Sun | Jul 5, 2020

COVID-19 lesson - Insiders urge youngsters not to neglect education in pursuit of sporting ambitions

Published:Tuesday | June 2, 2020 | 12:25 AMRaymond Graham/Gleaner Writer
Jamaican sprint star Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce with her RJRGLEANER Special Award for Sports, which she received during a luncheon held at The Gleaner’s office on North Street in Kingston in January this year.
Jamaican sprint star Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce with her RJRGLEANER Special Award for Sports, which she received during a luncheon held at The Gleaner’s office on North Street in Kingston in January this year.

With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing the sporting world to a halt and eroding the earning ability of sportsmen and women all over the world, there is a renewed call for young local athletes to prioritise the continuation of their education upon leaving high school.

Over the years, several of the island’s high-school stars have opted to go professional straight out of high school or before completing university, choosing to put their education on hold in pursuit of their athletic ambitions.

However, Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association general secretary, Garth Gayle; acting principal of G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sport, Maurice Wilson, and Edwin Allen’s head coach Michael Dyke all pointed to the present realities as a warning to young athletes about the importance of a strong educational foundation.

“As an educator, I would encourage all student-athletes to consider their education first and foremost. Yes, athletics, or sports in general, is a good avenue for student-athletes to make headway for their future, but this headway must be education, which is academics, as they are able to take any pathway that becomes available to them,” said Gayle, who is also the principal at Charlemont High School.

Several major sporting events such as the Olympic Games have been postponed while major earners such as the Diamond League have seen some meets already cancelled. Locally, every major sport has been affected.

ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN

“We have seen what COVID-19 has done, causing an entire shutdown of one season, where earnings have decreased, but with education, there is always something to benefit from. They (athletes) must always put education in the forefront of their minds as injuries can also take them away from the sport while with education, one can still have a job to take care of their bills.”

Gayle drew reference to athletes in the past, who have balanced well, such as Olympic pioneer Dr Arthur Wint, who was a practising doctor. That balance is shared with contemporaries such as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Sherone Simpson, Hansle Parchment, Michael Frater, and several others, who have excelled both on the track and in the classroom.

Wilson, who is also the head coach of Sprint Tech Track Club, believes that the pandemic will be a lesson for all those involved in sports.

“I am not sure if COVID-19 will make a difference in young athletes thinking about education first, but it must be a lesson to all those who are involved in sports, including coaches, administrators, and parents, that it is of critical importance, irrespective of how talented they are, that they are given an opportunity to further their education whether it is theoretically or occupational in nature. They must have something they can fall back on in case of an injury or if their track and field career is not successful,” Wilson said.

Dyke, who came under fire from some sections recently after allowing his top charge Kevona Davis to sign for the University of Texas instead of going professional, also chipped in.

“I always believe that student-athletes should ensure they acquire an education regardless of their talents or performances over the years because the lifespan in track and field or sports is very short, short in the sense for, say, eight -10 years, and you will have to be exceptional to be there for that long and earning enough to keep you after sports, so acquiring an education will enable you to stabilise your life after the sport,” Dyke offered.