Track and field chief Doctor Dalton Watler is concerned by both the apathy and continual criticism he is getting from parents as president of the Cayman Islands Athletics Association.
He wants parents and guardians to appreciate the functions of sporting organisations, not just in athletics. “We are all non-profit organisations and our job is to train the athletes, send them to competition and find financial resources for their wellbeing,” Watler said.
“We expect to get funds from private agencies, government and any other agencies who would like to make a contribution for the athletes’ sport development. Parents need to be aware that they also have to play a role in this.
“By law, every single child has to have insurance. So what is happening, when an athlete is training for the national team, we know they have insurance that is covered by the parents. Therefore, if an athlete gets hurt, the parents need to use their insurance for the athlete to be looked at. And if there is something we can do as an organisation to support that insurance, then we try to find the fundings.”
Most of the insurance covers 80 per cent of treatment and the organisation picks up the balance in the case of minor injuries. But Watler does not like the fact that some parents expect the athletics organisation to pay for all treatment even though it is not a profit-making body.
Watler thinks it is not unreasonable for parents to contribute towards their child’s physiotherapy treatment when needs be. He is bemused when parents ask him what benefit is their child getting from playing sports, especially if they get hurt?
“We’re trying to provide an injury-free environment, however, injuries occasionally do occur when training and competing.
“But it’s not about the child getting hurt, it’s about the benefit he or she is getting from playing sports. We’re doing our best in trying to keep these children away from alcohol, from drugs… We’re trying to ensure that when the athlete does well we’re going to get he or she a scholarship.
“We are also ensuring that the government is providing an education for them. There are many things for them to gain. But if a parent doesn’t support their own child, there’s nothing more we can do. We need their support. They need to understand this.”
Watler noticed that when they are very young, say 5-12, that the parents are really supportive, but the interest diminishes when athletes get older.
“Too many parents believe that after 12 years old it is our responsibility to raise their children. That is not the reason why an association is founded. It is there to compromise and be a complement. Don’t expect us to fulfil a parenting role, not just in track and field but other sports too.”
Watler uses plenty of examples of Caymanians who have excelled in sport then gone into sports administration and coaching to give back to the community. Bernie Bush, the former footballer, cricketer and many other sports for Cayman internationally, is now treasurer of the Olympic Committee and the president is Donald McLean who went to the 1996 Olympics as a sailor. Carson Ebanks is the general-secretary of the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee and he too was an Olympic sailor.
“And what would have happened to Charles Whittaker if he had never done boxing?” asked Watler. “Parents need to come and support their children and believe in and trust the association that we are going to do good – backed with their support.”