Tanya Lee | Let’s encourage Kevona and Briana
I’ve been looking at reactions in the social media landscape since signing day this week when it was announced that ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships sensation Kevona Davis is headed to the University of Texas. I must admit that it’s with a sense of befuddlement that I read the largely negative responses to her decision.
I note that there is disbelief among some local track fans, some of whom are suggesting that she made a bad choice in heading to college instead of starting her professional career.
Of course, a slew of comparisons begins to emerge as well between Davis and Jamaica’s World Under-20 double sprint champion Briana Williams, who started her professional career earlier this year.
One downright vile comment on a Facebook thread reads: “I think Briana growing up in America provided her with good sense around her. Pure dunce bat surrounds Kevona in Jamaica.”
First, this is an unfortunate statement. I put it to all readers that both ladies can choose two different paths and still go on to achieve massive success both for themselves and for Jamaica. There is no one-size-fits-all route towards success in track and field. Given numerous variables, some of which are unique to 2020, I firmly believe that Davis made the best choice at this time.
Given that numerous comparisons are sitting within the social media space, I will add that Williams experienced the best of times in signing to Nike and going professional before the advent of the global pandemic. She will have the safety net of her professional shoe contract for 2020 and beyond. She will be 19 next season and will have an even greater chance of success at the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games. Williams has the experience of already facing two of Jamaica’s former Olympic champions in Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce on more than one occasion. That experience, her ace conditioning by Ato Boldon, and her shrewd fearlessness will auger well for her success in short order.
For Davis, her trajectory may take a little more time, but the sprint prodigy is still within the developmental stages but will likely have a successful career as well. Currently, Davis may have a few more considerations, one of which is her propensity for injury.
Davis did remarkably well as a talent for Edwin Allen High School, but we can’t ignore that she has not completed a full season where her injury did not factor in competition, and so this may also play a part in her decision.
In a podcast interview with Ricardo Chambers four weeks ago, Davis shared that she was weighing her options and had even spent a week training with the MVP Track Club. She seemed more interested in taking the university route, however, as she stated: “In track and field, anything can happen, and I might get injured and I can’t do anything else … . What am I going to do with the rest of my life (if I get injured)? If I have a degree, and I get an injury, I can always get a job, and that is my source of income.”
Another consideration for all athletes right now is that it is unlikely that shoe companies will be seeking to sign new athletes with the advent of the global pandemic. Without a professional shoe contract in sight, the biggest earner for athletes, it would be ill-advised for Davis to go the professional route. Athletes who are currently participating in track and field without a shoe contract are likely feeling the effects of coronavirus as they continue to have expenses but no revenue.
And so Davis heads to Texas, where she enters an excellent programme, led by head coach Edrick Floréal, who prepared US national champion Teahna Daniels last season. No doubt, Davis embarks on a great track programme and a school with a strong tradition. She will have time to get stronger and leaner, but certainly not at her expense and while pursuing a tertiary education.
I can never consider a choice that includes education a bad one. It is overly used, but the adage that comes to mind is “silver and gold may vanish away, but a good education will never decay”.
Wishing all the very best to both our starlets, Davis and Williams. Jamaica’s future in female sprinting seems quite secure. Let’s encourage our young talent!
Tanya Lee has over 10 years’ expertise as a Caribbean sports marketer and is also an athlete manager and publicist.