Sunday, April 21, 2024

Maynard, 70 and still keeping up sports pace

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THE AGE OF 70 is often considered a time when many are in retirement mode, but Esther Maynard compares life at 70 to the rippling after a stone has been thrown into a river: it just keeps flowing.

Her 51-year involvement in track and field, which includes 12 years as president of the Athletics Association of Barbados, six years as vice-president and 13 years as secretary, was one which flourished from her youthful years at St Gabriel’s School.

Without a single regret after all those years, the sports administrator and former physical education teacher revealed she kept finding new avenues in track and field to pursue and that was where she found her niche, now particularly in the administration. 

Admitting she was not the greatest runner at school, she pointed out that she enjoyed it and ambition was all that was needed to do the trick.

“Sport and games were my passion – everything else was second to that and only supported that. I was fortunate or unfortunate to have the two top sprinters in my form, so I always came third to them . . . . But I had more passion for it than people that were better at the sport. I used to sprint, high jump, play netball, play tennis, you name it, I did it,” she told SUNSPORT.

The mother of two and grandmother of two said that similar determination was geared towards her pursuing her dream of becoming a physical education teacher, a position which she held at the secondary level for 12 years and another 24 years at tertiary level.

After being an International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) student in the United States, she taught kindergarten for a while, but switched her choice of subject area and age group teaching.

“I love children, so the two passions came together and led me to teaching physical education. I couldn’t be taught in the Caribbean, but I achieved the dream of going overseas to be trained in England. I spent two years teaching here and one year working before I went to England in 1967 to study at the Lady Mabel College,” said the gym freak, as she called herself, admitting that she is the same weight now at 70 as she was at 17.

After completing her three-year certificate, she spent a year teaching in England before returning to Barbados in 1971, and her involvement in sports has been unbroken from then until now.

One of the achievements she remains extremely proud of was her leading the females of Alexandra School to victory at the then Inter-School Athletics Championships in 1978 and 1979.

“I found that my kids at Alexandra were very adept at licking mangoes out of the tree with a rock and I built on this and probably developed more throwers in that era than anybody else. In the 1979 championships there were ten throwing events on the programme and Alexandra won nine of them. The one that we didn’t win was the girls’ discus and a little stripling, who was very good but small, came second,” she said with an ear to ear smile.

Moving to the Barbados Community College where she held the title of tutor for the development and implementation of associate degrees in physical education and sports management, led to her involvement in sport locally, regionally and internationally.

In later years Maynard became an IAAF technical delegate and international official and had the opportunity of being a technical delegate at the World Junior Championships and will also be a technical delegate at next year’s World Relay Championships.

Although she gave up the presidency of the association she certainly did not give up athletics. As the technical director she plans yearly schedules, keeps records and assists with the standards of various meets.

Maynard, who has a zone named after her at the Barbados Secondary Schools Athletic Championships (BSSAC), said she saw it as an overwhelming achievement.

“It’s a humbling honour because BSSAC is about young, developing athletes that we have been entrusted with their care. It is one that I can enjoy more so because I’m in the midst of it. Yes, you go and get various high awards, but this is a living, breathing thing and you see what it is all about. I love children, I love to watch the little five-year-olds and even before that you can see where a natural talent lies,” she said.

Maynard is the holder of the IAAF plaque and was inducted into the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Hall of Fame in 2010.

Throughout her outstanding career in track and field, Maynard has managed several national teams since 1974, including teams to the Olympic Games, Pan Am Games, World Championships, CAC Championships and was also Barbados’ chef de mission at the 1992 Olympics, the 1994 Commonwealth Games and three Pan Am Games.

She said that through the years there had been some challenges concerning finances and their distribution in the schools, but she has always sought to assist with the solution of those problems, dedicating her time to raising funds and pledges to continue to help in any way she can.

Along with technical directing she hones the skill of jewellery making, craft, sewing and crochet and currently conducts a stall in Brighton, St George.

Becoming skilled in beading in 2006, she created a necklace which has been adopted by the women in sport throughout the North America Central America and Caribbean (NACAC) region.

“The ball is a special piece which comes in all kinds – pearls, semi-precious, mixed colours and plain. We say we are the women in sport with balls. The symbol signifies strength and unity,” she revealed.

And for Maynard, that strength and future in track and field in the island are built on what happens at the primary level. She said athletes often went on, but the challenge came in the area of funding.

“When they leave the collegiate level . . . it is an expensive one to make sure the resources are put behind the potential. It’s a challenge having to choose which to support. We, as an association, have been working on it steadily . . . . Everything must work together if we are to achieve,” she said.

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