Minister of Sports, Stephen Lashley (centre), Esther Maynard​ (left) and coach of The St. Michael School, Gabriel Burnett, chatting following the orientation session of the ‘Stay on Track programme’ today. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, believes systems should be put in place to ensure that athletes are able to attain “podium finishes” in their events, and not “sit back and await their success”.

He was speaking at the orientation for the Stay on Track  track and field assistance programme this morning, in the Training Room of the Ministry at Sky Mall.

Mr. Lashley explained that the programme marked the beginning of “an innovative and much needed programme to assist our track and field athletes”.

“I have seen and heard of a number of young persons who have displayed the obvious talent to be world beaters on the track and in the field. For different reasons, some are unable to fulfil that potential and lose opportunities to be champions in their craft. This has been the unfortunate experience over the years…-

“This new programme underscores the clear policy focus that we must no longer simply wait for athletes to spring to prominence only through the means of their parents and the commitment of their coaches, but once the obvious talent is recognised, athletes who lack the means must not be disadvantaged and must have an equal opportunity to remain competitive,” he maintained.

However, while the Sports Minister acknowleged that “quality performances” required regular participation at competitions, he stated that the programme was not designed to meet all of the needs of the athletes, but rather, equip them with basic assistance to complement their development.

The $35,000 programme will run as a pilot from August 2017 to July 2018, and will provide assistance for 10 primary and secondary school athletes in the form of payment of club fees; acquisition of equipment; medical and nutritional support; and SAT tuition for those in need. A select few will be exposed to personal development exercises.

Mr. Lashley said that for the duration of the programme, the athletes’ progress would be monitored and evaluated to ascertain whether the targets were being met.

Following the completion of the pilot phase, he added, the programme would be reviewed and possibly expanded to benefit more athletes, and also keep providing assistance for previously selected athletes.

He commended all persons who have and continued to give “selflessly” to the development of the nation’s athletes, and encouraged federations and associations to “place more focus on the personal needs of athletes”.

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