.
The following are some counterpoints to those positions based on my coaching experiences, my study of both published works and empirical practices of highly successful coaches, and my lecturing as a university professor and coach for over four decades in Canada before retiring in 2013.
The track and field coaching profession learned many years ago about periodisation of training. It is a well-established fact and practice and I see strong evidence of it being applied here in Barbados by coaches working with BSSAC athletes. Training constructed on the principles of periodisation allows young athletes to peak both physically and psychologically at season’s end when the major meets are scheduled. And at these major meets, athletes who have the talent to perform well in a number of events are ready, willing, and able to do so without harm.
Prior to the commencement of the school competition season (early January), the volume and density (work to rest ratio) of training is high while the intensity is moderate. Then when the competition season in earnest gets under way, there is a gradual manipulation of the training elements over the many weeks leading to BSSAC with volume and density decreasing and intensity increasing.
Assuming the student-athlete has not competed extensively week after week during the regular season which can lead to “burnout”, by the time the championship season arrives in March, the student-athlete is in peak form and ready to rumble. Those gifted student-athletes who compete in a number of events at BSSAC have the fitness to recover quickly and perform well in each event.
I studied the BSSAC and CARIFTA performances of 27 members of this year’s team competing in Grenada. I also looked at the Jamaican athletes at CARIFTA as to what they did at their “Champs” meet, which is rightly reputed to be the best secondary school track and field championships meet in the world.
Two out of three Barbados team members achieved a higher performance at CARIFTA compared to BSSAC in at least one event. The performance levels of the other third were for the most part close to their BSSAC mark(s). The “stars” of the Barbados team indeed starred at CARIFTA in spite of competing in a number of events at BSSAC. Jonathon Jones raced in four events at BSSAC and set personal bests and records at CARIFTA. No harm, no foul on Elizabeth Williams tripling at BSSAC as she raced to two personal bests at CARIFTA, setting a Barbados national record in the 3000 metres, one of two events she contested. Running four events plus long jump at BSSAC did not deter Rasheeme Griffith from winning gold with a personal best at CARIFTA in 400 metres hurdles.
The Jamaicans had their “Champs” one week prior to CARIFTA. Due to the size of this juggernaut, there are heats, semis, and finals from 100 metres up to 800 metres inclusive and 400 metres hurdles, plus heats and finals in 1500 metres, 3000 metres and 5000 metres. Yes, “Champs” is spread out over five consecutive days, but a student-athlete who is a 200 metres/400 metres runner had to race each of the five days. It is clear the Jamaican student-athletes who competed at CARIFTA did a lot of racing at their national meet, many of them more than the student-athletes competing at BSSAC.
Is it essential that there be a bigger gap than one week between BSSAC and CARIFTA? I do not think so if student-athletes are properly prepared over the entire season and all signs are this was done in Barbados. Following the principles of periodisation of training, student-athletes are fresh going into BSSAC and with CARIFTA only a week after, no real work needs to be done in that short time and the fitness does not diminish. That week is primarily a rest week and the runner is ready to fly again at CARIFTA.
In my coaching years when our national championships came one week after our conference championships, I found our team members to be sharp. If there is too much of a gap between BSSAC and CARIFTA, there is the potential of mental staleness setting afflicting a competitor.
Finally, as to the point that CARIFTA should supersede BSAAC in the focus of top student-athletes, Kenmore Bynoe makes a good counterpoint to that. Keep in mind that BSSAC is a huge meet for student-athletes. It is impressive the coverage given almost daily by the NATION to school track and field throughout the entire season. And BSSAC as well as the great NAPSAC get prime time coverage when they are held. In the coverage by the NATION of every school’s inter-house meet, team scores is a central focus of each story.
This certainly plays on the minds and hearts of student-athletes, their coaches, school faculty and administration, family and friends of the student-athletes, and even the general public. Why would you not want to do your very best at your school national championships? Why would I not contest a number of events if I can be very successful in them? Why would a head coach of a school team restrict their stars from shining wherever they can?
What a blessing it is for any child to have the opportunity, ability, and drive to represent her/his school at a major level such as BSSAC and NAPSAC. And what a privilege it is for the top student-athletes at a school to lead their peers as well as have their support and admiration.
I see no cause for pause. BSSAC and NAPSAC are large and in charge, doing a bundle of good for a large number of Bajan children and playing a significant role in providing a platform for a wide range of ability levels to enjoy sport. I salute the school coaches and club coaches who collaborate in nurturing student-athletes.
• Bob Vigars is a retired track and field coach with more than 40 years’ experience in the sport. He was also a professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.