Eight medals a result of Champs-only focus - Riley
HIGH school track and field coach David Riley said Jamaica's eight-medal haul at the recent IAAF World Under-18 Championships in Kenya was a result of athletes being trained to peak at the annual Boys and Girls' Athletic Championships, not international meets that follow, so the country should be satisfied and "tek what we get", as stated on his Facebook post.
"Jamaican juniors and youth athletes are rarely prepared specifically for international competitions. Instead, they are prepared for ISSA Boys and Girls Champs held in March or April each year.
"The athletes are attached to high schools, who hire and pay coaches up to March and April (for the lucky few). In a work environment where the coach is regarded as the tail of a dog, and tails don't wag dogs, then who can ask the coach to go beyond the period that he or she is being paid in order to continue the preparation of the athlete? The athletes competed based on how they were prepared and we have to tek what we get," Riley posted.
The Excelsior High coach told STAR Sports yesterday that eight medals (three gold, two silver and three bronze) were actually good, equalling Jamaica's second-best result at the World Youth Championships. Jamaica won eight medals at the 1999 and 2013 editions. The best haul of nine medals were in 2011 and 2007.
Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association president, Dr Warren Blake, said that it would be difficult to motivate schools to prepare athletes beyond Champs but pointed out that the JAAA does its best to keep student-athletes active by having weekly all-comers meets as well as staging a pre-World Under 18 Championships camp.
Blake also pointed out that some athletes did personal bests in Kenya, adding that there were unfortunate incidents that cost the country medals that were expected.
"I think what he (Riley) was saying is that when you take all things considered, the athletes did very well," Blake told STAR Sports.
"Unless you have a motivated coach, or get some form of income to the coaches, it's going to be difficult. The schools are only focused on schoolwork and performances for the school. To try and tell the school to focus on performance for the country, as noble as it is, it's going to be difficult," Blake added.
Riley, who coaches at Excelsior High, said the solution was for stakeholders involved to see the value in fixing the situation.
"It's not a hard problem to solve. It's not rocket science. The solutions are there and we know what we need to do. It's just that the will to do it and the resources to get it done sometimes don't coincide. We need to stop ignoring it and deal with it," he said.