On Target
March 1, 2013

Going overboard and sickening

“Going over board” and “sickening” are the only descriptors that can be employed for the ongoing struggle among our track and field coaches.

The one that is most troubling is that which is being played out between Godfrey “Fuzzy” Harry and Michael “Lord Have Mercy” Ollivierre.{{more}}

The latter, who spent over two decades coaching in Jamaica, returned three years ago and gained employment through central government, with assistance from the National Lotteries Authority.

He has been charged with the responsibility of identifying and harnessing athletics talent.

At times, overly passionate about track, simply because he lived in an environment where track and field is a cultural practice, such enthusiasm has found him at the opposite end of some persons’ acceptance of him.

Ollivierre, who was at first embraced by many, brought with him the agressive Jamaican manner of recruiting athletes, which has seemingly created the friction, as the club versus club and school versus club came visibly to the fore in an abrasive fashion.

As the saying goes: “Two man rats can’t live in one hole”, and both Ollivierre and Harry are blunt in their approach to coaching and neither is willing to give or ask for a quarter and work with each other.

This is not to say that the other coaches are saints, but they are more subdued in their disposition.

So, whilst one accepts that personality clashes are commonplace among individuals, the mounting almost unbearable discord continues to be the bestseller in local track and field circles.

This is not the first time and it will not be the last, when coaches don’t see eye to eye; however, this one is heading down an uncharted path which can be most detrimental to the sport.

Former technical director of Team Athletics SVG Gideon Labban had difficulty with some coaches’ unwillingness to work with him in his capacity.

Labban’s experiences though, pale in comparison to the current impasse.

Unfortunately, every episode of the coaches’ fall-outs has become viral, overriding the limited returns of the athletes, who should be the focus of attention.

It is sad that sports has found itself caught up in this iniquitous practice, that animosity and acrimony must be products of differences of opinions and general clashes of ego.

Hence, when the events which have been unfolding recently, whereby the Ministry of Education intervened and Ollivierre was deemed persona non grata at the Thomas Saunders Secondary School’s athletics meet last Tuesday at the Victoria Park, sickens to the core, whichever way.

The most pessimistic of individuals would have ruled out such occurrences in sports in St Vincent and the Grenadines, but it has happened.

One will also accept as the search for that competitive edge, fame, fortune and glory, had our coaches been producing world beaters. But as it stands, we have not produced track and field athletes to even triumph the annual Windward Islands games.

But we saunter on, allowing petit issues to engulf our thoughts and only the local bragging rights, the gold medals of excellence for all the hard work in just being the best in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

While the coaches beat up on one another, the athletes are the cheerleaders, standing on the sidelines, favouring their preferred coach, while they remain at square one of their progress ladder.

Everyone must be mindful that we are creating some baby monsters in our young and upcoming athletes, who down the road can turn their fury on those who fail to give them the necessary guidance.

But does anyone really care about the situation which just makes saucy stories and saturates the regular local radio call in programmes?

Are we satisfied with the fact that students of certain schools are being polarised against one another over matters which are hatched by persons who are in the business of coaching?

Should all concerned leave this brewing situation to fix itself or take definitive actions pronto?

Where is the principal’s association in this entire melee?

Shouldn’t all principals of schools be operating in the interest of the nation’s students, as opposed to their short-lived accolades and flickering recognition?

Something must give way as the strain is too great and no one is coming out on top, except we are drifting further behind our neighbours.

A dent, a cure must be found in addressing the coaches’ standoff – this should have been since yesterday.