MIKE Sands, president of the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC), says his organisation has a challenge to get the top athletes in the confederation to recognise its importance.
Sands says there was a lack of understanding about the significance of their various events, including this weekend’s NACAC Open Championships to be held in Freeport, Grand Bahamas, which gets under way today.
Approximately 417 athletes from 29 countries are down to take part.
“I think the biggest challenge we have is a level of communication and understanding with our senior athletes to let them understand the significance of the event,” Sands told host Michael Bascombe on his Internet show TalkSports two weeks ago.
The Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) has named a 38-member team including world champion Shericka Jackson, Commonwealth Games medallists Janieve Russell, Shiann Salmon, Kimberly Williamson and Traves Smikle, as well as Fedrick Dacres.
Andrew Hudson, who won the 200m at the JAAA National Championships in June after switching allegiance from the USA, has also been named to the team, as well as former long jump world champion Tajay Gayle.
Medallists at this weekend’s staging will get financial awards, said Sands and this along with the fact that winners get automatic qualification to the World Athletics Championships, he believes made the championships attractive to all levels of athletes.
“We have added prize money, which is not a lot but it is an incentive. We have also added the automatic qualification for the World Championships, and while its true that while some might not need it there are others who will,” he asserted.
Sands argues that NACAC is the most productive confederation in World Athletics and said it was important that all stakeholders played their part in its development.
“We are making every effort to rebrand ourselves, to create an awareness of our existence and the significance of the area association because there is no question that the NACAC Area is the top producing Area Association in the World Athletics family to the extent to which you would have seen our performances in the recently concluded World Athletics Championships that team USA which is the largest member of the NACAC Family won the team title.
“So when you sit in the stands and you look at finals of say the 100m or 200m and out of eight we have six members from NACAC in the final, there is no question of our production. It’s now a matter of sensitizing the athletes to the significance of being a part of the area championships,” Sands pointed out.
Athletes from other confederations, he said, were fully aware of the importance of their Area Championships.
“Because the Europeans do it, they recognise the importance and significance of the event. When I first came into office and speaking to some of our athletes they did not even know what NACAC was or what NACAC stands for, so yes we have a challenge of branding, a challenge of name recognition and I am talking about some of our top athletes who were a little surprised when I told them that NACAC was the area association and governing body. So we have not done a very good job in first of all letting them know.”
Because of the backlog of championships as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic which most of events between 2020 and 2021 either bring cancelled or postponed, Sands said next season promises to be as paced as this one.
“This year was a crazy year and next year is even going to be as crazy as well, because we are trying to get over the pandemic and we want to get the events on the calendar and so obviously the year is crowded so we have choices,” he said.
“We can decide to cancel the events or we can decide to move forward with the events, but if we want to grow the sport we cannot talk about cancelling, we have to talk about ways to fit it in and if you look at the scheduling it was very deliberate to the extent to which as it is on the same weekend as the European championships. So there is no excuse for the athletes to say they have events in Europe, that was a coordinated effort that we don’t cannibalise our events.”
Sands said there must be greater cooperation at all levels of track and field organisation if things are to run smoothly, “there is the global calendar so we need to work together and put the schedules together so that the area athletes don’t have any major reasons or excuses and reason not to attend the championships,” Sands noted.
He singled out the respective federations for some criticism.
“The federations have to do a better job and I say that without fear of contradiction, they have to communicate with their athletes early on to let them know the calendar of the events for the year and also the athletes need to develop some national pride.”
Jamaica: Women — Shericka Jackson, Natalliah Whyte, Natasha Morrison, Stephenie Ann McPherson, Junelle Bromfield, Roniesha McGregor, Adelle Tracey, Crystal Morrison, Megan Tapper, Shiann Morrison, Janieve Russell, Andrenette Knight, Kimberly Williamson, Chanice Porter, Lloydrecia Cameron, Samantha Hall, Ashley Williams.
Men — Ackeem Blake, Conroy Jones, Oshane Bailey, Andrew Hudson, Jazeel Murphy, Nathon Allen, Christopher Taylor, Karayme Bartley, Rasheed Broadbell, Orlando Bennett, Shawn Rowe, Lushane Wilson, Tajay Gayle, Shawn-D Thompson, O’Dayne Richards, Elvis Graham, Traves Smikle, Fedrick Dacres, Kadrian Goldson, Javon Francis, Demish Gaye.
Managers — Dennis May, Nackesia Edwards-Ingram, Steve McGregor
Coaches — Michael Frater, Lamar Richards, Paul Francis, David Riley
Medical — Dr Rodaine Ruddock
Masseuse — Alvin Green, Jowayne Johnson
Photo: SANDS…we have also added the automatic qualification for the World Championships, and while its true that while some might not need it there are others who will.