Mon | Feb 24, 2020

Hubert Lawrence | The headmaster and sport

Published:Thursday | October 11, 2018 | 12:00 AM
ISSA vice-president Keith Wellington speaking on the matter of education and sports in high schools during a recent TVJ Sports town hall at The Mico University College.

Whether fans acknowledge it or not, the headmaster is first and foremost an educator, whose mission is to equip all those in his or her care with knowledge. However, in the absence of any robust nationwide structure to facilitate sport, the headmaster has also been an agent of sports development.

In athletics, a key element of that partnership is the headmaster's deployment of transfers to admit sports-oriented students into the school. These transferred student athletes bolster the school's fortunes on the field of play, and in many cases enhance their own future by balancing academics and sport and earning their way to scholarships and, in some cases, stardom.

Economics has turned transfer activity into a baneful activity with some parents willing to trade their children. Hemmed in by tight finances, they see it as a way out for their athletic children. Undoubtedly, this needs to be managed by some code of conduct with teeth.

The associated truth, though, is that transfers are a source of energy for Jamaica's track and field. Scroll down the list of Jamaica's individual medallists at the Commonwealth Games and you will find seven who transferred during their high-school days.

We all praised Kai Chang when he won the World Under-20 discus gold medal in the summer over in Finland. That triumph arose in large part because he transferred from Titchfield High School to Calabar High School in time for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Coaches will tell you stories galore of children who use high-shool sport to break out of poverty. Often, when they get to college, they just go through the athletic motions to hold their scholarships. It's a real pity that there aren't any statistics to show the pluses and minuses of the system. That would supplement the real but largely anecdotal information that exists on both sides of this coin.

You can't help but sympathise with ISSA as it tries to police abuse. Yet, the headmaster has another responsibility. Guided by the school rules and aided by the staff, the headmaster must do her or his best to oblige all students to make a real effort at schoolwork.




Incidentally, transfers from non-ISSA schools are set to fall dramatically as junior high schools are no more and will become high schools. Presumably, they will all join ISSA as soon as they can.

Track and field math is very instructive. In 2016, just over 60 persons made the Olympic team to Rio di Janeiro. Each year at Champs, there are approximately 2,000 competitors. It's a simple lesson. Everyone, including student athletes, will need their education sooner or later.

In summary, the restrictions may well throttle the progress of our Olympic team by cutting off the movement of athletic prospects to their schools of choice. At the same time, ISSA cannot stand idly by and allow abuse to flourish. If the new rules are rolled back, an enforceable code of conduct will be needed to preserve fair play.

Finally, even if the new rules stay in force for the academic year 2018-2019, it isn't too late to commission some research. Since all transfers are recorded by the Ministry of Education, it can't be too difficult to track student athletes on the move between schools over the last five years. If that research tells us that school x or school y is harbouring a 'professional' sports team in the school, and that its student athletes are dodging classes, not doing homework and generally flouting school rules, then the schools in question would have to face scrutiny and sanctions. To me, that would be more helpful.

- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.