By Rawle Welch
The Boss of international athletics Senegalese Lamine Diack speaking recently with the Jamaica Observer said that the world could learn a lot from what Jamaica is doing for its athletes.
The IAAF President advised countries in the world to take a page out of the book of the Jamaicans who’ve implemented a well-defined policy for sports in schools and have invested heavily in its development which has already begun to reap huge dividends.
Diack speaking about the Boys and Girls Athletic Championships revealed that it was through the birth of such competitions that has helped secure a bright future for Jamaica in the athletics community.
The Caribbean island which was more known for its production of ‘Reggae’ superstars is now regarded as the ‘Sprint Capital’ of the world, replacing the USA after some mesmerising performances from its athletes at the Beijing Olympics and the Berlin World Championships last year.
The former long jumper, who has been at the helm of the sport for over a decade, felt that Jamaica’s success is mainly due to the proliferation of School Meets which has produced stars such as current world 100 and 200 metres record holder Usain Bolt, Olympic and World champions Melaine Walker and Veronica Campbell-Brown, who according to him, all performed outstandingly during their school careers.
Well, even though Diack was perhaps specifically referring to athletics, local administrators here should heed his advice and understand that without a proper sport policy for school, it will remain impossible for us to attain the level of respect and recognition that our Caricom counterpart is presently enjoying worldwide.
It used to be that way in the past and all that is required for us to recapture those days is a serious collaborative effort between the Education and Sport Ministries backed up by the corporate community.
These three entities must sit down together and construct a well-defined policy that could see the re-emergence of sports in schools in a more dynamic manner, rather than the extemporized approach that obtains now.
He spoke of the need to organise regular Meets and here we could include the need for more tournaments in other disciplines to create the opportunity to identify rich talent not on a one-off basis, but over a consistent period.
That to anyone’s mind must be the correct approach and it could also provide the opportunity for coaches and scouts to assess which athletes are making more progress and need special emphasis and those who have the talent, but is a little slower in their development phase.
Our cricket is suffering due to the absence of a proper structure at the school level and this episode is causing irreparable damage to our reputation as manifested by our poor showing in this year’s regional first-class tournament.
Many teachers have complained of the undue stress to get time-off to accompany their charges, and this point to a lack of will to implement measures that could put an end to such practices.
It gives the impression that sport is not given the priority it deserves and the complaints by those who’re charged with the responsibility of guiding the careers of our young athletes must be taken seriously and not treated as irrelevant.
Our youths must be given other alternatives apart from academia because logically as in any normal society not everyone will excel in the classroom.
The long overdue National Sports Policy could provide the answer.
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