Marty Phillip (in rear) training among male athletes

Marty Phillip (in rear) training among male athletes

Commentary by Michael Bascombe

It’s not unusual to spend Thanksgiving Day thinking about our sportsmen and women especially those at colleges in the United States who are at a disadvantage and unlike some of us can’t relax and enjoy a family setting.

It may be an awkward experience for some whose roommates have left the dormitory to join their families.

However, the circumstances didn’t prevent me from extending the customary Happy Thanksgiving greetings to these Grenadians.

But the bigger challenges lie ahead – balancing education and competitive sports.

Last year I wrote an article pointing to an increased despondency among some track and field athletes in North America and concerns that they felt neglected. However, the article concluded by suggesting that a greater effort be made by athletes and officials to close the communication gap.

It’s in the interest of the athletes to communicate with their national federations but the officials must also create the atmosphere and provide the opportunity.

So Marty Phillip’s recent posting that she is about to give up track and field is not surprising and she is probably the only one to make her feelings known.

In a revised and edited version, Marty’s post stated: “As much as I love track and field I would have to give it up because I train and there is nothing much to look forward to now. It’s only Relay Meet and National Championships and after that NOTHING,” she said.

“The younger ones have a chance to go out there and do something better with their lives but some of the older ones like myself who went back into track it’s a waste of time. Many times I put things I have to do just to go training and now there are Mini Meets but there is no one to run in my age group.”

“This whole thing is just breaking my training mood, straight talk,” concluded Marty who trains with the St John-based SpeedZone Track and Field Club.

This is not encouraging news for track and field and it’s something the Grenada Athletics Association (GAA) must give immediate attention in going forward.

The competition at the school level is already limited. Many of these talents, who have left Secondary Schools and enrolled at the T.A. Marryshow Community College (TAMCC) and not a member of a sporting club, are left in the wilderness.

Therefore, the likes of Marty and others must be accommodated in a revamped programme of the GAA.

Here is what the GAA wrote about Marty following the first day of the National Championships on March 2, 2008 – a day dominated by Marty and Kirani James.

“The other unlikely heroine of the first day of competition was Marty Phillip. After a five-year hiatus from the sport she won the 100m in 11.88 secs and the 400m in 57.80. Marty is well known for her exploits at Carifta Games in the hurdle events. However, she faded away but is now making a comeback and what a comeback it was. She looks better than before and was a crowd favourite as she graced the track with her charm and magnificent stride.”

Six years later and Marty is still training and competing but frustrated. And she is not alone. There are some track and field athletes here in North America who are planning to call it a day although they cite different reasons.

I continue to reach out to these athletes assuring them that they are not forgotten, using the examples of Alleyne Francique and Hazel-Ann Regis among some of the athletes who persevered despite the challenges. But times and things have changed.

The GAA has made a provision for representation of coaches on the Executive Committee. In his report to the General Assembly of the GAA on January 11, 2014, President Charles George reported that provision is made in the Constitution for wider representation on the Executive Committee. He said that coaches have representation and urged track and field officials and athletes” to form organised bodies so that their voices can be better heard.”

Hopefully, other national sporting federations would provide that opportunity for athletes’ representation.

Finally, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr Keith Mitchell presented the Budget Statement for 2015 and in his introduction paid homage to Kirani James and Kurt Felix, two outstanding track and field athletes this year.

“On a brighter note, we celebrated the triumph of our athletic ambassadors at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow led by Kirani James and Kurt Felix. In the course of the year, our Olympic champion, Kirani James also set a national record for the 400 metres of 43.74 seconds,” said Prime Minister Mitchell.

I would have added Meleni Rodney and Oronfo Ikolo to that list. Meleni took her CARIFTA Games’ podium presence to the Youth Olympic Games and Oronfo, only 14 years old but creating a stir on the regional junior tennis circuit.

But Mr Prime Minister there appears to be a major disparity with the allocation for sports in the Estimates of Expenditure for 2015.

The budget provides EC$67.5 million (Recurrent $2,632,635 and Capital $64,866,000) for Youth and Sport development. However, an estimated $30 million is for the New Imani Programme. Hopefully there could be some balance and sports (apart from lighting and upgrading of facilities) could get some additional funds.

In the 2014 presentation the swimming community was promised the commencement on Phase 1 of the Aquatic Centre including a 50-metre swimming pool. However, there was no mention in Wednesday’s presentation. It’s our hope that this project will be revisited. Happy Thanksgiving!

Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of GrenadaSports.

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