David's Visit in February 2016
AN OBSERVER'S IMPRESSION.
As a teacher and coach I know the history of Athletics in Kiribati for the 14 years until 2011. Since then I have been in at least weekly contact with people in Kiribati, have accessed and published results of their athletes, and have been privileged to spend several weeks with KAA athletes at various competitions in the intervening five years. Thus, even though my impressions are those of an observer, my experience enables me to see trends and draw conclusions.
It is a fact that, on the track even in local overseas (Micronesia) events, Kiribati has had only limited success except in male relays and hurdles, and female long-distance events. In terms of international medals since 1998, out of 87 won (59 male and 28 female) only 25 have been on the track. For the men, 4 have been for multi-events, 3 for hurdles, 4 for relays, 27 for jumps, 14 for throws, and 7 for other track events (3 endurance). For the women, 1 has been for multi-events, 2 for hurdles, 11 for jumps, 5 for throws, and 9 for other track events (all middle- or long-distance). This indicates that there needs to be a greater emphasis on jumps and throws (and hurdles and relays which are also technical events) if KAA is to progress overseas, since history and the state of their track facilities militate against much progress on the track.
So one reason for my self-financed trip in February was to encourage correct basic techniques in jumping and throwing and hurdles to athletes, teachers and coaches from Primary Schools upwards. To assist in encouraging throws, one Vortex Howler was given to each of the 12 Primaries plus the Disabled School: this implement is light, safe, makes a whistle when thrown correctly, and is quickly learned. See image of one Head showing staff.
THE KAA PUSH FOR 'KIDS' ATHLETICS'.
Since they obtained the official IAAF pack of "Kids' Athletics" equipment last year, KAA has been encouraging more Primary Schools to participate in this project. The events of K.A. include the basics of many of the major event groups. In November 2015 (as reported earlier), a very successful collaboration of schools and villages on North Tarawa completed the first such competition in Kiribati. It is the intention of KAA to hold further such competitions in 2016 on South Tarawa, initially in two sections - since there are 12 Primary Schools on South Tarawa. So another of my purposes, as well as distributing Vortex Howlers, was to give each Head Teacher a list of events and arrange for these to be demonstrated so that the staff had a visual concept of what would be required in their own K.A. competition.
WHY ADDRESS THE P.E. STUDENT-TEACHERS ?
Similarly, when I addressed the P.E. student-teachers at Kiribati Teachers' College, I went through the same K.A. event list. This was because those new P.E. teachers will be sent out by the Ministry of Education to all the 22 inhabited islands of Kiribati - the majority to Primary Schools and J.S.S. - and thus begin to organise their own K.A. competitions much sooner than if organised by K.A.A.
USE OF EXISTING RESOURCES.
At all Primary, JSS and KTC visits, emphasis was put on the fact that "YOU DON'T NEED EXPENSIVE EQUIPMENT !" Thus the use of desks, chairs and sticks produced hurdles; a foam bar or decorated string can be used for High Jump or even hurdles; a flat stone or spherical stone from the beach can be used for basic discus and shot; a pair of flip-flops can make a wedge for speed bounce; coconuts can be used instead of cones.
RUN, JUMP, THROW.
A new A5 version of this IAAF "bible" of event techniques was given to each High School and JSS, and to KTC. It covers prgressions in all events plus some drills and training ideas and rules. Thus the P.E. teachers should keep themselves up-to-date...or will the book be put away in a drawer ?
MAINTENANCE and SECURITY ARE KEY.
As was mentioned earlier in this report, progress cannot be made on the track until the track is more secure from traffic and a programme of maintenance is put in place and followed. See images of part of the 100m. home straight and what used to be a LJ/TJ landing area. It is a matter of current debate as to whether this is the responsibility of the relevant Ministry staff or the volunteers of KAA ? Suffice to say that heavy rain brings several areas of significant flooding of the track due to wear caused by heavy trucks. In fact there is a better sprinting surface at what used to be a 400m. track (now only 300m. !) in the east of the island.
Every year there is an Inter-Secondary School competition in early July at the National Stadium. In preparation for this each of the JSS and High Schools train their own teams and have their own domestic trials. So it was no surprise and a great encouragement to see that such training is happening on weekday evenings and all day on Saturdays. However there are rarely any coaches in sight and these sessions are being run by the students themselves. So I spent many hours in evenings and on three Saturdays trying to help with core exercises, basic sprint drills, advising about Triple Jump and Shot, sprint starts (eventually with blocks !), and eating ice creams ! I found these students keen to learn and an inspiration to me, which is why we had a final supper together !
Finally I need to mention the help afforded to me by various members of the KNOC and the officials of KAA. For the first two weeks, based in Bairiki, current athlete John Ruuka was a dependable demonstator on whom to build sessions and he gave me much time plus translating my inadequate Gilbertese ! Only time will be the judge of how effective this visit has been in encouraging K.A. competition and in pushing the development of field events and hurdles.
I also tried to start regular Saturday endurance runs (see final image) but I gave no prizes !
These are of: David at home: Head with Vortex and KA event list: Hurdles with desks: hurdles (2 levels) with chairs: High Jump: Turbo throw at DNPS - see the red streak: Track at RKU National Stadium - or part of road system ?: This was a LJ/TJ pit !: Relay at JSS TUC2: Athletes' supper: 5K on DN causeway: High School training group: Rurubao PS Friday Sport: TKB PS HJ group: Four sprinter-leaders: Two trying core exercises.