Thu | Nov 26, 2020

Prepare for student athlete glut - Coaches warn local tertiary athletics programmes may increase numbers if US counterparts continue cuts

Published:Friday | November 20, 2020 | 12:11 AM
Action from the Open Boys 5000m final at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships at the National Stadium in March 2018.
Action from the Open Boys 5000m final at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships at the National Stadium in March 2018.
GOBURN
GOBURN
DYKE
DYKE
WILSON
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High-school track and field coaches say that local tertiary institutions will receive an increasing number of student athletes if overseas universities continue to terminate their athletics programmes.

Clemson University’s athletic director, Dan Radakovich, recently said that it has cancelled its entire men’s athletics programme because the department faced difficulties, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability to sustain the sport financially. Other institutions that have cut their track and field programmes are Minnesota University, Central Michigan, University of Akron, Florida International University, William and Mary University, Appalachian State, and the University of Connecticut.

St Jago High School’s girls’ team head coach, Keilando Goburn, said that as a coach, it is important to continue encouraging athletes to fulfil their dreams, and that sessions are provided virtually to keep them in shape to ensure that when opportunities arise, they will not be left behind.

A PLUS FOR LOCAL INSTITUTIONS

“If more colleges should decide to cut their track programme, then that would be a plus for the local tertiary institutions,” he said. “If there is the case that there will be less chances to go abroad, there is always another option; and in reality, everybody cannot go overseas, because some will have to stay in Jamaica.

“How this goes, it’s not one size fits all, and there are several variables that constitute to an athlete going on scholarships. There are some athletes that, depending on their situation, it is best for them to go overseas; and for others, it is best for them to stay. Families play an important role, and there are some athletes who think that they can do best when they are close to home, and some are independent.”

Edwin Allen High School head coach Michael Dyke said that over the years, track and field athletes have demonstrated what the sport is about, to generate the interest of the public, but persons tend to show more interest in other sports, such as American football, basketball and association football.

“It is something that we have to take note of, and show interest in, because we don’t know if other schools might adapt the same principle going forward, but maybe after COVID-19, hopefully, things might change,” he said. “Local colleges and universities are always an option for us, which is good at this time, because [a] couple years ago, there wasn’t local scholarships being offered to student athletes in Jamaica. So, if it boils down to that, then our student athletes will still have a chance of getting a tertiary education.

“By only cutting the track programmes, the schools, maybe, are looking at the sports that will be able to bring in more revenue to their sports programmes. American football may be one of the main income generators for the sports department at any institution, and a lot of times, track and field persons leave a track meet to go to other sporting events, so it is not easy to make that sort of money from track and field. But, if our athletes should stay in Jamaica, I don’t know how much the tertiary institutions will be able to sustain that with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sport principal Maurice Wilson said that it would be a great opportunity for local tertiary institutions to garner more talents, but the likelihood of being able to provide for an increasing number of athletes is uncertain at this time.

“We are of the notion that foreign is better,” he said. “So, majority of our citizens believe that the ultimate goal is going to America, and I believe that there is a place for some of our student athletes that graduate from our high schools, but overall, I don’t think that the Jamaican system can facilitate all of those youngsters and give them the opportunity that they deserve.

“I think it is important that the coaches emphasise making sure that the students are academically qualified, and, even so, if they are not able to get a track scholarship, they are able to get an academic scholarship by doing the Scholastic Aptitude Test, because the system is not in a position to support all of these students economically.”

Athena Clarke