Moral decay translates into Champs
Psychological research has indicated that, when the rules of fair play and sportsmanship are applied, participation in sports helps to enhance character.
However, over the five days of the recent Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys & Girls' Athletics Championships, there were several instances of character and moral failure, at best.
The most controversial was that of Michael O'Hara who, after winning the Class One boys' 200m, pulled down his Calabar High School jersey to reveal an undershirt bearing the colours and tag line of telecommunications company Digicel, though the championships were sponsored by its competitor LIME.
Other instances included the decision by track umpires to allow Wolmer's Boys' Jaheel Hyde to compete in the Class One 110m hurdles - the most anticipated event of the 2015 championships - despite what appeared to be a clear instance of a false start, not once, but twice.
The Gleaner also reported that the coach of a popular girls' school track team slapped one of his young charges across the face in full view of
several persons, including the mother of other girls on the team.
Pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church, Reverend Devon Dick, told The Gleaner that adults need to focus on the message they are sending.
"When (Jhevaughn) Matherson pulled up, I thought it was the coach pushing him. Well, the coach is now saying it was an emotional meltdown. What am I to believe?" he said.
"I saw a report that the coach hit an athlete. For me, the Child Development Agency should get involved as well. That's the early seeds of violence, it can be seen as an assault. I think it should be reported to the police," continued Reverend Dick.
"They are allowing people to be on track side and that shouldn't be allowed. They are breaking the rules," said Dick.
He said he was impressed with a post-race interview done by O'Hara in which the athlete stated that, in addition to Carifta Games later this year, he was looking forward to finishing his secondary school examinations.
"Here is an athlete talking about an academic exam. We have to encourage and hail O'Hara for saying that academics are important," said Dick.
He noted that the bigger issue seemed to be the commercialisation of Champs and a shift from it being a fun event for children. He cited the one false start rule as an example and said he did not support the rule, which puts too much pressure on athletes as young as 11.
"It's not an international meet. It doesn't mean we have to do that for a Class Four, Class Three athlete. It's unfortunate. It's more a commercialisation issue when they are doing that. It's supposed to be less stressful, more fun. I think it's unfair. You don't even see the ISSA people, you see the sponsors.
"In the medal presentations, they were giving out gift bags from sponsors. They have to be careful what kind of message they are sending. It is going to be where everybody is going to want to have their fine showing because it becomes more about the sponsors than the athletes."
Reverend Dick said adults need to be careful that young people and their talent are not exploited and there be a return to a peaceful Champs.
"Some of them are friends of different schools and we want now to divide them and that's not right. We are not enemies we are just competitors. These are all Jamaican kids. They mustn't take the rivalry to such a level."