Start with young The only Olympian with a well-documented ‘puppalick’ is Dr Gregory Haughton, an athlete who combined academic excellence with athletic prowess and ability, gave a thoughtful speech at the 2018 graduation at the Edna Manley College of Visual Arts on Saturday. One aspect of his wide-ranging address was his observation of the lack of mental training as part of the development of our sport practitioners. Haughton’s observation is spot on. He has voiced a regular and perennial complaint of lesser lights (Gleaner columnists), whose observations and comments in this regard have been ignored, for the most part by those whose responsibilities include the development of sports in Jamaica. Our Island, richly blessed with children and adults of extraordinary athletic ability, has consistently failed to be the best in the world in team sports, while conquering all in individual events. This lack of mental ability and fortitude is painfully on show in the game of cricket. In the men’s game, we have undoubted world-rated stars, but when it comes on to games where ability, form, and the ability to THINK at crucial stages of the game, when things are not going well, the ranking of the Windies among Test nations tell the sorry tale. In the present ICC Women’s T20 taking place in the West Indies, our female cricketers are so far unbeaten. Seeing off all their opponents even though at different stages in all but one of their matches, defeat was a clear and present danger. But the ability to THINK by these ladies, including those who by no stretch of the imagination could be termed ‘world stars’, saw them snatching victory from the jaws of defeat over and over again. The reason: the ability to THINK and adjust their game when the going got tough. That mental fortitude that Haughton identified cannot be coached. It has to be taught and developed at the early stages of an athlete’s life. It must start with the young. The best coaches do this: look at the results of our junior teams at the world level. So, what happens to our adult athletes at the world level? What has happened to their ability to THINK when the going gets tough? Money and arrogance. “You know me” seems to be the thinking behind inexplicable mental lapses in tight team games when the going gets tough. These same men, who as juniors seem to know what to do in adjusting their game, fail miserably when competing against other teams at the world level. The bald fact is that we don’t know you. The same junior who thought his/her way out of difficult situations suddenly acts in a way that defies description. Shot selection by the batters is so poor that it looks criminal. The ability to bowl a ball in the areas of the pitch that minimise big scores, suddenly leaves the mind of our adult bowlers. With fielders who as juniors caught most of the catches that come their way, balls on the ground that pass within a dive of an outstretched hand, inexplicably, are either dropped or somehow pass harmlessly under their bodies. The answer: A sports psychologist. A trained scientist who is able to assist the athlete in making the right decision when the going gets tough. We have trained sport psychologists in Jamaica. Those that have been hired to assist teams have done well, and then after success and victory, they are discarded and the sums set aside for their remuneration is channelled to something else, with the usual result: defeat. When will we learn? When will medicine and science be an integral component of Jamaican sports? The answer? When the present cadre of sport administrators eventually realise that the modern game has passed them by, and that new (young) ideas and leaders are needed. But in my beloved country, no leader voluntarily leaves, even when the sport that they are administering falls precipitously in world ranking. In a Trump-like manner, they rush to the airwaves and praise themselves while the sport and the fans suffer. Sigh.
“I want to invite him, because our children love him,” Han said during an AFC gathering in the Philippine capital Manila.“When I go to the Pyongyang international school, I ask them who do you think is the best player. They say: “Ah, we love Messi!” Even the girls,” she added.“They read books about Messi and watch his games through the Internet. They can see all the games, China, Europe and everything at our Pyongyang International School. They can watch any football.“They love football, that’s why they know all the players’ names and everything.”Football’s biggest stars frequently make trips to fast-growing Asia, but a visit by Messi, nominated for a fifth world player of the year award, to secretive North Korea would cause a stir.“Lots of students love Messi, because Messi’s a very honest man. He loves children,” said Han.She said the academy is the brainchild of sports-mad supreme leader Kim Jong-Un, who also likes basketball and has previously hosted ex-NBA player Dennis Rodman in Pyongyang.– Musk deer glands –About 200 boys and girls aged nine, 10 and 11 train at the new facility, which opened this year and gathers North Korea’s most promising football talent.“They’re selected from all over the country. Our FA (football association) goes to all the provinces and chooses them,” said Han.“We have a lot of matches at weekends, we see them and choose the best. But if we see they’re not developing, we send them back and choose another one.”Han said it may be five years before North Korea’s senior sides start reaping the benefits of the academy. North Korea’s men reached the 2010 World Cup and they will contest the Asian Cup in January.North Korea are banned from next year’s Women’s World Cup after five players failed drugs tests at the 2011 edition — a result they said came from taking traditional medicine, containing musk deer glands, to treat lightning strikes.But Han is expecting that North Korea’s women, three-time champions of Asia, will burst back on the scene when they are next eligible for the World Cup in 2019.“They’re so good. It’s a great generation. Also the under-17s are very good,” she said.North Korea, without a professional league and with no club teams competing in regional contests, are currently ranked 135th in the world ahead of their Asian Cup opener against Uzbekistan on January 10.Forays onto the big stage include the 1966 World Cup, when they stunned Italy to reach the quarter-finals, and an infamous World Cup qualifier in 2005 against Iran in Pyongyang, which ended in a riot.But North Korea will be buoyed by their feat in reaching the Asian Games final in October, where they narrowly lost 1-0 to cross-border rivals South Korea — with whom they are technically still at war.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000MANILA, December 2- A top North Korean football official said she wants megastar Lionel Messi to visit a new football academy in the communist state, where the Barcelona wonder is a huge hit with kids.Han Un-Gyong, a member of the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) executive committee, said children at the Pyongyang International Football School were avid fans of the Argentine.