Letters to the Editor: Get student athletes involved

The 2011 athletic season started recently with the West Bay District Meet.

The 2010 season was the year in which the Cayman Islands not only successfully hosted the 39th CARIFTA Games, but also produced three regional champions.

John A. Cumber’s Mikayla McLaughlin can lay claim to being the region’s fastest Under 11 Girls sprinter after posting victories in the 100m and 200m events at the Caribbean Union of Teachers Meet in St. Kitts.

Chantelle Morrison shook the entire Island when she blazed to glory in the Under 17 Girls 100m at the CARIFTA Games.

Cydonie Mothersill took home the gold at both the CAC and Commonwealth Games in the Women’s 200m.

The deserved praise heaped on Mothersill, Morrison and to a lesser extent young McLaughlin may lead some to think that all is well with the track and field programme locally.

Their successes only masks a number of structural weaknesses and deficiencies in the local sport. If all stakeholders do not address these issues a great disservice will continue to be done to quite a number of gifted athletes on the Islands.

At the heart of the local track and field season will be the inter-primary championships and hopefully the inter-high school championships.

Messrs. Harcourt Wason and Ronnie Roach have done a marvellous job over the years in organising the inter-primary championships, despite obstacles placed in their way over the last few years.

Unfortunately Mr. Wason is no longer with the Education Department and those of us who love the sport in general and this meet in particular can only hope that he will be allowed to continue to play a role in the organisation and development of the meet.

Our Inter-Primary Track and Field Meet can stand on its own with any of our Caribbean neighbours in terms of organisation and the production of talent. This latter assertion is easily borne out by the Islands’ record at the CUT Championships.

This in large part is due to the Cayman Islands Primary Sports Association, the body charged with the organisation of sports competition in the primary schools.

They have done a first-rate job over the years and should be congratulated.

A similar body to CIPSA needs to be established to organise the inter-secondary championships.

Such competitions are organised by the Sports Department.

The end result is that the organisation of the competition has little or no connection with the schools and lacks the support necessary for the sport to grow and the student-athlete to flourish.

There was little or no crowd support at last year’s championships no doubt caused by the decision that non-participating students could not attend to cheer.

This was a bizarre edict. It is to be hoped that at this year’s renewal allowance will be made for the non-participating students to attend and cheer on their fellow students.

Failure to do so effectively makes the meet a farce.

At the inter-primary championships it is hoped that a repeat of the 2009 edict from the education/sports departments will not recur. In that year the student-athletes were barred from competing in spikes.

At the time two reasons were put forward for the decision.

One was that the costs of the spikes were too expensive for some children. What was interesting about this rationale was that it applied only to track and field.

The other interesting aspect to this decision is that it seemingly overlooked the fact that at a number of theses schools, spikes are/were recycled, with departing athletes or those who have outgrown the spikes donating them to the schools to be used by athletes less fortunate.

The other reason tendered was that the youngsters were causing damage to the track with the spike usage.

These same student-athletes compete at meets organised by the Cayman Islands Athletic Association immediately prior to and immediately after inter-primary wearing spikes without any noticeable damage caused by them to the track.

Fortunately wiser heads prevailed last year and the youngsters were again allowed to compete in spikes. There is, however, a rumour circulating that at the 2011 Championships there will be a return to the 2009 ban on spikes.

The district meets have in the past few years thrown up a number of interesting talents. Not many, however, have stuck with the sport. In order for the sport to grow and flourish, it may well be time to expand the scope of the local meets.

For instance, how about a championships involving members of the police force, customs, immigration, businesses, banks, churches and the districts as entities competing against each other?

Thought should be given to implementing a requirement that all of the country’s top athletes having to compete at the national championships in order to be eligible to compete internationally for the country.

This would display the talent of our top local athletes at home and inspire and mentor the younger athletes.

When a people can identify with an athlete throughout all phases of his or her development, a bond is formed and love for that sport is created.

That leads to greater spectator attendance and participation, which means more sponsors and members to the CIAA.

It is hoped that the Caribbean Overseas Territories championships will materialise in 2012, the year of the London Olympic Games.

H. Delroy Murray