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Old April 20th, 2012, 07:21 PM
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Stonigut Stonigut is offline
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Join Date: Oct 1995
Location: Texas
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Default Raising the bar on Jamaican football culture!!

Jamaicans love the idea of being world beaters, it really doesn’t matter what the endeavor is as long as we are competing at a high level and have a chance to compete, we love it and we are totally into it! It makes us feel special and validates our sense of self, our sense of being Jamaican!

There are some fields of competition that we are more focused on than others; the big three, track and field, cricket and most importantly football, however it has been the case that the overall structure, talent identification process, competitive systems and improvement processes for these sports have been well in place in both cricket and in track and field and have been built upon for over 100 years; with a cultural infrastructure built around consistent measurement, targeted goals and constant feedback and improvement systems in place at pretty much every level.

Thus our consistent delivery of world class athletes in these areas, actually that should read dominant world class athletes. In track and field I don’t even have to mention the multiplicity of names from Wint through Walker, and in cricket most recently we have true world class performers like Courtney Walsh, Chris Gayle and a number of others in the past 20 years.

In football this has not happened, it has not even come close to happening! We have not developed a true world class footballer at an equivalent Walsh type level(one of the world’s greatest all time bowlers, he is in that discussion) or even at a Gayle type level (a world beater and one of the best bats of this current era).

The closest we have come is Ricardo Gardener and Ricardo Fuller, the first is a consistent contributor on an English Premier league team (best league in the world) for ten plus years, an excellent achievement, especially when compared to all the other players we have developed over the past 30 years, but not a world beater. Fuller has shown flashes of unparalleled brilliance followed by tons of nothing special, but still he has remained relevant to his club and he and Gardener are the best we have seen of our home grown talent in the past 30 years!

Outside of those two players we have some pretty good players in the Scandinavian leagues who have demonstrated they have what it takes to play professional ball on a consistent basis and this is especially so in the MLS, another second tier professional league from a world perspective where Richards, Marshall, Cummings, Williams, Ricketts and a number of others are the best we have to show over the past 10 years, very good players, strong contributors perhaps superior contributors on their team and in the case of Cummings, Marshall and Ricketts have come close to being dominant performers in the MLS but clearly not world beaters!

While at the same time we can name at will, multiple West African players that just seem to ooze to the surface so frequently, now of course we are not comparing Jamaica to the great continent or to a region of that great continent or even to any one specific country as the population size in all these countries way outstrip Jamaica but just looking at the quality of talent that has emerged from multiple countries in West Africa, is…. just amazing! from Ghana; Ayew, Gyan, Essien, Prince Boateng, Asamoah; from the Ivory Coast the Toure brothers and Drogba; from Nigeria a number of really good to great players; from Mali; Kanoute and Keita and on and on it goes where it stops, it will never stop!

What are those countries doing to identify and develop that talent, we must be doing something wrong!!!! I did not even get to Eto’o from Cameroon!! They are all playing at the best clubs in the world and are “Stars” there, everybody know them, ask an average non-Jamaican football fan to name one Jamaican football player and see the puzzled look you get!!

One of the most basic issues with Jamaican football as opposed to say track and field is this issue of measuring performance and identifying and selecting the best players for national duty. Too often we see players lauded for occasional and infrequent brilliant play that somehow gets multiplied manifold in the minds of some and becomes the stuff of legend.

One excellent defense splitting pass once per ten games or one incredible goal per year or a few body shifts leaving an opponent wobble footed in any way and somehow we have a player of mythic proportions, a Greek god! and once such status has been conveyed by any party it is not retractable, least of all in the mind of the player to who it has been attributed to, regardless of subsequent poor performance or no performance, it becomes a struggle of immense proportions between those for; and those against this player with no traction ever gained by either side, just tons of useless and at best somewhat entertaining labrish!!

The truth is it seems very much that when we as fans talk about players it is always more anecdotal rather than about consistent performance, we are not looking at multiple areas of performance and pulling together key indices to measure effectiveness as a player and certainly not in the specific areas in which we are looking for excellence.

As stated before track and field is really pretty straightforward, the person with the best times, longest, highest leaps and throws and doing so consistently and at the right time such as trials will always be selected…………. well most of the time!!!

It can never be the case in track and field that even if one athlete has superior form, better work habits, is more dedicated, has better track pedigree (KC versus Green Island for instance), speaks multiple languages, is brilliant in multiple subjects and is good looking to boot, can she or he ever be the choice over the person who has none of the above or much less in these areas but bottom line is consistently faster or better based on the performance measurement.

There is no real debate on this point, but in football that is not the case and there are many examples of this inconsistency in the selection process, lack of clear and consistent criteria from which to make such selection on the football side of the sports ledger. Some will say that is the difference between a total team sport and sports where there is a considerable element in the individual pursuit for personal improvement and gain which seems to have a clearer path in Track and Field and Cricket.

The bottom line is that the consistent measurement of performance, setting of goals and holding players accountable for their performance at an individual and team level can be the difference maker and the same key criteria can be used to identify the best players, this can be implemented to work consistently and to create the best total outcome, superior individual players and a superior national team. Create the cultural infrastructure for measuring performance and building on that will create the right focus and steer the program down the proper path to consistent improvement.

On an individual fan level from primary school right through premier league ball there is definitely a bias to those players that have the best fluidity in form and best simultaneous mind and body control which can render some opponents incapable of responding in an appropriate manner, this worship by fans at the “balla altar’ of these type of assets promote the development of the wrong set of skills and attributes on a consistent basis when the focus should be on more tangible, clearly measurable performance indicators.

What are these performance indicators, very simple and straightforward stuff! That is next!!
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