Laurie Foster: Supporting Cameron Blazers

first_imgCourtesy of track and field athlete mentor and considerably more, Hugh Scott, Foster’s Fairplay was invited to support a fund-raising. The idea was to stir the pot on assistance for the Cameron Blazers Track Club. Those associated with the sport will recognise Scott, a Calabar Old Boy, as someone who works behind the scenes to give nurture and sustenance to a project in which he believes. Without his permission, this journalist will say no more. Suffice to add that, from personal experience, his passion and commitment have mushroomed to give recognition and reward, which have proven to be of inestimable value to young athletes. Cameron Blazers, the relatively new track and field learning institution, is founded and administered by 1983 Helsinki 400m World champion, Bertland Cameron. It was the inaugural staging of the prestigious event. Of those privileged to be listening to the BBC commentary, who can forget mention of “the boy from Spanish Town”, so described one is sure with no intention or desire to demean or disrespect. It was a moment of pride for Jamaica in an era where the ground work was just being laid for the multiple medal scenario that popped out at us, come Beijing 2008 and the (Usain) Bolt and Shelly (Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce) factor. The following year came the Los Angeles Olympics. Expectations ran high. Cameron was at the top of the world in the 400m. In the semi-finals, he stormed out to settle a verbal and mental battle with the United States’ number two man, Antonio McKay, who was talking up a storm about his pending encounter with our boy Bert. Popular feeling is that the focus on the blabbermouth, McKay, led to that extra effort on the backstretch, result a pulled hamstring mid race and what should have been an end to his Olympics. Vividly recalled, is the shout coming from a friend and freight forwarder, Delroy, at whose home in Florida the race was being watched: “He is coming back for them!” Bert was fourth and qualified injury and all for the final two days later. The pain and disappointment of not being able to take his lane and repeat the previous year’s gold medal performance still lingers for some. They form the basis of the wish for him to put his imprint on an event where the world has witnessed and welcomed his immense talent as a performer. With all that history and the potent support in his corner, the former national record holder (44.50 at the 1988 Seoul Olympics) will have his challenges. He has had his comeuppance with detractors, which has been part of the politics of the sport. He is blessed to have in his camp a number of athletes who have already signalled their one-lap value on the global scene. TO THE NEXT LEVEL Coming to mind are Jermaine Gonzales, (national record holder from 2010 with 44.40); Javere Bell, national champion in 2013, 45.00); Jaheel Hyde, still a junior with a 400m hurdles personal best of 49.01 and reigning champion at that event and 110m hurdles at the World Junior Championships and Youth Olympics, respectively. There is also Rosemarie Whyte-Robinson, the 2008 national champion with a then career best of 50.05. Osaka World Championship 200m finalist, Marvin Anderson, now turned coach and administrator, will adapt to the crucial role as manager of the club’s talent. After a stint with the Racers Track Club, Bert is now steering his own ship. This must be the engine he needs to drive his own coaching future. Even with the tools he has already assembled, a lot more is required. There is a template of the ultimate in success established by his former employers, led by the inimitable Glen Mills and their counterparts down the road, in Stephen Francis’ MVP. They did not attain their current lofty perch without strong financial backing. Foster’s Fairplay reaches out to Corporate Jamaica and Cameron’s St Jago High School family, especially the super-active overseas-based chapters, to afford the platform that the Blazers need to move their effort to the next level. Jamaica has blazed the trail in this event, starting with the Helsinki Olympics quartet of Arthur Wint, Les Laing, Herb McKenley and George Rhoden in 1952. If anyone is capable of bringing the country back to that level, Bert Cameron surely can. – For Feedback: E-mail lauriefoster2012@gmail.comlast_img read more

