THE Saint Lucia Athletics Association (SLAA) held its first League Meet for the 2019 track and field season this past weekend, at the George Odlum Stadium — affectionately known as the St. Jude Hospital for close to 10 years.
A combined total of 305 athletes representing 16 clubs and schools on the island took part.
The performances in the various events were not the best or 100 percent as its early days yet in the season and most of the participants were simply getting their feet wet as to the work they had put in during the off season.
The Next major meet at the GOS is the customary Independence Games scheduled for Saturday 23rd February.
The VOICE spoke to the newly elected president of the SLAA, Cornelius Breen on a number of teething issues surrounding the sport of track and field. Breen is no stranger in that seat as he has served in that capacity before.
VOICE: With less than three months before the hosting of the Carifta Games in the Cayman Islands will Saint Lucia be sending a team over to compete?
Breen: “After the Independence Games we should have an idea what the composition of the Saint Lucia Carifta Team would be like, who are the possible candidates who will meet the qualifying standards and to go across to the Cayman Islands, it is going to be a tough one.”
“There has been a drop in our numbers in all core of the sports; our high jump, javelin, sprints, discuss; definitely there has been a decline in numbers. We also need to go back to the drawing board to see how best we can attract more persons back into the sport and into competitive training. We have lost quite a few of those athletes; not to sure why that is happening.”
He continued, “We as an association along with the Technical Committee headed by Henry Bailey who we have charged with the Technical responsibility to administer the Technical aspect of the sport and to ensure that they put the necessary programmes in place to ensure we see the numbers increase in participation. We can no longer have events with two athletes just for exhibition, it’s not good for the SLAA; we need to get those athletes and get the sport moving.”
VOICE: With time ticking away, how soon will the SLAA call a pool of athletes into training for the Carifta Games?
Breen: We looking after the Independence Games; we should have some idea as to the numbers, and then the Technical Committee would meet and make an assessment base on the performance they have seen, then dialogue with the various coaches and put together a squad in training. The next major meet will be the National Juniors/Carifta Trails slated for April 7th, by then the athletes would have shown their qualities following which the SLAA will select its final team for the Cayman Islands.
VOICE: Let’s take a look at the officials. For the last two years there has been a decline in the number of officials/individuals showing up for the various championships. What’s the plan now to win back the hearts of these officials?
Breen: “In all aspects of the sports we have declined, we need to go back to the drawing board. From 2016 we formed the Officials Union where the officials would come under one umbrella and take charge of the sports meets. Come 2019, the SLAA will be working with them as we have decided as an executive to give them full responsibility of all officiating matters; we will be relying on them and in the process provide them with the necessary support that they need to ensure that they can boost up their numbers as well as train their members. Also in 2019, we will have a Level 1 training course for officials; we are also looking to have a course for starters as we need to attract some more individuals. The objective is to attract individuals from the various schools so the burden doesn’t have to fall on the limited resources that we have.”
VOICE: On the aspect of development. Any plans for a Level 1 or 2 Coaching Course for Saint Lucia in 2019?
Breen: “As president I am not in favour for any right now, we have quite a few coaches who are trained, we are not seeing them. Persons are just coming and do the course to boost up their CVs. My focus would be on coaching, but I would channel that aspect to the coaching association to provide the necessary leadership. We would assist. In 2019, the SLAA will focus on the Technical aspect and the Technical Officials because we need to improve the quality of the product; the product right now is not the best. We need to improve our event management, time structure and revamping where we can curtail on the delays during the meet.”
“We have decided in 2019 to stage one day meets because of the decline in participation, having a two day championship is not going to be easy, plus the finances of the SLAA are on a downhill trend at the moment as we need to tighten that area. Come 2020 if the numbers increase we may go back to two days.”
VOICE: Talking about the SLAA finances and now you have taken a nose dive where will you be staging one day meets. Will one see the SLAA under your watch do all what is necessary to attract or win the hearts/confidence of the various business houses to come on board to rekindle that once vibrant association?
Breen: That’s the plan we have, we are trying to get more corporate sponsors involves in the sports and as an association we are also looking to explore avenues to raise the necessary funding because we have noticed the corporate finances is also tight as well. We need to be creative in finding ways to improve the sport. Our usual donors are still around, but they need to see that the quality of the product is worth putting their finances into, so we have to ensure we continue to provide the quality.
VOICE: Your final words.
Breen: “2019 is going to be a hard one for the SLAA, there will be lots of changes in terms of the Association: at the executive standpoint we will be focusing on training, ensuring we have all our systems in place and come next season (2020) things are much smoother. We are going to ensure we provide as best as possible to ensure that we can provide the avenues for our athletes to excel and also to give them the opportunity to go abroad to experience the competition and see how we can improve our product overall.”
“There is a heavy reliance on track and field as it has been the leading sport on the island to bring back medals at the international level in terms of Levern Spencer, Julien Alfred and Jeanelle Scheper (household names) so we need to ensure we continue to provide those type of quality athletes so when they go out to represent Saint Lucia we can all be proud of them.”