Wayne Campbell, Contributor
The 2013-2014 schoolboy football season has kicked off. For many youngsters, the training during the summer holidays was well worth the sacrifice since they now have the chance to show off their skills on the field. However, far too many of our youngsters continue to struggle with participation in sports and their academic commitment. Gone are those days where colleges and universities would offer scholarships to athletes solely on the basis of their athletic prowess. Colleges and universities are now demanding that athletes have at least a minimum educational standard on which to build. Yet, despite this reality, many of our athletes continue to struggle to attain and maintain a 45 per cent average as outlined by the Inter-Secondary Schools Association (ISSA). This substandard mark is overly generous by ISSA, and the time has come for ISSA to revisit this 45 per cent mark and set the bar much higher, in keeping with the realities of this competitive world.
We should ask ourselves what measures are in place to offer student athletes additional support, which a significant number of them require, to ensure that they excel academically. Jamaica has a distinguished and enviable record in track and field. In the past, some of our internationally acclaimed athletes have had difficulty expressing themselves.
We have come a far way since those 'dark' days, and certainly, we must do all within our power to ensure we never go there again.
The annual boys and girls athletic track meet has played a critical role in the early development of many of our athletes, who have gone on to win Olympic medals and other accolades. As a country, we have benefited tremendously. In fact, Jamaica is now referred to as the sprint capital/factory of the world. However, despite all our successes on the track, it's not about winning at all cost as some school administrators seem to believe. Too often, our schools use these athletes in the hunt for fame and glory without ensuring that the academic side of these students is addressed.
Structured programmes with the necessary monitoring mechanisms must be put in place to adequately address the issue of poor academic performance among some of our student athletes, a problem that has plagued sports over the years.
The time has come for a broader representation on the board of ISSA. In order to have transparency and accountability, we need to scrutinise principals more closely to ensure everything is done above board.
In the past, we heard of grades being 'manufactured' to ensure the participation of failing athletes. We do an injustice to our students and the society in general if we facilitate cheating and corruption for fame and glory.
Sadly, we continue to exploit and sacrifice our children at every given opportunity and across all levels of the society for self-aggrandisement.
In the Jamaican culture, as in many societies, there is a popular belief that 'real men play sports'. The term hegemonic masculinity serves as a model for all men and shows how they 'should' be. In the Jamaican context, if a male does not play a sport or show interest in any sport, he is viewed as a 'sissy', or his sexual orientation is questioned. As a result, many parents, coaches and the wider society place undue pressure on males, especially those who do not naturally gravitate towards sports, to get involved. This is done, often to the detriment of their educational development.
Sports help us generally to stay fit and healthy regardless of our sex. The involvement of sports aids in the development of social skills such as the interaction between peoples and cultures, as well as building teams and fostering a spirit of camaraderie. Mentally, sports lower the risk of anxiety and depression. It is an important developmental tool and should be used properly.
The Ministry of Education has remained too silent on the issue of sports and education. Indeed, the education ministry has a great role to play by crafting the policy framework necessary, which would help guide our schools, as well as to assist in the holistic development of our athletes.
Our children are the future of the society and we must ensure that we take all possible measures to ensure a bright future for all our students regardless of their socio-economic background.
Wayne Campbell is an educator. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org