The governing body for track and field in the country is the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA once called the Bahamas Amateur Athletic Association). At the outset of organized administration for the sport in the country, back in 1952, one could make the case that an elite circle of sporting enthusiasts controlled the executive branch of athletics.
First in the line of BAAA presidents was one of the country’s all-time noted lawyers, Alfred Frances (AF) Adderley. He and his associates, though among the upper crust socially, were incredibly athlete-friendly. Adderley, in fact, has not been given nearly enough credit for the amazing role he played in fostering togetherness, and supporting young Bahamian athletes in cricket, track and field and yes, soccer as well.
He and his ilk understood that the athletes, collectively, made up the prime products in the various sports disciplines. Down through the years, other BAAA administrations operated similarly, recognizing fully the importance of the role played by the athletes, in particular, the era of leadership under the late Enoch Backford.
Somewhere along the way, however, the “prima donna” attitude crept in among BAAA executives and the athletes became secondary. Some executives functioned as though they were the stars of the show, rather than the athletes who worked hard to be conditioned and able to compete on par and in some instances, beyond their international peers.
The imbalance became quite noticeable, and elite athletes and the lesser-skilled, began to express their dissatisfaction with the new status quo.
The current BAAA administration, led by President Drumeco Archer, came to power with the athletes-first promise, as one of the major campaign planks. Well, the jury is out on Archer. He has to prove to be worthy of the grand endorsement he got. He ran an excellent campaign and talked his way through to the presidency of the most vibrant sports federation in the country.
This vibrancy is the case, mainly because...yes, of the brilliance of the athletes who compete under the BAAA’s banner.
The nation owes a debt of gratitude to the track and field athletes down the line who have carried this little country on their shoulders against competitors who have been bolstered by millions and much more financial resources.
At the very least, Archer has in his executive fold, one who has bucked the system and gone out on a limb publicly, and internally within the BAAA, in the interest of justice and fair play for athletes.
Reference is to BAAA Second Vice President Rupert Gardiner. He stood large in defending Steven Gardiner, the extraordinary sprinter who owns national records for the 200 metres (19.75), and the 400 metres (43.87).
Coach Gardiner was firm in shifting the blame from athlete Gardiner, when he did not run in a first round heat during the London IAAF World Championships a couple years ago.
Coach Gardiner, who was the relay coordinator at the event for The Bahamas, took responsibility for giving the athlete permission to skip the first-round heat. An investigation went on nevertheless, but Coach Gardiner stayed strong in supporting the lanky, brilliant runner from Moore’s Island in the Abacos. In the end, Steven Gardiner was exonerated.
In that instance, the interest of the athlete was put first by Coach Gardiner. Rupert Gardiner is not a prima donna.
Rupert Gardiner’s attitude, his approach towards the general cause of the athletes, is a good one for Archer and others to emulate.
My advice to the new executives of the BAAA is to beat back the euphoria of being elected. It is now time to work, on behalf of the athletes.
Avoid the “prima donna” attitude!
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