Relay Classic – a breath of fresh air

The recently concluded Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines (TASVG) National Relay Classic was for many sporting enthusiasts a breath of fresh air.
The Relay Classic that was held at the Victoria Park on Saturday last began around 10:00am and concluded just about 3:30pm.
The excitement generated at the Victoria Park may well have been among the best seen here at a track and field competition for a very long time, apart from the annual Inter Secondary Schools Athletics Championships.
To many it may well have been a sign that athletics is back on track. This may however not necessarily be the case as such an achievement requires much more investment of time, personnel and financial and material resources. Despite this fact however it is important that we do no unduly downplay the tremendous show that was the National Relay Classic 2011.
Many countries with a vibrant athletics culture ensure that there is an annual relay event on their calendars.
Relays are among the most exciting event in track and field athletics. They require great teamwork. Indeed it is impossible for the athletes on a relay team to think selfishly about his/her individual performance. Each athlete must understand that he/she is part of a unit that has to build on each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
The all-important passing of the baton determines the team’s success as much as the speed of each member.
In his most recent article for the TASVG Bulletin, IAAF Coaching Instructor, Gideon Labban, quoted the following: The primary goal of any relay is to move the baton from the start to the finish of the race as quickly as possible, especially through the take-over zones.
Relays are beautiful to watch when expertly executed by the team members. However the artistic choreography does not come easy. It takes months of training.
As Labban wrote, For the most efficient and effective pass, the baton exchange must happen when both runners are moving at the same speed and are at an appropriate passing distance from each other.
Coaches often spend a significant amount of their time preparing relay teams. This is because the athletes have to learn how to work with each other. Still, even at the highest level of athletics competition – the World Championships and the Olympic Games – some of the best athletics teams in the world experience difficulties with their baton passing. Some of the worst examples were the USA’s women’s team at the Athens Olympics when Marion Jones failed to catch up with Lauryn Williams at the third exchange in the 4 x 100m and the Jamaica women’s team in the 4 x 100m at the Beijing Olympics.
It is always horrible sight to witness jaded team members walking around the track following the dropping of a relay baton or failing to effect a successful pass of the baton.
It was in 2008 that Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines opted for the introduction of a National Relay Classic. The idea was to join many other national athletics governing bodies across the world in affording athletes in training an opportunity early in the competitive season to showcase their preparedness relative to their particular discipline in the sport as well as to allow coaches to evaluate the extent to which their hard work with their respective teams for relays is on track.
At the very beginning only a few teams turned up and some may have thought that it was not worth the while to introduce such an event. However the Executive stuck with the event and continued to work towards making it more attractive over the years.
Late last year TASVG opted to introduce a relay meet as part of a build up to the 2011 National Relay Classic. The turnout was impressive. On Saturday 29 January 2011 TASVG organized a second relay meet again with the intention of generating interest in the National Relay Classic. Once more the participation was good. The attendance and participation were well in excess of that which occurred in the latter part of 2010.
National Relay Classic 2011
On Saturday last Team Athletics hosted the Relay Classic and the response was overwhelming.
As part of the preparation for this year’s Classic TASVG engaged in a deliberate strategy of communicating with schools, teams and clubs.  Since the start of the athletics programme for 2011 TASVG has been communicating with all stakeholders in the sport for all of its events.
TASVG also introduced a Bulletin that is filled with important information of its work, its plans and related athletics events. Also included is a segment on coaches’ education penned by Gideon Labban. This Bulletin is widely circulated in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The document reaches PE Teachers, coaches, school principals, community leaders, the media and a number of interested individuals.
Additionally, TASVG has made a concerted effort to ensure that better planning and administration support each of its events.
It can therefore be said that the stage was set for an increase in participation not just in the Relay Classic but in all of the events of TASVG given its new thrust. However one really did not anticipate the tremendous response that the organisation’s Classic received on Saturday last.
Ian Sardine must be truly commended for the remarkable performance of his youngsters in the events for the children under the age of 14 years. He was able to get not just many children to attend and participate but he succeeded in getting several parents to be in attendance watching and eagerly supporting their children.
It is always a joy to watch the response of children to the presence of their parents when they compete and in particular when they win.
North Leeward turned up with over 100 athletes as also did the teams from the North Windward part of the country. Several schools were in attendance with the supervision of teachers who took on the challenge of being with their students on a Saturday.
The participants were all eager to compete and they were content with their performances. There was no rancour among those who lost. There was great camaraderie and the winners proudly walked around with their medals around their necks.
There were supporters of the event everywhere and the athletes felt that they were stars in their own right.
Despite the tremendous response to the TASVG Relay Classic 2011 the organisation must still confront several major challenges.
There is a Competition Commission in place and the organisation has a mandate to meet in advance of each activity to ensure that everything is in place. This is a critical function of the Commission and members cannot afford to relax in their responsibility in this regard.
The fact that previous events have taken place serves as no guarantee that those to follow will encounter the same experience.
There is a tendency in sports management in St Vincent and the Grenadines for individuals charged with responsibilities associated with the successful implementation of an event seem to be concerned only with the fact that the activity comes off. There seems little regard for attention to details critical for the event to be a resounding success in all aspects. Too many are content to boast that ‘another one bites the dust’ and spare no time for on-going monitoring and evaluation that are essential components of any genuine management process.
TASVG’s officials must be able to be more conscientious about time management. It is unacceptable for an event scheduled for a 9:30am start to begin just after 10:00am because of the tardiness of several key officials.
At 7:30am there were only two officials involved in the organisation and ad ministration of the event. This placed a heavy burden on the ones present and certainly contributed to the late start of the competition. Some persons who offered their services in the capacity of technical officials failed to show up placing excessive pressure on those who did.
Officials cannot afford to be late. In the unlikely event that some things were forgotten or misplaced or for one reason or another not in place there would be no room for redressing the identified problems. This is quite common in sport management in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
While an organisation can draft plans it is another thing to ensure proper implementation of the plan.
Those who have taken on the responsibility for organising and administering track and field competition do need to ensure that the plans are appropriately implemented and this begins with getting to the venue on time.
Parents get annoyed when they bring their children to a venue for a specific activity and the officials are not in place in accordance with the information they received. The same can be said of coaches and managers of teams whether they are school teachers or community leaders.
Greater attention has to be paid to respecting time and other aspects of sport management if the association is to achieve its ultimate goals of being the leading sport for individuals in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Mediocrity would not do. Second best is equally unacceptable. Excellence must become the only option.
It is clear from Saturday’s Relay Classic that TSVG must revisit its Competition Commission’s approach to the administration of its events