Team selection – a bothersome matter?

National sports associations are the recipients of intense criticisms every time it comes around to the selection of athletes to national representative teams.
Regardless of what system is put in place, the final decision is never satisfactory to all involved in the particular sport. Perhaps the most aggrieved in individual sport is the coach. In respect of team sports, it is often the athlete who feels cheated.
The aforementioned issue is a plague all around the world.
The Caribbean is renowned for the criticism of cricket aficionados who vent their anger at every selection that is made in respect of the regional team for a cricket tournament. So often it appears that the selectors can never be adjudged correct.
Many analysts are not surprised at the reaction to the selection of the West Indies cricket team because of the fact that the region is still very much characterised by a sort of near-debilitating insularity.
It is commonplace for us in the Caribbean, mere rocks that pop up to and fro u=in the Caribbean archipelago, to eagerly chide one another as foreigners because we hail from another island. Funny how we are instead so eager to acclaim as nationals those from our respective countries who rise to prominence in any advanced industrial nation, even where they would have given up their original citizenship to gain acceptance in the country here they now reside.
While the foregoing explanation may seem satisfactory to some in respect of team sport, the reality is that there seems no end to the squabbles that engage our sport enthusiasts following the announcement of regional and national representative teams.
Selection Policy
Different national sports associations have established a variety of selection policies, across the world. The essence of all selection policies are however the same.
It is usually the case that the national sports association establishes a Selection Committee that is mandated to apply the set criteria for selection of athletes. In many instances the problems with coaches begin at this point. Many coaches are never satisfied with the persons named to the selection committee. They raise all sorts of objections.
Indeed, it is usually the case that coaches would rather the selection committee be composed of themselves since they are all only too eager to select their own athletes before anyone else. This is also the reason that national sports associations seek to avoid the executive committees being inundated with coaches. They usually jostle to ensure the selection of their athletes first and only then consider other athletes.
In St Vincent and the Grenadines coaches are known to literally harass members of the selection committee of the respective sports. They are almost always never satisfied with the performance of the members of the selection committee. Now that modern technology allows widespread communications in short order, coaches often take to facebook and other social media platforms to disparage the members of the selection committee, at times, bringing the very sport they serve into disrepute.
Selection committees constitute an important aspect of every national sport association.
Selection policies generally include but are not limited to the following:

  • The requirements of the particular competition. Most competitions establish their own standards of participation and participants are usually expected to satisfy these. These standards are set by the respective international sports federations (IF).
  • National standards. Each national association establishes its own set of criteria for athletes to be considered for selection. In some instances, where there is a large pool of athletes from which to choose national sports associations may set the criteria higher than that of the international federation. Many federations insist that in individual sports they would not accept an athlete who made the standard on one solitary occasion in a season unless special circumstances apply. This is to avoid a freak performance. There has to be consistency in the athlete’s performance during the season enough to justify the selectors that he/she is in good form.
  • Most federations indicate to their clubs at the outset that making the established standards does not guarantee an athlete’s selection. This is because it is often the case that a national association must inevitably take other factors into consideration. For example, the athlete’s attitude in terms of issues of discipline, inclusive of time management, commitment to training, respect for coaches, technical officials, team officials and administrators of the sport. Finally, consideration may also be given to overall demeanour of the athlete. It is all too often forgotten that athletes selected to national teams are in fact ambassadors of their families, schools, clubs and most importantly, of the nation, St Vincent and the Grenadines in this case. This means that a selected athlete bears a tremendous amount of responsibility. All too often athletes dress inappropriately when representing the country. Coaches pay little or no attention to the communication skills of their athletes. Indeed, some are woefully deficient in respect of their own communication skills, hence little difference can be expected of the athletes in their charge.

