Wed | Sep 19, 2018

Dalton Myers | Stronger together - Time for athletes to show real unity

Published:Saturday | January 13, 2018 | 12:00 AM
file Usain Bolt (second right) being consoled by his team members (from left) Julian Forte, Yohan Blake and Omar McLeod after he pulled up in the final of the men's 4x100m relay at the IAAF World Championships last summer, while Bolt's executive manager Nugent Walker looks on.

The year 2017 saw many awesome performances by Jamaican athletes, both on the local and international stage. There were also a few failures and disappointments which left many asking: Is our track and field still in good hands? It's a new year; and with it comes new opportunities, new dreams, and the New Year's resolutions. The hope is that this year we can look to be innovative and more structured with our approach to sport.

We have reached the stage where we must look seriously at assisting our athletes in more meaningful ways, rather than accusing them of not representing, when a lack of funding or simply a general lack of emotional and psychological support are major challenges. Contrary to popular belief, most athletes do not earn anything significant. You may be surprised that most depend on their respective clubs, families, and the lucky ones, on footwear and apparel companies for support (professional or developmental).

The answer should not be to rely on Government either but rather getting our athletes to become innovative.

It is time to establish a Jamaica Track and Field Athletes' Association. This athlete's association, similar to other players' associations would seek to enhance the overall well-being of athletes at the respective levels, using a structured and well-coordinated approach. Its focus would include governance, financial support, helping athletes understand contract negotiations, mental well-being, legal support, preparing for retirement, and investment opportunities.

It would ensure the welfare of athletes, helping them to protect their intellectual property rights, while representing their views at the level of the Jamaica Administrative Athletics Association (JAAA), the Jamaica Olympic Association as well as at the government level through the Ministry of Sport.

 

Support system

 

There would still be a three-tiered support system for athletes, similar to that what exists through the JAAA Welfare Fund. Tier 1 would include the professionals and those who have competed at a global sporting event.

Tier 2 would be those who are competing at regional levels, while others would fall under a 'developmental' category.

The only way for an athletes' association to be successful is if our athletes, their managers, coaches, and so on see the bigger picture and agree to this type of collaboration. However, herein lies the main problem, as track and field is an individual sport and struggles to get persons to think as a team. The more successful athletes would have to buy into the concept, as funding would come from membership fees, along with support from other track and field stakeholders.

Other funding would come from the JAAA, the Sport Development Foundation (SDF), as well as local and international funding agencies. As part of its contribution to athlete development, the JAAA could invest a percentage of its revenue earned especially from amount already earmarked for the Athlete's Welfare Fund; while SDF could provide assistance on behalf of the Government. Remember, Government already contributes through the National Athletes' Insurance Programme, and until recently contributed to the JAAA Welfare Fund.

This funding could be streamlined through the athletes' association.

We already know that corporate entities in Jamaica are very selective in terms of which sports, athletes or events they invest in; therefore a well-structured organisation would provide the ideal avenue for them to showcase their level of commitment. With the proposed revamping of the SDF and decreasing subventions to national associations such as the JAAA, athletes and their handlers must seek innovative ways to survive.

Hopefully, we can examine our track and field product and invest more in our athletes from the grass-roots level. This should be the year that we try to get it right, and make significant adjustments to the way we do things. There is no need to worry about our track and field prowess at this time, but without proper governance and management structures we could be singing a very different tune later ... but what do I know?

- Dalton Myers is a Sports Consultant, administrator and lecturer. Email feedback to daltonsmyers@gmail.com