The Children’s Advocate has been noted to be a part of a move to rid the sports world of coaches who abuse athletes. From the beginning of our dominance in athletics there have been rumours/whispers of coaches who groom athletes to the extent where obvious mind boggling talent fades dramatically as the athlete moves from Inter School Championships to adult competition.
The “culture” of Jamaica when it comes to heterosexual contact is usually minimized by the term, “Is just a little sex” when the liaison is exposed as the athlete fades from the national spotlight. Therefore it does not come as a surprise when the main aim of those promising to look into the abuse of athletes seems to concentrate on the toxic sexual relations between coach and athlete.
However, the abuse of athletes is not only about sex. Recently there was news of a promising athlete who was forced to transfer from a prominent high school track team because of the physical abuse of an unrepentant coach. That case is still in the courts. What I think needs to be the main (but certainly not the only focus) is the physical abuse of athletes by coaches whose main aim is to win at all costs, no matter the consequence.
This week Antonio Watson, a national treasure based on his performance on the world stage, took part in the first Digicel Grand Prix of 2019, the Western Championships. During the competition, he competed in the 400 metre hurdle event and injured himself. Early reports are that it is a “quads’ injury. Then to the amazement of everyone present at the meet, the injured athlete turned up and competed in a later race “for points”. What kind of madness is this?
Much has been written about the obnoxious habit of seeing children performing at athletic meets heavily bandaged. Obviously injured. If a child is injured, an assessment must be made firstly about diagnosis, then treatment and finally, healing time. Children who are “gifted” with unusual athletic ability deserve to be allowed to heal properly before being encouraged to perform again.
It is well known that EVERY child who has talent for a particular sport views time away from the sport as “punishment” and as such they will minimize pain and discomfort when questioned as to their readiness to compete. That is why the adult in the room (the coach, and to a lesser extent, the parent/guardian) must step in and assert their superior knowledge and experience.
Two years ago Michael O’Hara was touted as the next best male sprinter, Bolt’s replacement. Post Championships, his “new” coach discovered that his muscles had so much scar tissue that a two-year programme of rehabilitation was commenced. He has just returned to competition.
Last year the most exciting female sprinting prospect Kevona Davis missed out on Post Champs International competition through injury, rumoured to be directly related to overuse!
This call is therefore once again being repeated. “Children who have been identified as “National Treasures” as a result of their performance at Champs, MUST be immediately transferred to the oversight care of a JAAA-nominated panel of experts, who, in conjunction with the child’s coach, from whatever school or Institution the child prodigy attends, plans the future events, meets that the child will perform in while maximizing their obvious talent. This move will ensure the longevity of the child’s athletic career and consequently improve the physical, mental and economic well-being of the child in the now lucrative world of the sport of his/her choice.
I really hope that Antonio Watson is not seriously injured and will return to full fitness before major competition this year. But the writing is on the wall. We MUST rescue our athletes from abuse (all types) from the adults entrusted with their care and development. We must stop waiting for a “committee” to develop this programme. The time is now.