JAAA targets reduced workload for Junior athletes

BY SANJAY MYERS Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

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FRESHLY-ELECTED first vice-president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), Dave Myrie, wants to see changes made to lessen the heavy workload of the junior athletes.

Amid concerns that youth athletes sometimes have to peak several times in a year to meet the demands of the gruelling season, Myrie, the principal of many-time Boys' Championships winners Kingston College, said a solution has to be found in the "best interest" of the youngsters.

"We recognise the issue and it's something that has been raised before. I don't know the easy answer to it, to be frank with you. It's based on how the track calendar is set out, but it's something that we are going to look at and find a solution in the best interest of the youngsters," Myrie told the Jamaica Observer's Monday Exchange of reporters and editors at the newspaper's offices.

Students sometimes have to participate in the Boys' and Girls' Track & Field Championships, Carifta Games, World Junior Championships and the World Youth Championships, among other meets, in a single season.

Myrie, a former Championships committee chairman, views the challenge as a massive one for all stakeholders.

"The youngsters have to be out there training so hard on an ongoing basis. It's something we have to look at. I had issues when I was chairman of 'Champs' and I am a principal as well, so it's certainly something we are going to have to look on.

"From the sponsor's side, anything that negatively impacts or impairs the youngsters is something that the sponsors wouldn't want. They want the publicity and brand recognition and brand association and all of those things, but... to sponsor any event that impairs any youngster, that is bad press for any company and you don't want that," added Myrie, a former employee of main Champs sponsors GraceKennedy Limited.

Critics have perennially complained that some schools induce severe burn-out of athletes by forcing them into multiple events to garner points.

However, the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), the governing body for sports among Jamaican high schools, has made several adjustments to the showpiece event over the years, with more expected for the upcoming season.

Double Olympic 4x100-metre gold medallist Michael Frater, himself a former 'Champs' star for Wolmer's Boys, suggested the hectic high school schedule has robbed Jamaica of some fine athletes over the years.

"We've seen it being an issue over the years. Many superstars... people who are supposed to be the next big thing that the country has seen (have dropped out) because of the burn-out.

"We've seen it over and over and there needs to be definite changes because I don't think you can have these athletes (overworking). So perhaps there should be a maximum of two track events and a field event," said the 30-year-old.

Myrie added that ISSA and the JAAA should work closely together, while urging schools to make a stand to help lessen the chances of athletes' over-use.

"It has to be sorted out between ISSA and the JAAA. Over the years they've tried to make different variations to make it easier. There has been an improvement over the years. Coaches and principals should start talking about it more, that's one of the ways change takes place. That's what the principals and coaches must do," said the former Wolmer's Boys headmaster.

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