Barbados’ outstanding track and field athletes of the Elite Distance Programme received scholarships and were recognised for their achievement on Thursday by local corporate sponsors Co-operators General Insurance in Collymore Rock, St. Michael.
The four scholarship recipients are talented middle-distance runners Shonita Brome [the University of Louisiana at Lafayette], Rasheem Griffith [already departed for the University of Tennessee], Rio Williams and his sister Charissa Moore [the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff]. They are all part of the Elite Distance Track and Field Club headed by former Barbadian Olympian Leo Garnes and national coach Ramon Armstrong.
National Sports Council chairman McDonald Fingal, a former coach and trainer in various sporting disciplines, commended NSC coach Garnes for the time, dedication and commitment that he invests towards the growth and development of Barbadian athletes.
In addition to heaping praise on Garnes, Fingal also stressed to the scholarship awardees that talent alone couldn’t do it and explained that if they were unable to maintain a 70 per cent GPA, they stood a chance of losing their scholarships.
“That type of effort you put in, that type of work you put in, you get results. You get out of anything as much as you put in, and he [Garnes] puts in hard work. I know that he loves children because he really couldn’t be doing this for himself right now. He could be like some of the rest of the coaches and just getting pay and go long back home. But he is dedicated. I want to impress upon you all that, yes you are talented, but talent alone can’t do it. Talent without commitment and dedication and discipline is a waste of time.
“You are doing sports, yes, but you must be able to combine the two so that you maintain your scholarship. Because if you were to fail in your sport, like don’t do so well and then can’t make the team or not performing, but you do well academically they will keep you. But if you do the reverse, you are excellent at running and winning medals, but you are down in the fifty and sixty they will cut you first and then get rid of you,” Fingal said.
Former national student-athlete and head of the Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme, Captain Michael Jules, like Fingal, offered strong advice to the athletes.
Jules, a former 1985 student of Jackson State University, urged the athletes to obey their coaches, become students of track and field, invest time doing lots of reading, be mindful of the company that they keep and have respect.
Also, an expert track and field commentator, Jules encouraged the athletes to use their time and opportunity wisely and reminded them that the Barbados Secondary Schools Athletics Championship was a memory and that their current objective as student-athletes should be to win conferences and become National Collegiate Athletic Association champions.
“… you should not be saying to the coach (new) oh my coach didn’t use to do this; I never do this; I did not have to run this. Remember the University is investing highly in you. So, therefore you now have to move away from trusting coach Garnes and coach Armstrong to trusting this new coach… You cannot discredit what the local coaches have done. I believe it is an outstanding platform, I believe it is an outstanding nursery but remember, and as Jonathan Jones said, there are so many more opportunities.
“If you are not a student of the sport of track and field, yet you need to become one quickly. You need to understand the sport well, what events you are going into, you need to know it well. Read, spend some time reading and not only reading about the track but your academics. You are called student-athletes. What word came first? Student. So, you will be regarded like everyone else as a student. So, you are expected to maintain grades,” Jules said.
Elite Club has an exceptional track record where coaches Garnes and Armstrong have produced several outstanding Barbadian athletes. Sada Williams, Sade Sealy along with fellow national record holder Jonathan Jones were recognised during the function on Thursday.
Co-operators General Insurance general manager, Anton Lovell congratulated the four scholarship recipients and acknowledged the continued excellence of the Elite Distance Programme now in its 11th year.
Lovell called on the NSC and the Barbados Olympic Association to help secure scholarships for Barbadian athletes.
“To the National Sports Council and the Barbados Olympic Association, these two bodies if they are not doing so, should join local associations to explore and secure scholarship opportunities for our talented youth. This cannot be left to the local clubs and parents. This ought to be part of NSC`s and BOA`s mandate,” he said.
Garnes, in his brief remarks, thanked Co-operators General Insurance for its commitment and said he would like to see more sponsorship of club and organisations by corporate Barbados.
“I am moved with what Mr Lovell (Co-operators General) have done throughout the years. I would love to see more of corporate Barbados put their effort to assist in helping some of the sporting organisation throughout Barbados, “ he said.