By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THE Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations is all set to kick off its 2019 season on Saturday, January 5 with the Odd Distance Track and Field Meet at the original Thomas A Robinson Stadium.
And according to newly elected president Drumeco Archer, the event will be a rebranding of the sport as they work towards regaining the support of all the stakeholders.
“The odd distance is an odd event where we will have irregular events that will take place,” Archer said.
“We are looking forward to seeing the conditions of the athletes. We have set out a mandate that the standards will be higher for our junior programme and obviously we are working very closely with our senior and elite athletes.” The Odd Distance Meet, which enables competitors to run different events such as the 75, 150, 300, 500, 600 and 1200 metres on the track and use a shorter approach or standing positions for the jumping and throwing events, will be a benchmark for the BAAA programme for 2019, according to Archer.
“This will be the start of a new branding exercise for the federation, where we try to create a different kind of appeal and so what we will be doing is we are going to be having entertainment elements that will add to the audity of the event,” Archer revealed.
“We’ve engaged a number of radio houses and that will be the basis of an entertainment programme that will be launched. For instance, we will have the battle of the DJ’s at the Odd Distance Meet.”
Archer is encouraging persons who would not normally come out to a track and field meet to come out and be a part of the activities planned for the day.
“We are having advanced discussions at the competitive level and what we are also doing, of course it is still early in the year, but we are still mounting a new marketing programme to see how we can integrate a lot more of our partners in the things that we do,” he said.
“That would mean that we have to recreate a lot of products and in creating the products is how we will get the fans back into the stadium.”
The BAAA will also officially begin its qualification process for the 2019 Carifta Games that will be held in the Cayman Islands from April 20-22.
Already, one athlete has unofficially qualified for the games after Keyshawn Strachan, a member of the Blue Chips Athletics, surpassed the standards in the under-20 boys javelin at the RC Athletics Thrower Meet earlier this month at the University of the Bahamas playing field.
Archer said the BAAA is in the process of ratifying the Carifta standards.
“The new approach is simply this, we can not continue doing the same thing that has been done in the past,” he disclosed. “Historically, we’ve looked at a sixth place performance at the previous games that would set the standard for the upcoming one.
“For me, there’s a clear pattern as to why we are not as competitive as we used to be in the past. That’s because we have athletes who make a lower standard when it comes to the regional competition and they are not competitive.”
Archer said they are looking at an average of fourth place over the past 2-3 Carifta Games to estab.ish the standards for the upcoming games.
“That is creating a bit of resistance, but clearly what this shows is that there is glaring weaknesses in our programme,” he pointed out.
“There are clubs who are saying that there are athletes who will not be able to compete at that level. What that means is that we need to have a deeper reflection of where our programme is and then putting resources behind the weaker areas of the programme.”
By enforcing the standards, Archer said they will end up limiting the amount of athletes that they take on the team who would not have done the qualifying standards.
In the case of persons for the relay pools for the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400m, Archer said they are considering taking athletes who would have qualified, but won’t make the team because there are two others who qualified ahead of them for events like the 100 and 400m.
“We re considering taking the third place qualifier to make up the relay pool in events where the first two athletes have qualified,” Archer said.
“We see that as a practical approach to having a competitive field of athletes. That is the only possible exception we are looking at when we put the team together.”
On the issue of the high exorbitant fees that the clubs are being charged to stage their various meets, Archer said they hoping to sit down with the stakeholders to work out a more economic arrangements.
He made the case that in a conversation with a local coach, who is preparing to host a meet next year, he’s being charged at least $4,000 for the use of the stadium and janitorial and security services.
Additionally, Archer said the Bahamas Association of Certified Officials are charging another $3,000 plus food and stipend, as well as the Tek team that serves as the event management, who is charging another $2-3,000.
When adding the cost of providing lunch as well for their staff, Archer said the figure could easily amount to over $15,000 before a coach or coach makes their first dollar.
“So it’s kind of counter-productive to the sport. I just think we need to have a buy in from all of the stakeholders,” he said.
“So I think when we can sit down and look at the numbers, either we move to a certain aspect of voluntarism once again, which made track and field successful in the past, or we simply find a solution that is economically sound for all involved.”
Archer said the business model just need to work in tandem with the local clubs that are being drastically affected.