When will the west win again?
It HAs been ages since a school from western Jamaica won either Boys Championships or Girls' Championships. Keith Wellington, headmaster at
St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS), says the west can win only if the schools there prioritise Champs and if they can retain talented student athletes who might otherwise move to schools in the Corporate Area. Wellington
isn't against the recruitment of
student athletes but he abhors the use of financial incentives
to attract them.
Munro College won the last of its eight Boys' Champs title in 1948, while The Manning's School took Girls Champs in 1965, 1966 and 1969. Despite the pre-eminence of STETHS, Munro and, recently, Petersfield High and Rusea's, no high school in the west has enjoyed the success earned by Munro and Manning's in the past. Speaking a few weeks ago, Wellington explained, "Whether or not a team from the west wins Champs is going to be dependent on how much of a priority it becomes in any one of the leading schools in terms of how much it is that the school is willing to spend monetary-wise, and capital, not just in terms of money now but in terms of the things that are required or that the teams that dominate are willing to do to win Champs."
He pinpointed nutrition and transportation as two key areas worthy of attention. "Of course, nutrition would entail having to board a large squad because as students it's difficult for them to travel and train in the rural areas where travelling time to and from school can be as much as an hour readily."
His list of schools in western Jamaica who could target a Champs win named Munro, Cornwall, STETHS, of which he said, "... money would be an issue but it's not an issue that would be insurmountable". Petersfield among the boys teams and STETHS, Manning's, Rusea's and possibly William Knibb 'on both genders'.
"The talent is available within proximity to these schools, you know," he indicated.
Money to fund the required nutrition, possible boarding and allied transportation wouldn't be the only matter at hand. He estimated that there are approximately 12 boys from the parish of St Elizabeth who will score 80-90 points at Champs for the Kingston and St Catherine-based schools they now attend.
"Those boys will probably get into schools who are chasing Champs and will do anything to ensure that they have the best available talent. So I think that would have to change in terms of, if it is that we in the west are to start prioritising Champs as a must-win, then we would have to look at our policy as regards the admission of students.
"Where I have a problem is the way it is done sometimes. I think that there are some aspects of recruiting I find repulsive. I find the issue of schools offering financial incentives outside of what is required to attend the school, offering financial attraction to 12-, 13-year-old students to leave their parents' home."
"I have no problem with students leaving home to board, but the idea of saying to a parent, 'Send your child to us, and I will give you this household item', and I know it to be a fact," Wellington added.
Wellington informed that students have been approached by recruiters who take 'everything including the school uniform for the school they are sending them to.' "I've had parents call me to say, 'Sir, this school came and gave us this. What should I do with it because I'm not moving my child?'" he related.
"Up to recently I've had to speak to one principal about an approach being made to one of my students after the student participated at a particular meet".
"I have no problem with students going where they think their best opportunities lie. I just don't like the idea of schools reaching out with all sorts of 'quote and quote' incentives," Wellington added. "This isn't professional sport."