By Neto Baptiste
Former national football coach and head of the country’s schools football programme, Rowan Benjamin, believes that government should play a bigger role in financially assisting elite athletes who are trying to transition from an amateur to a professional career.
Benjamin, who made the argument while speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, said too many of the country’s promising talents are left to fend for themselves during their start-up years as professional athletes and that government must put measures in place cushion the financial hardship they may have to endure.
“We have to take a look back and wonder if there is a problem where or most talented athletes are not finally making the grade in terms of going all the way in terms of being a professional in the sport and that is where the government will have to come in. The government would have to really be concerned over this because if they go out there and they do well on the international scene then it would do well for the country and when you are talking about elite athletes there has to be some proper programme where we have to look after these athletes,” he said.
Benjamin, who is also coach of the Liberta Blackhawks football team, clarified that the assistance must, however, be for a specified period and should also include more or increased support when these athletes represent the country at major international meets.
“It’s not that they are going to do it infinitum, but it’s just that they have to start the athlete off maybe for the first two or three years until they really get into it. I am not saying the government should be funding these things forever. When it comes to the Olympics, then the government would, again, put in some money so that they [athletes] can get to the [host] country where the Olympics is being held … but I am talking about young athletes because otherwise we are going to lose them,” he said.
In recent past, a number of athletes have spoken out publicly as what they see as inadequate financial support from government during both their preparation phases and when attending major meets.
One such athlete is Olympian Daniel Bailey, who has said that throughout his career, he received little assistance from both the government and the NOC. Both bodies have since denied the sprinter’s claims.