Champs ... the blueprint for wider sporting success
Jamaica's Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/Grace-Kennedy Boys and Girls' Athletic Championships, popularly and singularly known as 'Champs', has evolved over several decades into the unique global event it is today.
As Champs continues to grow and evolve even further, so, too, has the relevance, importance and role of sports to the wider Jamaican society.
Champs has become the official supply line of talent to the most potent and powerful sprinting nation in the entire world.
This one-of-a-kind event and all its components should be studied and analysed with a view of being adopted by our national policymakers as a blueprint for the development of all sports in Jamaica.
Despite the insistence of people like Dr Lascelve 'Muggy' Graham that high schools in Jamaica are academic institutions where other activities, including sports, should remain as secondary activities, reality dictates otherwise, rendering his perspective myopic, time-warped and set in a contextual standstill.
square peg, round hole
The ridiculous insistence on applying the United States of America (USA) model of high-school and college sports structures and rules to Jamaica's desperately broken, dysfunctional and inferior high-school system is the equivalent of trying to fit the proverbial square peg into a round hole.
The very idea of applying the American rules of student transfers and the zoning of schools, as occurs in the US, to Jamaica's underdeveloped, underfunded and depraved school system is ludicrous.
To the chagrin of Dr. Graham and company, one of the key things responsible for maintaining the consistent and elite level of performances at Champs is the practice of recruiting athletes.
Recruiting is much more aggressive, widespread and impactful in track and field than in any other high-school sport in Jamaica.
Despite the recent trend of top-quality track and field coaches being spread across more of the lesser schools, recruiting remains the cornerstone of Champs' success, just as Champs remains the cornerstone of Jamaica's track and field success.
Despite the objections, more and more talented young track athletes are taking the necessary steps and making the necessary moves to fully realise their potential, with the long-term results there for the entire world to see.
Champs, as an event and as an institution, has clearly demonstrated that even with an imperfect and broken system, Jamaica can creatively set up a structure to conquer and dominate the world in our chosen field. Importantly, we have done it our way, and not by trying to impose a foreign model upon our unique local circumstances.
I implore the movers and shakers of sports policy in Jamaica not to tinker with one of the very few structures that work, but to look at the evolution of Boys and Girls' Champs in the context of the Jamaican society and the wider world of sport, with a view of not allowing the decades of blood, sweat and tears to go down the drain.
Jamaica did not become the sprint capital of the world by accident. Champs is perhaps the most significant factor in that achievement. The vast majority of our internationally acclaimed track and field stars were well prepared for their current status by their indelible Champs experiences.
Instead of driving a wedge between the wider school curriculum and the sports programmes, our efforts should be concentrated in the opposite direction, to fully incorporate the sports programmes - whether it be the football, cricket, or basketball - the goal should be to elevate these programmes to the level of the athletics programme in the top schools.
If and when that parallel is reached, not only will Jamaica rule the world in sprinting, but the sky could very well be the limit for all the other sporting disciplines. Let us accept Boys and Girls' Champs for what it has become, the BLUEPRINT for wider sporting development and success in Jamaica.