During the past couple weeks I’ve been in contact with a club coach from Jamaica…not from Racers (Usain Bolt et al) or MVP (Asafa Powell et al) but a lesser known club named Atlethico Union track club. I ended up donating some used equipment from my training center Athletic Lab and was a little embarrassed to be sending used equipment that we were planning to eventually throw away. But the coach I’d been speaking to, Garth Smythe, assured me that they had nothing and something was always better than nothing. So on a recent trip to Jamaica I was asked to speak at Green Pond High School / Atlethico Union track club. Having spent quite a bit of time on the island with local family and friends and trained many high level Jamaican athletes both in soccer and track, I knew that the impression most people have of sports on the island is not based in reality. The fact that Jamaica is the sprint capitol of the world has little to do with resources or training facilities. There are more outdoor synthetic tracks in the mid-major city (Cary, NC) where I live than the entire island of Jamaica. Weight rooms are ancient and outdated by North American standards.
In fact, the picture above is all the track club had for weights. No bar…just two rusted steel plates that sat out on the field. The track was dry, cracked, and uneven grass. I was told that if a runner sprinted a 55 second quarter mile run on this track they could be as fast as 48 seconds on a synthetic track. There’s no coaching education to speak of and athletes succeed largely on talent and the commitment of selfless coaches. So while we see the tip of the Usain Bolts winning races and setting world records it’s easy to overlook that Jamaica is largely still a third world country. It makes you wonder how successful they could be if they had the resources of their international peers.
If you’re interested in donating to Atlethico-Union you can do so here.