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No prima donnas! - Student athletes should abide by school rules, says Wright

Published:Tuesday | March 26, 2019 | 12:22 AMDania Bogle/Gleaner Writer

Student athletes who do not face the consequences of their behaviour and are allowed to flout rules because they are talented will not develop the sense of responsibility they need to rise to the top of their field, according to head of community health and psychiatry at The University of the West Indies, Professor Wendel Abel.

Abel was responding to an alleged incident involving Calabar High track team stars who have been accused by the school’s physics teacher, Sanjaye Shaw, of having physically abused him during an incident in December 2018. Two high-profile athletes, Christopher Taylor and Dejour Russell, who are also national youth representatives, were allegedly involved. The track stars have since denied the claims.

“We are doing injustice to some of these athletes and we are reinforcing maladaptive and dysfunctional behaviour, and that’s why they drop and fall out,” Abel said.

Doctor of sports medicine, Paul Wright, agreed: “You go to school to prepare you for life after school. Athletes who make it after school are less than one per cent of the school population. Those who believe they are prima donnas, and leave without an education, after school, they become miscreants and are lost to society,” he said.

Abel pointed to Usain Bolt as an example of an athlete who displayed a great sense of personal responsibility.

“If you look at some of our elite athletes, those that go far have a personal sense of responsibility and maturity, accountability and respect to get to the top,” he added, noting that not only does it inhibit the athletes’ personal development, but also damages the morale of the wider school community.

Wright said that what happened in the school was a reflection of a culture of impunity within the wider society, adding that “children live what they learn”.

“So people do things and get away with it,” he said, adding that the schools earning huge sums of money from their performance in athletics competitions were also partly to blame.

“When children see the schools get all this money and old boys come and lavish all these things on them, this [mentality] is cemented into them and they don’t expect that people will do anything about it,” he said.

Abel argued that the issue was a lack of boundaries within schools, and not necessarily a wider societal problem.

“It’s a symptom of a school not setting boundaries for certain students because the other students are conforming. It’s just that student athletes are allowed to break the rules. It’s about the school as an institution setting a level playing field, and setting the same level of expectation for all students,” Abel said.