Team selection and preparation
Coaches are also expected to meet selection criteria but many do not understand or desire that this be the case.
Coaches seem to believe that they should automatically gains election because of the number of athletes from their school/club, who have gained national selection. This is not always the case.
National associations have to consistently evaluate coaches based on a wide range of criteria including but not limited to: qualification, coaching experience, success rate, decorum, discipline, communication skills, temperament with athletes, social etiquette and commitment.
Many coaches may be relatively good at coaching but decidedly poor in their general discipline.
Team coaches and indeed the technical and administrative staff with national teams are all as much national ambassadors as the athletes they oversee in competition. Unfortunately, many do not yet understand this.
Some of our coaches unfortunately cannot control themselves sin a challenging situations and prove themselves very poor examples to the athletes in their charge.
Once the team has been selected it is usually the case that the national association appoints the technical staff to take responsibility for the team’s preparation and participation in the designated competition. Here many problems surface.
It has become something of the norm for coaches to function as though athletes in their charge no longer have parents and teachers. Coaches in St Vincent and the Grenadine shave a tendency to behave as though they own the children athletes in their clubs. This has already yielded numerous problems.
Several of our coaches hold the children and their parents to ransom by threatening to dismiss the athlete from their coaching sessions and club if they do not engage in blind obedience to all that they are asked to do. In the process, many of the coaches are engaging in child abuse since they refuse to allow the athlete to venture an opinion of what is taking place inside relative to the training regimen through which they are being put.
The appointed national coach of any Vincentian team is given an awesome responsibility to prepare the team and ensure effective participation.
In some sports it seems fair to request of the athlete’s personal or club/school coach an update on the type of programme in which the selected athlete has been engaged up to the point of selection and what kind of programme was planned for the path through to the actual competition.
It is the responsibility of the appointed national team coach to ensure that the athletes on the national team are prepared to the best in order to get optimum results in the competition.
It should be very clear that the responsibility for the team rests with the designated coach and not the personal coach. This point was made very clear when the governing body for athletics in the USA appointed Ross Rogers as the team coach. He readily informed all personal coaches that he was the head of the team and that he took the responsibility very seriously, so much so that he would determine the extent to which any personal coach got involved in any aspect of the team’s preparation. He warded off all personal coaches when it came to his preparation of the relay teams.
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines many coaches feel that they have some right to interfere with the national team coach after he/she has been given the team, regardless of the sport involved.
No doubt, there is a place for personal coaches in the scheme of things. At the professional level these personal coaches are anxious to protect their investment since the athlete spay them for coaching and they also reap a handsome 15% of any prize monies earned by their athletes who must also meet their related expenses. Individual professional athletes also pay agents/managers who get them into competitions a further 15%. Some suggest that this is the reason so many professional athlete send up poor following the conclusion of their sporting careers.
Personal coaches must however be controlled when their athletes are selected to national teams. Then, a different order is in place and must be respected.
It is common practice to find athletes being sent text messages while abroad to engage in training regimens and told not to inform the team coach.
Some coaches simply refuse to make the original training regimen of the athlete known to the designated national team coach.
Last year at the annual Carifta Games in Grenada, a Vincentian senior coach in attendance at the Games though not part of the national team found himself at the warm-up facility, called his athletes aside from the rest of the Vincentian delegation while in training to offer them refreshments he brought for his athletes.
The great folly of the action of the Vincentian coach in Grenada reflects a complete lack of understanding of contemporary athletics. In the first instance he had no place at the warm up track without the expressed permission of the national team and the local authorities.
Secondly, he had no right to assume that the athletes were in need of further refreshments because all of their needs are met by the host organising committee.
Thirdly, the anti-doping regulations indicate that the athlete is responsible for whatever is found in their bodies when tested. If the head of the delegation is not privy to what the athletes were provided in terms of content, any adverse finding would have to be explained by the athlete who was supposed to be under his/her watch at all times and since he/she would not have known of the content of what the senior Vincentian coach brought to the athletes, then all blame would eventually be laid on the head of delegation.
School, club and community coaches must know the rules of the sport in which they are involved and resist the temptation to undermine the authority of those who have been fortunate enough to gain selection to coach national representative teams.