About 10 Australians who were here for the past two weeks being exposed to some of Jamaica’s best track and field coaches and methodologies departed the island today for their home country. During the time they interacted with some of Jamaica’s emerging athletes, some of our top athletes and icons, our challenging conditions, and our sports culture that is steeped in quality track and field.
Brought here through an agreement between the Business of Sport, GC Foster College and Hayden Knowles’ Competitive Edge, the exercise was one that demonstrated what can be done to develop another non-traditional revenue source to this cash-strapped nation. There are people who believe Jamaica needs to build fancy stadia and facilities to engage in sports tourism, and while there is an element of truth in that belief, the country cannot sit idly by and hope for such facilities. In truth even more than the much-needed facilities, Jamaica needs more creative minds that not only think outside the box, it needs those minds that have not been inside the so-called box.
Jamaica does need the facilities to back up its claim of being a sports-oriented nation but in the meantime we need to get going putting the one-one coco in the basket until the opportunity presents itself to build big. It is why this MOU between the Australian and Jamaican entities can pave the way for similar relationships from different countries because impressive facilities are one thing but a more personalized touch can go a lot further. Hayden Knowles, speaking on my radio show (Sportsnation Live), that airs on Nationwide radio, in an emotional response to my question about what he and his athletes would have taken from their two weeks here, said he now understands the passion and the hard work that Jamaicans put in to become the best sprinters in the world and have become infected by it.
Knowles, who has interacted with coaches and administrators from all over the world, described Maurice Wilson, coach of Holmwood Technical High, the head coach in Jamaica’s delegation to the London Olympic Games in 2012, and a lecturer at GC Foster College, as one of the best coaches in the world. Andrew McCabe, who ran on Australian’s sprint relay team in London backs Knowles’ claim. He revealed that what he learned from Wilson and the other coaches at the GC Foster College over the past two weeks has strengthened his resolve and belief that he can become the first Australian to break the 20-second barrier. McCabe, whose personal best is 20.70s over the 200 metres was unequivocal about wanting to return to Jamaica before the World Championships in Russia this summer because he feels it will enhance his chances of achieving his goal.
The coaching aside, all the Australians spoke about the bonds that were formed here, the respect and great hospitality they experienced from all the Jamaicans they interacted with. “From the administrators, coaches, athletes, even the cab drivers,” Knowles declared on my show, emotion causing his voice to break a little.
What this says in part is that even without fancy facilities we have a product we can exploit. We currently boast some of the best track and field coaches in the world. Because of Usain Bolt, Shelly Ann Frazer Pryce and the success they and others have brought to the sport over the past few years, have made track and field cool again, and the natural charm that Jamaicans tend to exude we have something that we can sell to the world.
Similar programmes can be started at Utech, UWI and other tertiary institutions on an ongoing basis exposing the best of what Jamaica has to offer to people who perhaps would not have another reason to visit.
From a financial standpoint, the Australians would have pumped a little money into the Jamaican economy but because it was only about 10 or so, that amount would not be significant but larger groups coming more frequently would have a much more significant impact in terms of adding to the Jamaican GDP. It wont solve the financial crisis that we find ourselves in but it could certainly go a long way into making lives a little easier for Jamaicans who have the skills and services that would be needed for such ventures.
Knowles said the Australians will be back and once news of the success of this programme spreads we know others will come. We just need to be ready to grasp those opportunities with both hands.