This is another story that was missed in my recent travels. I like this piece on Brianna, as it gives you, the reader, a view into the many challenges of the athlete-coach relationship. This piece is done by Deji Ogeyingbo.
Brianna Williams’ latest coaching change could yet spark a revival in her career.
At what point does the changing of the guard in sports take place? It’s a natural reoccurrence in life. Sport isn’t different. The old is making way for the new, old players retiring to pave the way for the younger ones or the upcoming stars taking the bull by the horn to challenge their more established counterparts.
The shelf life of an average sportsman is about ten to twelve years at the very top. The number was way higher in the last century, but with the huge amount of money being pumped into events and competitions has mitigated a large inflow of people participating in sports from a very young age.
Athletics is one of those few sports in which you rarely find top stars continue performing at the top level going into their mid-thirties and late thirties. There are a few exceptions, though. Distance runners who transition into road running can carry on into their forties for the most part, but still, for the most part, very few can still remain at the top.
All these components constitute why precocious youngsters are so much under pressure to live up to the hype and why they pop onto the scene at a very young age. The fans crave it. The next Eliud Kipchoge, Tirunesh Dibaba, Veronica Campbell Brown, or Usain Bolt is well sort after.
So, it wasn’t surprising when a sprinting nation like Jamaica slobbered over the emergence of Brianna Williams when she popped into the scene at the World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland, in 2018. She was a beauty to behold. Poetry in motion if you like. At 16, she was miles ahead of her peers as she took down records of sprinters much older than she would have struggled.
In the Nordic country, Williams completed the sprint double in 22.50s as she became only the fourth woman to accomplish the feat and joined Campbell Brown of Jamaica, the first woman to win a double in 2000 in Santiago de Chile; Tezdzhan Naimova of Bulgaria in China in 2006, and Anthonique Strachan of the Bahamas in Barcelona, Spain in 2012.
The Island nation was in elation. They had found their next Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce. However, the following years under her coach Ato Boldon was one of stagnation and unfulfilled potential. The wait continued for her to excel on the global stage. It was no surprise when it was confirmed that she would leave the four-time Olympic winner to seek greener pastures in her home country Jamaica.
Under Ato Boldon’s guidance, Williams won the 100m and 200m and was a member of Jamaica’s gold medal-winning 4x100m relay team at the 2018 Carifta Games, which propelled her to the Austin Sealy award.
Bolton, who has coached Williams throughout her junior career, is said to have been very understanding and prepared for her transition into a suitable camp that can help her further her potential in the senior ranks, having already dominated the junior levels.
However, Boldon, who has also been a mentor to Williams, will remain as a close confidant and guide, reports underscored. HSI Sports and LEEP Marketing have also been retained as her agent and managers, respectively.
The 20-year-old sprint sensation will now be guided by Michael Frater and Gregory Little at the Kingston-based Titans International Track Club. Williams will join the likes of rising younger Akeem Blake, veteran sprinter; double Olympic silver medalist Yohan Blake, and former Commonwealth Games champion; Kemar Bailey-Cole.
This year, Williams had arguably her best season ever performance-wise at the senior level after shattering her lifetime bests twice. First 10.98s at the Jubilee series in June at Jamaica College, before again lowering that time to 10.94 at the Jamaican National championship finals a few weeks later.
But there is a feeling she could have achieved more, hence the change. On the face of it, making such a change after such a successful summer seems a ruthless decision. Yet it is not an entirely surprising one.
Sometimes, that transition is necessary. And for athletes who seem to have stagnated after excelling at the Junior level, finding the right coach to bring the best out of them can be an unsettling task; it is always worth the punt.
Williams will need help navigating the new world she is now in. That is why a move does make sense. Frater might just be navigating his coaching career and is certainly not as established as the likes of Glenn Mills and Stephen Francis, but in a very short span, he has been able to make Yohan Blake run inside 9.90s for the first time in almost five years. Surely that can count for something.
There is also the issue of time and heads-on commitment from Boldon. Williams wasn’t getting it as the Trinidadian had other engagements ranging from media to other aspects of the sports. Frater doesn’t have such as he’s still trying to grow his track club and Williams offers him the opportunity to work with a growing star and make her an established name in sprinting in years to come. It’s a win-win situation.