On Target
March 15, 2013

No quick fix

The much anticipated inter secondary schools track and field championships are looming and the buzz is ominous.Certainly, indications are that this year’s edition would be one to remember.{{more}}

Unlike previous years, even the staunchest supporters can hardly pick a winner.

Unfortunately, however, the championships are seen as the quick fix for many of our track and field talents, which often times fades away, days after the annual exercise is staged.

The one day glory, over time, has become the order of things, where some of our athletes, their schools, their parents, the physical education teachers and friends accept the excitement generated, then everything goes on hold until the calendar reaches this time of year again.

But getting to the next level is not simply taking up some athletes, carrying them through their paces over a training period and believing they have arrived, because they may have won a few races at the school’s meet or at the national showcase.

Whilst many bemoan the absence of a synthetic track here, in track and field, there is an abundance of talent, as is the case with other sporting disciplines.

Unlike other disciplines, however, there is an abundance of trained/certified coaches, even to spare.

St Vincent and the Grenadines has per capita approximately a track and field coach to every 90 persons.

Given what we are blessed with, better at the sport can be done.

Therefore, if each of our over 100 IAAF qualified/certified coaches were to just coach a minimum of three to five athletes, there would be a minimum 330 properly trained athletes, ready to battle their regional counterparts. Sadly, this is far from the reality.

The result is that our potential talent pool has dwindled over the years, simply because coaches are inactive.

Additionally, some physical education teachers/coaches show little interest in the sport and service. These attitudes/behaviours then filter down to the potential athletes, who eventually lose interest and fall by the wayside.

The few coaches who are left and who are coaching cannot attend to the needs of all athletes across the island, so they just settle and work in their small corners.

There are some physical education teachers/ coaches who are quite inactive, but have very talented athletes at their school, thus discouraging rather than encouraging the athletes to seek coaching elsewhere.

But instead, we are consumed by the pockets of success in our small corners, picking at one another and failing to acknowledge the governing body’s ethics.

If they, the coaches, comply, then many of the issues which surface would be avoided.

According to the IAAF Code of Ethics: “The coach must acknowledge and recognize that all athletes HAVE A RIGHT to pursue their athletic potential, including when an athlete’s development would benefit from a change of coaching situation.

“Furthermore, the coach should ensure that, in these cases, any information of a coaching partnership or transfer to another coach is actively explored with the athlete, whose decision is supported.”

The code also dictates that the coach must acknowledge that all coaches have an equal right to desire the success of the athletes they coach — competing within the rules. Observations, recommendations and criticism should be directed to the appropriate person outside the view or hearing of the public domain.

Additionally, coaches must never solicit, either overtly or covertly, athletes who are receiving coaching to join their squad or change their coaching situation WITHOUT first involving, and then continuing to involve, the current personal coach or coaches.

The code also points out that coaches must enter into full cooperation with all individuals and agencies that could play a role in the development of the athletes they coach. This includes working openly with other coaches, using the expertise of sports scientists and sports physicians and displaying an active support of their national Federation and the IAAF.

Probably this may be only in the US college set-up, where all exclusive rights to an athlete, because of full scholarships, where schools have exclusive rights to students/athletes during schools hours and also when the athletes are representing the school at activities.

In our local situation, getting our athletes to be tops in the region in the first place, cannot be attained by bullying, promises of the world of items, scholarships et al, but through hard work and an honest demeanour, and a care for the holistic development of the coaches’ charges.