Fennell: Pay attention to core values
Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
More attention needs to be paid to developing the core values of our nation's youngsters if Jamaica is to benefit in the long run. This was the call from Mike Fennell, president of the Jamaica Olympic Association, as he delivered the keynote address at the Awards Banquet: A Tribute to Excellence, at The Jamaica Pegasus on Friday night.
The awards banquet was held in honour of those athletes and others who have made outstanding contributions to the success of the Boys and Girls' Athletic Cham-pionships, popularly known as 'Champs', that is celebrating its centennial this year. Several athletes were recognised based on the decade in which they were dominant at Champs over the 100 years.
The JOA president said in the anxiety to win, values like fair play, sportsmanship and respect for community and ensuring that they can lift their heads in knowing how they play the game are being left behind.
"We hear stories of coaches going overboard in recruiting athletes for their schools, we hear of over-pressuring of some of the athletes to perform to win points for their schools in pursuit of victory. We must be careful that, while winning is important, we must also ensure that we use the opportunity to develop our young people into citizens of tomorrow that we can be proud of."
Fennell continued: "When you look at the list of people who are receiving awards, look at their qualifications, look at what they have done in life, and we have to ensure that those youngsters that we are encouraging and coaching and training to do well at Champs are also being trained into developing into a whole person, that when Champs is finished and their competitive days are done they can be worthwhile citizens of our country, and indeed the world."
During a 19-minute long speech that was both humorous and poignant, the JOA president described Champs as the Super Bowl of Jamaica, referring to today's playing of the most popular sporting event in the United States.
Most of Jamaica's great athletes emerged from Champs, he said, and the world continues to marvel at how Jamaica manages to produce so many great athletes.
The nation, Fennell said, must acknowledge the pivotal role that Champs has played in the development of the great Jamaican athletes. Jamaica, he said, should never forget that Champs is one of the most important rungs in the ladder in discovering and honing the athletes who become the superstars of tomorrow.
Fennell also commended those who, he said, were responsible for Champs and who ensured that the high standards were maintained.
However, Champs by itself could not exist without a school and educational system that facilitates it.
"While some of us are still not satisfied with the recognition of sports in our educational system and our society at large, we must acknowledge that the school system that we have in Jamaica has facilitated Champs ever since it started," Fennell said
In this regard, Fennell said, the role of teachers and past students, whose investment in the present-day students have ensured that their schools succeed, must be lauded. "This is something that has kept Champs going in no mean way," he said.