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Cricket seeks deeper roots in schools

Published:Friday | February 26, 2016 | 2:00 AMJermaine Lannaman
Donovan Bennett (left) and JCA president Wilford ‘Billy’ Heaven.

Dr Donovan Bennett, first vice-president of the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA), would like to see the new Government invest more in sports at the early-childhood, primary- and secondary-school levels.

This, he said, is a result of the emergence of sports as a bludgeoning industry and one rich with numerous opportunities.

"Whoever forms the new Government, I would like to see them take up the responsibility of investing more in sports, primarily at the school level," said Dr Bennett, who is a medical doctor by professional.

"They need to understand that sport has now become an important industry, even as important as academics right now.

"It, therefore, needs to be a part of syllabus in schools and be encouraged as a proper career choice and not just an after-school activity," he added.

Dr Bennett, a former coach, manager and now adviser of high-school cricket powerhouse St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS), said neglect at that level was prominent and has been affecting the growth and development of the game.

LIMITED FUNDING

"Neither the WICB nor the JCA can really afford to fund cricket at the high school level," he said.

"What happens at this level is that cricket is sponsored by a few companies and sometimes individuals."

He expressed that, for example, current national coach, Junior Bennett, and himself used to shoulder the burden for STETHS in the late 1970s and 1980s, and today, the results are there for all to see.

For the past two decades, they have been all-island champions and in the process produced West Indies players such as Jerome Taylor, Darren Powell and Nikita Miller.

"It is hard to replicate this across the island," he said of STETHS' success model.

"Most schools can't afford to employ proper coaches, improve cricket facilities, or attend to good player development."

Meanwhile, Bennett, who is also a director of the West Indies Cricket Board and head of the regional governing body's medical panel, also pointed to the financial benefits of sports.

This, he said, includes occupations such as athletes, coaches and managers, as well as organisers, marketers and sports law executives.

"We need to start teaching students about the total value of sports," noted Bennett.

"This includes not only the physical and mental health value, but also its economic value."

He said there is also the role of sports in national and regional development, as evidenced by the success over the years of West Indies cricket.

"Cricket has over the years been used to help to shape societal values, norms and practices, and I would like to see that still happen.

"For example, while there is a lot of money to be made now from playing cricket, I would like to see players demonstrating more pride, honour and privilege to represent their country and region.

These cricket virtues, Bennett expressed, is more than likely to have a greater impact on players if they are taught in schools as part of the curriculum.