Secure the future: Child athletes should be treated as children

Secure the future: Child athletes should be treated as children

Saturday, January 16, 2021

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The sports fraternity perked up with news midweek that the Government has developed a “draft framework” and is working on a “road map for implementing the safe return of sport”.

We are told that the Ministry of Sports, as well as the Ministry of Health and Wellness, will meet with the country's sporting associations to determine when the various disciplines can resume some activities, even as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to haunt our lives.

This followed a meeting on Monday between respective ministers Ms Olivia “Babsy” Grange and Dr Christopher Tufton.

We are told that the two “reiterated their commitment to move quickly to finalise the general protocols for sport that create a balance between health, well-being and safety”.

Ms Grange is reported as saying: “Sport is critical for physical and mental well-being and must be considered as part of the approach to improving the wellness of Jamaicans.”

Dr Tufton declared that, “We now must work assiduously to finalise the best set of business processes and protocols to enable the safe return of sport...”

But immediate optimism would have been doused somewhat by news yesterday that the tentatively planned 2021 Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association National Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships (“Champs”) appears set to be pushed back from the suggested March date to May, while hoping for the best.

This is because COVID-19 restrictions under the Disaster Risk Management Act, such as that the number of people gathered in one place should not exceed 15, have been extended by another two weeks, until January 31.

The restrictions in place, and now extended, have already triggered and seem likely to continue to cause postponements and cancellations of a number of meets considered crucial preparation for the popular, annual schools' athletic festival.

Given the ravages of COVID-19, we have to agree with Mr Garth Gayle, president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association that, “The Government has to look out for the best for the entire country...”

Mr Gayle says he and his colleagues “will be working closely with the ministries of sports and health and wellness and, hopefully, we will get back on track soonest...”

While we wait, the expectation is that competitors at senior and junior levels will seek to keep themselves in tune, as much as is possible, within the confines of the Disaster Risk Management Act, with the support of those around them.

Also, the long break is providing an opportunity for introspection, which could well lead to improvement in methodologies for administrators, coaches, et al.

We are particularly taken by advice to colleagues from respected track and field coach Mr Jerry Holness. He says high school coaches should resist pressure from others, not least principals and parents, as they prepare their charges for hopefully successful careers in competitive sport.

Whispers are all too frequent in Jamaican track and field that some promising athletes fall by the wayside because they were pushed too hard, too young.

Says Mr Holness: “We have to remember that children are not... small adults... we have to treat them accordingly...”

Well said, Sir.

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