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One On One
Playing a major role in local sport landscape
SPORTS ADMINISTRATOR and the man behind Clarendon College's track and field success in the late 1970s and early '80s, Ludlow Watts, is still playing a major role in the local sport landscape. Watts is general manager of the Sports Development Foundation (SDF), a government institution which has been focusing on the development of facilities across the island.
A former senior banker, Watts, who managed several Jamaica track and field teams to Olympic and World Championships, is also the treasurer of the Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association (JAAA).
One on One caught up with the Watts, who was the meet director at June's National Senior and Junior Championships, and asked these questions.
Q: You are an old boy of Clarendon College and, it is said, a substantial part of the team's success in the '70s and '80s was due to your role.
Ludlow Watts: During the 1970s, without much support, Clarendon College was doing remarkably well at Champs, amassing in excess of 40 points each year over several years. Credit must be given to John Green, the sports master, who was doing a good job in developing athletes. Energised by the success of the football team, in 1977 I called Tony Pickersgill, the president of the past students' association and told him that we could win Champs if we took over the management of the school's track team. He referred me to another past student - Gilbert 'Gillie' Russell, and together we planned and executed the programme to the extent that Clarendon College, Kingston College and Calabar were regarded as the 'track schools' of Jamaica.
In 1977, we place second and lost by 8.5 points - maybe the result of inexperience. In 1978 to 1981 we placed third. In 1982, 1984 and 1985 we finished first. It was a two-man effort that cost us heavily in terms of time and money and given some other administrative difficulties, we took leave from the programme in 1988. During the period 1977-1986, we won several Penn Relays awards and many stellar events at Champs, including Class One 200m, 400m, 4x100m relay, 4x400m relay and sprint hurdles.
There are a number of coaches who were responsible for the success of the programme and these included: Charlie Grant, Constantine Haughton and Leo Brown.
Q:Tell me about some national athletes, coming out of that Clarendon programme in whose prowess and performance you managed to play a major role.
LW: Dennis Wallace - the 1984 Olympic 4x400m relay runner and Everton DaCosta, an outstanding 800m runner 1980-1984. The girls team, including Sandie Richards, did extremely well, but we did not give them the level of support they deserved.
Q:You have managed several track and field teams to major events, how did that start and how satisfying has it been?
LW: My management of teams started at the Carifta and Junior CAC Champs level (1997-2000) and my first senior assignment was the World Championships in Edmonton in 2001 as manager. It has been quite a rewarding experience managing our own athletes, living in a Games village and interacting with the rest of the world. All the skills in management are needed at this level.
Q: Looking at the Edmonton World Championships in 2001, not only were both your twin sons on that team, Marvin in the 800m and Mario in the 400m hurdles, but other members of your family, your wife and daughter, were there as spectators. What was that experience like - keeping the balance between being there for the athletes and seeing to family matters?
LW: I was selected as manager of the team and that was my entire focus. At no time did family matters conflict with the purpose of my being there. It is not often though that two siblings, twins at that, make a national senior team at the same time.
Q: You had three sons who all attended St. George's College. Marvin was a 800m Class One champion, Mario won Class Three sprint hurdles, but did not pursue the sport seriously until after school, switching instead to football where he played outstandingly on the Manning Cup team, and Jermaine also played good football under coach Neville Bell. What role did you play in all these successes by your sons?
LW: My life was all sports. While in banking, two friends of mine referred to me as a sportsman who happens to be a banker. I participated actively in cricket, football and athletics and I have always had immense passion for sports. It was my plan, and I mean it sincerely, that all my male children should represent Jamaica, and they did. My biggest disappointment was with Mario who could have been an Olympic 400m hurdles medallist but did not have the commitment to give even 50 per cent of time to track and field. How many people do you know would be a World Champion-ships semi-finalist and an alternate relay bronze medallist in August and turn up for a Premier League team in September of the same year? Neville Bell had a great influence on all of them and must be commended.
Q: You were a senior back manager at NCB. How has the discipline in that employment assisted you in your present role at SDF and treasure at JAAA?
LW: Being a senior banker is perhaps the best training that one can have in life as all aspects of management have to be displayed every day. The job demanded strong human resources skills, strong leadership skills, financial management skills and practices, high level of confidentiality and exposure to many types of businesses. That experience has equipped me to undertake just about any task that I may face in life. It is helping me to perform at the JAAA and at the SDF.
Q: At various high-quality track and field meets at the National Stadium you have acted as chief starter. How did you get to become a starter?
LW: I have been the chief starter since the 1996 Carifta Games in Kingston. I successfully completed the IAAF Officials Course in 1986 and, after working in a number of areas for one season, I decided that I would be a starter and proceeded on that path by going to all the development meets, including those that other starters could not attend. In those instances, I sometimes started all the races, thereby gaining confidence and stamina. As a starter, stamina and concentration are vital.
Q: You are now serving as treasurer of the JAAA for a second four-year term. What are the upwards movements you can say this association has made within the past five years?
LW: This association has promoted the development of athletes by providing opportunities to compete locally and internationally. Opportunities are also being provided in the non-traditional events with a view to encouraging greater participation. Coaches are being exposed to more coaching and training seminars. We have been constantly upgrading technical equipment to enhance the running of track meetings at all levels.
Q: Athletes continue to complain about financial problems. What are some of the things you, as treasurer, have put in place to address the matter?
LW: The JAAA has appointed personnel to deal with this particular issue. Speaking personally, I am only aware of two such complaints and the one that got the most prominence recently relates to a female athlete who was selected on the Jamaica team for mere exposure as she did not meet the 'A' qualifying standard.
Interestingly, this athlete, who has lived nearly all her life in the United States, could not qualify for the U.S. team. There were demands made by that athlete which I will not disclose in this forum. We have a system to assist our athletes and as the annual financial statement shows, a substantial sum is provided each year. Of course, we do not advertise the names of the athletes to whom we provide assistance.
- Anthony Foster