Sport

Digicel, MVP partner to hunt the next star

Sherdon Cowan

Thursday, January 09, 2014    

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Telecommunications giant Digicel and the MVP Track and Field Club have embarked on a Grassroots Athletics Programme which is aimed at unearthing young talent across the length and breadth of Jamaica.

The new programme will see MVP coaches assisting student athletes and coaches in developing their fundamentals in five main areas of track and field athletics; hurdles, throws, jumps, middle distance and sprints (including relays).

President of the MVP Track and Field Club, Bruce James, speaking at the launch at Digicel's headquarters yesterday, said that the direction of this programme was driven by a certain statistic. "Approximately 100 schools enter Boys' Champs, another 100 enter Girls' Champs...yet there are over 300 schools in Jamaica that have students in the age group that competes at Boys' and Girls' Champs. This means that there are about 30 per cent of secondary school aged students in Jamaica that are not getting a chance to be exposed to Boys' and Girls' Champs.

"And if they are not getting exposed to Boys' and Girls' Champs then they perhaps are not getting exposed to the best training methods available to students who are attending the championships. Their coaches similarly are not receiving the kind of certification that the coaches who train at the other secondary schools have...the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) coaching certification or the GC Foster's coaching certification," he added.

James further outlined that the solution to Jamaica's reduction in field events and middle-distance running is this Grassroots Programme which is a series of training camps across the three counties in Jamaica, with student athletes and coaches from all 14 parishes to include the five areas mentioned.

"The Digicel/MVP Grassroots Athletics programme is the next big step forward in Jamaica's track and field development," he declared.

Digicel's sponsorship manager Tahnida Nunes said that this partnership was to enclose a visionary circle. "Our vision for sports has been threefold...it has been based on cricket, football and athletics.

"Basically what we wanted to do is build out a grassroots plan, we did this in cricket, we have been doing it with football and we wanted to build that full circle with athletics, hence our partnership with MVP."

In explaining why the MVP Club was chosen, she said: "We decided to partner with MVP because when we looked at what they do and the model that they use, it is such a solid model. They strongly believe in education along with athletics, so they have a strong programme at the University of Technology (UTech) and they have a proven track record."

Paul Francis, coach at UTech and MVP highlighted the work that the track club has done. "MVP over the years has brought to the fore persons who all the experts never thought had a chance of being good at the senior level, so we believe in giving all our youngsters the best possible chance. This camp gives youngsters the opportunity to learn the correct ways of athletics. So I want to give thanks to all the coaches who have contributed so far."

Brand Ambassador of Digicel and IAAF World Female Athlete-of-the-Year Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce lent her voice to the launch, while minister without portfolio with responsibility for sports Natalie Neita Headley congratulated Digicel and MVP on launching this development programme.

The programme has so far seen three clinics being held in Vere, Clarendon; Morant Bay, St Thomas, and Santa Cruz, St Elizabeth from November 23 to December 7 last year, with each clinic hosting over 100 student athletes and their coaches.

The next two clinics will be held on January 10 and 17, first in Montego Bay and the last in Kingston at the National Stadium. A top athlete will be selected to receive a $1,000,000 four-year scholarship from Digicel to UTech, where they will continue their education while training with top athletes.

The Grassroots Athletics Programme is also being supported by other partners including Wisynco through Powerade/WATA, Jamaica Broilers through their Best Dressed Chicken and Reggae Jammin brands, National Commercial Bank through its OMNI Educator product, and Nike, which is the apparel partner.

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