Concerns in some quarters that Barbados’ school athletes are being overworked by their schools and coaches during the annual track and field season have gained mileage from a medical expert.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, head of the Pan American Sports Medicine Federation and chairman of the National Anti-Doping Commission, Dr. Adrian Lorde, said school athletes were not being given sufficient time to recover from the intensity of competition. He was of the view that many local athletes who competed, especially at the Barbados Secondary Schools Athletics Championship over a five-day period and who participated in four or more events, could be placing too much stress on their bodies.
“Young athletes at that age should be having fun. Sports should be fun and not just victory for medals. It is not just four events. It is four events at BSSAC [where] you have preliminaries, semi-finals and finals and sometimes the recovery time in between those events is not always enough. It depends on which four events they are and you have athletes who would have just come off their school sports, inter-house sports, doing four events. . .with the intensity of inter-school sports for five days, it can be harsh on that developing body,” Lorde said.
He added that a lack of mental and physical preparation, as well as inadequate intake of fluids, also affected Barbadian athletes because they do not recognize the need to use fluids and also to eat properly in preparation for athletics events.
Just last week former athlete Wayne Cadogan bemoaned the fact that the bodies of school children were not developed to the extent to endure the multiplicity of events in which they participated during the athletics season. He noted the athletes were being mishandled to their detriment. He suggested CARIFTA star Mary Fraser had been asked to do too much to compete in the 800, 1 500 and 3 000 metres with minimal recovery time.
However, former national athlete and Olympian Noel Lynch and well respected coach Alwyn Babb believed it was all to do with physical preparation and the mental maturity of the particular athlete.
“A lot of what we do is determined by the scheduling of events and therefore the rest period that comes in between the events [is important]. For example Michael Johnson did the 200 and 400 metres, so did Kirani James, and therefore every time there was an athlete that people felt could win multiple events in a major competition they would just fit the schedule to suit that athlete.
“Now at the junior or school level it would be pretty difficult to do that. So therefore you would also have to look at the scheduling and you may have an athlete that might be a legitimately good athlete to say run the 400m and 400m hurdles. Unless the scheduling is correct you are never going to get optimum performance out of the athlete and you are going to risk both fatigue and injury,” Lynch said.
Lynch gave the prime example of Sada Williams who he felt had a good opportunity to be a double gold medallist at the 2015CARIFTAGames if she had not picked up an injury at BSSAC.
“I am not saying just me, but other observers were a little disappointed over the workload that she had, even though we understand that the school wanted to do very well. But when you take Coleridge and Parry females we don’t think they stand a chance in beating Springer Memorial for example in the competition. And therefore we thought that the number of events that she did, even though she was trying to accumulate points for her school, may have been a little heavy for her,” Lynch explained.
He added: “When you look at Sada Williams’ times and her development over time you recognize that she actually has times that are good enough to push her on to the world scene in about two, three, four years. The level of maturity and where you want to take the athlete in the future determines how you prepare the athlete for competition. If an athlete is prepared to do a heavy workload then it is not a problem. If an athlete is going to go on into trying to find his or her way into the sport that is another thing.”
Babb, who coached former 110m world champion hurdler Ryan Brathwaite, also weighed in on the subject. He said the argument about too many events did not hold and therefore the concern should be about adequate preparation.
“Some of the athletes do not give themselves enough preparation time so they can be able to prepare for a five-day event where they are required to participate in three or four events plus relays. Teachers and coaches have to ensure that if they are going to ask the students to run and participate that they prepare from September the year before and they get ready for that kind of workload,” he said.
Babb noted that athletes across the region competed in three or more events plus relays and the difference between recovery after the actual meet depended on their preparation.
Babb also shared his views on Williams and Fraser who won three gold medals at the CARIFTA Games.
“Last year she [Williams] did the same thing and there was no talk. Injury is a part of every level at sports. If the coach knew that she was going to get injured in that 200m she would not have done it. But she did the same thing the year before and there was no talk about too many events. You have a Mary Fraser who ran three four hundred metros, two eight hundred metros, two fifteen hundred metros, a three thousand metro, went on to CARIFTA the next week and won three gold medals. So the argument about too many events does not hold and the concern should be adequate preparation,” he said.