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From preschool to Olympics: Jamaicans tell Trinidad and Tobago to rethink strategy
Young athletes take part in a session featuring GC Foster College of Jamaica at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo. Photo courtesy SporTT -

From preschool to Olympics: Jamaicans tell Trinidad and Tobago to rethink strategy

Go Back : Newsday : Roneil Walcott : 23.08.2023

Through the knowledge and expertise of qualified trainers from Jamaica's GC Foster College, over 60 TT coaches and PE teachers are being given the formula to nurture pre-schoolers to international athletes.

Through a two-week programme which has been organised by the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT), a coaching and administrative team from GC has come to TT seeking to pass on some of the methods and development strategies which have brought the Caribbean island so much success in the sprinting world.

Marlon Gayle, a senior trainer at GC, said Jamaica prides itself on producing a sustainable "sprint factory" which has nurtured world-class talents such as Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah. He noted that the country has major athletic events for its youngsters from as young as age three.

These games are referred to as the Basic Athletic Championship and caters for children from ages three to six, with over 1,500 participants flexing their young muscles over a three-day period. These games are designed to mirror the format of major international athletic meets, with similar championships conducted to target children at the primary and secondary school levels as well.

It's about getting these children from the grassroots level to greatness, said Gayle, during a workshop at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Wednesday. "We must ensure athletes peak at the right time. It's not a guess-and-spell situation as we need to identify the needs of the athletes."

This is not heaven, but things can get better once you stick to the plan and do the right things going forward.

Both Gayle and Dr Geogre Dawkins, a consultant to GC, stressed that it is important for fun to be the emphasis at the early childhood care stage, while the talent identification process begins at the primary school level and is then further enhanced at the secondary and senior levels.

Both stakeholders from TT and GC Foster College wanted to begin with a unit or module on physical education. Physical education is a precursor to development at other levels and that has to be done in an informal fun way, Dawkins told Newsday, with consultation between the prime ministers from TT and Jamaica having got under way last year.

We progress seamlessly from physical education to movement education at the early childhood, primary and secondary level and then we went into the game skills, Dawkins said. "The major emphasis was in the area of track and field, sprints and hurdles."

This current two-week programme is seen as phase one of GC's partnership with SporTT, with phase two set for October/November 2023 and phase three to include further visits from GC officials.

We want to create an environment where people can share their feedback, experiences and challenges, said Dawkins, who boasted that the eight-time Olympic champ Bolt ran his first ever competitive race at a GC meet. "Phase three would be for advanced training and further analysis. That is likely be a physical visit by two high-level coaches."

For Wednesday's practical session, which was conducted at the Hasely Crawford Stadium training field, the coaches and PE teachers were separated into their respective groups (pre-school, primary school and secondary school) and were asked to demonstrate the techniques and training methods they have been taught by the GC contingent.

One local coach, Roger Riley, who is attached to the Simplex Athletic Club, spoke of the benefits of GC's visits and how he and his club plan to execute their strategies going forward.

We have some structure in TT, but (GC) have a lot more pieces involved, whereby you have a number of strategically planned games for the athletes so they are in regular competition mood, Riley told Newsday. "They have a foundation in which the training setup they have is spot on.

When you have a structure in place from the early childhood care system going up to the primary and secondary level, you give the athlete a better window to understand the system so you'd have the turnout of a better student-athlete, Riley said.

He said it is important that an athlete's foundation is set when they reach the senior level.

When you get an athlete you should not have to correct things which should have been done in the early stages of their development.

With TT qualifying just two athletes for the sprint events at the ongoing World Championships in Budapest, Riley said, "To get back to get to that highest level, we need to have a proper structure where we have more school games and it's more competition-based...We need to have that structure where the school games feeds into the junior and national games."

The current phase of GC Foster's training programme in TT ends August 29.