Trinidad and Tobago played host to the 15th Pan American Junior Athletics Championships during the period 31 July to 2 August, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. At the conclusion of the Championships the USA finished well ahead of the other participating teams with a total of 56 medals – 21 gold, 22 silver and 13 bronze. Cuba was second with six gold medals while Mexico finished third with three gold, four silver and two bronze medals. Jamaica, the athletics powerhouse of the English-speaking Caribbean could only manage fourth position in the overall standings.
The results of the Pan American Juniors tell a story of the importance of the Caribbean doing more as a collective grouping to systematically assist each other along a developmental path that would yield a higher level of success.
Host country, Trinidad and Tobago did so poorly at the Pan Am Juniors that the governing body for the sport has called for an immediate investigation into the nation’s performance.
At the level of the Carifta Games it is usually the case that the Jamaicans dominate the competition. They account for a significant number of the medals available to winners. Over the past few years we have seen the number of countries winning medals at the Carifta Games increase significantly.
Closer analysis of the Carifta Games reveals that the event comes closely on the heels of that country’s Boys and Girls Champs where the very best athletes in the nation’s secondary schools are involved in keen competition. What we see at the Carifta Games is the best of the Jamaican students who would have been successful at the Champs.
Jamaicans seem to have keen interest in two major events for youngsters on an annual basis. They are keen on the Boys and Girls Champs at home and the Penn Relays in the USA. Carifta is something that comes somewhere in-between.
The Carifta Games pits the Caribbean best junior athletes in competition. Not surprisingly, the countries with the best athletics traditions and facilities rise to the top – Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas and Barbados.
Several years ago, the author of this Column advocated a revisiting of the North American, Central American and Caribbean Area Association’s (NACAC) mode of operation in order to facilitate a more harmonious approach to the development of the sport of athletics in the region.
The USA has much to offer us in terms of its approach to the development of the sport of athletics and so too does Jamaica. It is an unfortunate truism that there remains a greater likelihood of receiving the necessary assistance from the USA rather than Jamaica; so much for regional integration.
Athletics cannot develop mainly by addressing the purely technical aspects of coaching athletes. There has to be a multi-faceted approach that takes into consideration all components of the sport.
The essence of the proposal for change and a more wholesome development of the sport across the NACAC region includes but is not limited to the following:
1. NACAC Administration
1.1 Policy formulation and Administrative review
• To meet or use the teleconference medium annually to evaluate the extent to which the existing policies were satisfied and/or are in need of change
• To review the financial performance of the organisation
• To review staff performance
• To review competitions held during the year
• To agree on the policies of the organisation, NACAC, for the next year
1.2 Administrators Workshops
• To organise biennial Administrative Workshops on Leadership in our sport
• To promote annual administrative programmes among MFs
1.3 Relations with government
• To organise a biennial meeting with Ministers of Sport. This may be at the same time as the Administrative Workshops
• To facilitate meetings with NACAC Leadership, Ministers of Sports and MFs in the different countries
1.4 Monitoring of National Federations (NF) re structure and administration
• To insist on early response by NFs of the IAAF Annual Report Forms
• To evaluate the NF performance
1.5 Sports Marketing and Sponsorship
• To develop an attractive product that is each event organised at the regional level
• To seek professional help regarding the development of an appropriate marketing strategy
• To aggressively pursue sponsors
1.6 Event Presentation
• To conduct a special Event Presentation Seminar for organisers of regional Meets.
• To develop an appropriate manual to suit NFs of the Area
• To introduce effective Event Presentation at Regional Meets
1.7 Competitions Management
• To ensure that the existing competitions are presented in a manner that promotes our sport to all sectors of the society.
• To ensure a consistent high quality product
• To facilitate a tendency towards elite performances at our Meets thereby adding value to the product.
1.8 Facilities development
• To encourage widespread attention to the details of the IAAF in respect of facilities construction
• To encourage the construction of facilities among NFs that do not now have.
• To work along with governments of the region in the promotion of appropriate facilities for the development of our sport.
It should be noted that without proper administration the entire region would remain divided leaving the stronger nations with an almost exclusive right to athletics bragging rights.
2. NACAC Technical Administration – The Regional Development Centre (RDC)
2.1 Coaches Education and Certification System (CECS) Programmes
• To establish a clear, unambiguous policy in respect of the CECS Programme
2.2 Monitoring of Coaching Development among NFs
• To maintain an active database in respect of the certified coaches, their whereabouts and status re coaching
• To maintain adequate records of certified coaches and representative teams at competitions
• To liaise with NFs in respect of coaching development
2.3 Technical Officials Education and Certification System (TOECS)
• To establish a clear, unambiguous policy in respect of the TOECS Programme
• To maintain an active database in respect of the certified technical officials, their whereabouts and status re MFs
• To maintain adequate records of certified technical officials competitions
• To introduce a system where representative teams are allowed to have two accompanying technical officials as part of their allotted quota at Meets. Liaise with Local Organising Committees (LOC) in this regard
• To establish a system of on-the-job assessment of certified technical officials akin to what obtains in some other sporting disciplines
2.4 Athletes Training
• To develop a system of stronger ties with NFs in respect of training programmes for elite athletes
• To develop a system of Talent Identification among smaller, less developed and less well financed NFs
• To establish a system of monitoring and facilitating the promotion of the talented athletes who have been identified
2.5 Schools Programme
• To establish a comprehensive developmental training regimen that would facilitate the emergence of a strong, viable schools programme
• To facilitate the organisation of the following programmes:
- 1. Kids Athletics Annual Camp
- 2. Under 15 Annual Camp
- 3. Under 17 Annual Camp
- 4. Under 23 The High Performance Training Centre (HPTC)
- 5. Seniors The HPTC
• To access appropriate funding/sponsorship of the aforementioned programmes, especially those at the juvenile, youth and junior levels.
It is particularly important that every effort is made to broaden the competitions held in the region to include the USA and Canada from the earliest age groups. Encouraging our athletes to compete at the 11 – 14 age groups with athletes from the north would surely permit our coaches to recognise the deficiencies where they exist and take corrective action much earlier. The net result would likely be enhanced coaching by our coaches and greater interest in their own education and professional development.
We can only benefit from increased competition with the USA and Canada. As part of the NACAC region they would certainly be wiling to work with us in moving together.
The days of big bucks being raked in from the sale of television rights for sports events have begun to decline significantly. This is a fact in several of the major sporting disciplines. The case of football in Europe is a case in point where many of the leading clubs are now in a quandary in respect of the future of television rights.
I can tell also the case of FC Barcelona, one of the two leading football clubs in Spain.
Even the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has begun to engage in detailed analysis of the possible turnaround in television and major sporting events.
It seems that all too often the television rights holders competed with each other and inflated the costs such that now they are stumbling financially and losing money. The net result is that there is going to be a significant fall-off in the anxiety of television networks to buy rights at premium rates.
It is unfortunate that win our region precious little has been done to attract television to our products. We cannot be surprised if the offers we are able to attract do not offer top dollar. Certainly, we have to improve significantly our products.
We have to transform our Meets into events that are attractive and desired by the people. We have to establish our brand.
There is much work that needs to be done.
The various Local Organising Committees (LOC) must buy into the development of the Area. There is an urgent need for the respective governing bodies for athletics to understand the change towards professionalism in our sport and the importance of meeting the challenges that this brings with it. We have little choice but to invest in the appropriate professionals to get the job done.