Athletes Elaine Thompson, Chris Gayle, Omar McLeod must not harm Jamaica's good nameThursday, October 21, 2021
Mr Christopher Samuda, the president of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA), must have been sensing it himself that, left to themselves, some of our top athletes could implode or hurt their own image, if not that of Jamaica's.
We are thinking immediately of Mrs Elaine Thompson-Herah, Mr Chris Gayle and Mr Omar McLeod, who have this year made outbursts that call into question their maturity and good sense, even as they enjoy world attention because of their superlative talents.
At a recent virtual seminar hosted by The University of the West Indies, Mr Samuda underscored the need for psychologists and sociologists in sport. He argued persuasively that as sport evolves it “should compel a vision of the future that is not only built on a foundation of technical coaching competencies, but also on emotional intelligence, social psychology and inter-personal skills”.
His call comes at a time when there is growing global attention to concerns about the mental condition and health of athletes, given currency by tennis great Ms Naomi Osaka, who has withdrawn from several top competitions in order to protect her mental health.
“Too often in sport, emotional intelligence and social re-engineering, as part of the DNA of success, are ignored… They play an integral role in characterising, for coaches and athletes, the profile and meaning of self-actualisation and success in a personal microcosmic context and in the macro environment where social, economic, and even political factors contend and are impacting,” the JOA boss said.
In this year alone, three of our top athletes did serious injury to their image — and possibly that of Jamaica's — demonstrating to us that, as part of their training, they need mental strengthening that they may not have been afforded in their early years before becoming superstars.
Mrs Thompson-Herah, right at the moment she is being celebrated with a national award, has tarnished her name by confirming what she had earlier rubbished, that she was leaving her track club, MVP.
She had declared to the world on the NBC sports network that the news broken in Jamaica about her impending departure from the Stephen Francis outfit was mere “rumour” and part of continuous attacks on her by the media.
“…We just came back from the international circuit and we normally get about a month's rest, and I am in my second week, so people are just assuming things and spreading rumours,” said Mrs Thompson-Herah. “The media always trying to create drama.”
Mr Gayle's outburst: “I can tell you, personally, and you can let him know that Chris Gayle, the Universe Boss, have no respect for Curtly Ambrose whatsoever,” was most disappointing. Mr Ambrose, another cricketing great, had merely given his opinion that Mr Gayle was not an automatic starter for the West Indies T20 World Cup team.
Mr Omar McLeod, after placing last in his 110m hurdles race at the Jamaican National Trials, told journalists in London in July that he was being “robbed” of the opportunity to defend his title at the then upcoming Tokyo Games, and accused his country of turning its back on him.
Our suggestion to the handlers of these athletes is that they press home to their charges that whatever they do or say reverberates around the world, for good or for bad.