Virtual reality program teaches kids how to cross streets safely

first_imgTORONTO – With most kids heading back to school this week, many parents may be concerned about whether younger children are traffic-savvy enough to cross the street without supervision.Can they judge how far away an approaching vehicle is? Or how fast it’s travelling to make it across safely?“Parents tend to overestimate their child’s crossing ability,” said Barbara Morrongiello, a psychologist at the University of Guelph, whose research focuses on childhood injury prevention.“The parents tend to assume children are much more cautious than they are in fact.”So Morrongiello assembled a team of computer science students to design a program that teaches children how to cross the street using real-life scenarios — all within a computerized virtual reality environment that allows them to learn and practice.“In our system, the children are fully immersed in the pedestrian environment,” she explained from Guelph, Ont. “So they basically wear 3D goggles and are actually in the environment, they’re not observing the environment.“We can see their reaction time and their attention because we code where they’re looking and their speed of reaction.“In our system, we have a very sequential learning strategy. So we start by selecting where you cross and then we talk about how to cross and when to cross.”The virtual reality program teaches the child by having them traverse a two-lane road where there’s a blind curve or a hill, as well as what to do when crossing at a point between parked cars.A pop-up character that acts as a coach reacts to the child’s movements, saying for instance: “Oh, that was great” or “But you didn’t look to the left, so let’s practise that again.”“It was set up that way so the child can work independently,” said Morrongiello, adding that the program can take an hour or two depending on the child’s attention span.“So it’s a very tailored approach to learning. We try to make it so each child has a fun experience and wants to continue to play it.”In a study of 130 children aged seven to 10, those who were trained in street-crossing techniques using the program fared much better than a control group of kids who didn’t get the virtual reality training.Those assigned to take part in the VR program made 75 to 98 per cent fewer road-crossing errors following the test, compared to their untrained counterparts, said the researchers, whose study was recently published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.“The children did exceptionally well,” said Morrongiello.One of kids who took part in the study when he was younger was Kaelan Rekker.“It was really cool because it was my first time doing virtual reality,” said Kaelan, now 11 and about to enter Grade 6.“Yeah, I made a few mistakes at first,” he admitted from his home in Guelph. “I got hit by a few cars.“After that, then I was really focused on looking both ways before crossing the street … (and) like looking for gaps between the cars and how fast they were going so that I could walk across.”His mother Kristen Rekker said she was more concerned about street-crossing skills when Kaelan, his twin sister Eden and their 13-year-old brother Dawson were younger.But because of their different personality traits, Rekker was a bit more concerned about Kaelan, who “sometimes makes different decisions than the other two, who might be more careful at crossing the street.”“It’s only in the past few years that they’ve been walking to school on their own and they’ve had to cross a rather busy intersection on their way to school.”The researchers designed the program to be inexpensive, requiring only the use of a computer, 3D goggles and a game-controller like that of an Xbox to operate the virtual reality environment.“We’re hoping to disseminate it broadly. It could go in a library, it could go in a school,” said Morrongiello, noting that the program is not a money-making venture.“We do it because we really are passionate about preventing childhood injuries.”With good reason: child pedestrian injuries are a leading cause of injury-related death among Canadian children aged 14 years or younger, according to Parachute Canada, an organization that promotes evidence-based solutions to avoid preventable injuries.The Guelph researchers have already been contacted by a public health group in Israel and are in the process of translating the program into Hebrew, with a likely roll-out date in January.Morrongiello said she welcomes inquiries from school boards, municipalities and other organizations both in Canada and abroad.She won’t name a specific age when kids are ready to learn to cross the street independently, as perceptual skills and brain development vary from child to child. But generally, she suggests starting when kids are aged seven or eight.“We are very cautious in our training,” Morrongiello said. “Even when these children succeed, we make them understand and their parents understand that it doesn’t mean that they’re now free to go and cross streets on their own.“It means they have a better understanding going out our door than they did coming in. But that doesn’t mean necessarily they’re going to be able to handle any traffic situation or any unpredictable situation, like when they’re late for school and in a hurry.”— Follow @SherylUbelacker on Twitter.last_img read more