Orville Higgins | Give up anti-recruitment zealotry, Muggy
It seems like after every schoolboy football season, the old argument about recruiting jumps back on to the front burner. Led by the indefatigable Dr Lascelve 'Muggy' Graham, there is one school of thought that feels that the practice of recruiting for sports purposes should be banned. Dr Graham is of the belief that you should bloom where you are planted, which is to say that whichever school you find yourself at after GSAT, you should stay there.
I have done my own little informal survey, and I have found out that most of the people who are against recruiting are themselves past students of the traditional or brand-name high schools. In other words, most of those who buy into the 'bloom where you are planted' clichÈ were themselves planted at one of the elite high schools.
What exact conclusions are we to form from this? Is it unreasonable to feel that those past students from the elite schools who now shout loudest against recruiting at these brand-name high schools are being a touch selfish? Why would they argue against other students, however slow they think they are, benefiting from the same academic and social exposure that they had at these 'up deh' high schools?
Let's admit it: Some high schools in Jamaica are more equal than others, to quote from George Orwell's classic Animal Farm. Many GSAT students are 'planted' at high schools that often, are not the most conducive to learning. It's not always easy to bloom from some of these high schools. Sometimes the very location of these high schools, many in volatile communities, has its own challenges, which makes learning conditions far from ideal. Why would the anti-recruiting brigade have a problem with a youngster being brought out of such an environment and taken into one that doesn't only, enhance sporting potential, but also guarantees an opportunity for learning?
I have heard the argument that drafting gifted athletes into top high schools is somehow preventing other bright students from attending these high schools. I'm not sure of the evidence for that claim. The principal who takes in a few 'ballers' into his school system would have already had his quota of regular students, and these student athletes would be mere 'brawta'.
By far, the majority of cases involving student athletes isn't stopping regular students from pursuing academic goals. It's a poor excuse.
Part of the problem is that we have come to completely misunderstand what the purpose of school. Gone are the days when education Is viewed as the three Rs: reading, (w)riting, and 'rithmetic. The mandate of schooling has to be broadened in its vision. Here in Jamaica and other parts of the West Indies, schooling was focused on strict adherence to academic and technical pursuits. That was understandable. Surely, 50 or 60 years ago, sports was not seen as a viable career option and, therefore, a school curriculum would see sports as mere romping or recreation.
Now, sports is a multibillion-dollar industry. Sports stars are better paid than most people on earth. Schools should reflect this. To deny a child the environment that best accentuates his sporting talents is to be archaic in our thinking.
Schools cannot merely be about formal education, as important as that is. The best definition for schools is an institution that prepares youngsters for the society of which they are a part. If sports is a vibrant part of their society - and it is - proficient students must be facilitated, just as much as the student who is gifted in maths.
So I say, leave the schools that recruit sports students. Who are they harming when they do that? What harm can come from getting a youngster into a school that has a sports programme to develop his talent?
The argument has been made that this move will do more to enhance schools and coaches rather than athletes. That may be the intention, but the student athletes who find themselves in an facilitatory environment will benefit tremendously. Many of them have gone on to become global icons.
What we must do is ensure that there isn't such a huge disparity between schools in Jamaica. We should try to ensure that all schools are about all things for all pupils. In a utopian world, this is the ideal for which we should strive. Since that doesn't exist in Jamaica, we must allow a student to bloom where the soil is richest, based on his own skill sets.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.