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Dalton Myers | Tertiary institutions and their role in sports development

Published:Friday | September 28, 2018 | 12:00 AM
World-renown Jamaican sprint hurdler Ronald Levy representing the University of Technology in the men's 110 metres hurdles at the NCB Intercol Track and Field and Cheerleading Championship at the National Stadium on Saturday April 8, 2017.

The discussion surrounding education and sports in Jamaica has been making another round. This time, however, I want to focus on tertiary institutions. Their role in sport development is not always analysed but is very important in any discussion about developing our sporting industry.

Over the past few years, there has been significant investment in sports at the tertiary level. Locally, there are just over 20 tertiary institutions (universities, colleges, vocational institutions) with a total population of over 35,000, with just over 2,000 competing each year for their institutions in Intercollegiate sports, and few others who compete for clubs in local competitions as they may be ineligible for Jamaica Inter-Collegiate Sports Association (InterCol) events for various reasons.

My view is that without tertiary institutions, our sporting successes to date would not have been possible. Institutions like GC Foster College for Physical Education and Sport have been producing a significant number of the coaches and administrators who are behind our success stories today. This is not just in athletics but cricket, football, netball, volleyball and so on. In fact, I think GC Foster does not get the credit it deserves, and maybe it is time we look at investing way more in the institution.

We are now seeing similar investment by other tertiary institutions such as The University of the West Indies (UWI), University of Technology (UTech, Ja.), The Mico University College, Excelsior Community College, and Montego Bay Community College, to name a few. This augurs well for the future of sports in Jamaica.

 

Sports investments

 

Some of the investment in sports has come in the form of scholarships, improvements to facilities, the creation of faculties of sports, and collaborations with private entities. It's not only about competition on the field of play, but also what happens beyond that - making a positive impact on society. We can expect more research and innovation to help us improve in areas such as modern approaches to sport administration and our use of sport-related technology in biomechanics, anti-doping, and so on. These areas are important for a financially viable sporting industry.

Additionally, I hope that through the respective faculties of sports and academic departments, we will engage our student population more, showcasing sport-related job and entrepreneurial opportunities available - from sports managers and agents to statisticians, video analysts, and sport psychologists. I think that now, more than ever, there needs to be more focus on the practical aspects of sports as a business so we can generate more revenue from the commodification of sports.

The international market is opening up to coaches from Jamaica, and maybe the next top executives will come from Jamaica also.

Internationally, many players/athletes pursue their coaching and administrative certifications while still competing. We need to encourage our local athletes to not just enrol in academic programmes, but also start their respective international certifications early so that when their playing days are over, they are well-equipped to work across the globe. I do know that the Jamaica Football Federation, Netball Jamaica and the Jamaica Administrative Athletics Association partner with our tertiary institutions to administer various accreditation licencing levels, but it needs to be expanded and promoted on a larger scale.

Sports has a recognised role in peace and development. Each tertiary institution serves the community in which it is based. Sports facilities and programmes at the institutions can be used to engage members of the community and so, these institutions can play a pivotal role in peace building through sports in Jamaica. This is crucial, especially as we struggle with the issues of crime and violence.

A discussion on whether or not sports and education can coexist is no longer relevant. It is evident that they must! Where I want the discussion to move to is how we prepare student-athletes to benefit from sports in the long term and how the transition into a tertiary institution can also help them to further their professional careers as athletes, administrators or other professionals in the sporting industry.

Increasingly, we need to be able to identify these paths for success and have students see sport as more than recreation; and see themselves as part of building a sport industry from which they can earn in a significant way.

- Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to daltonsmyers@gmail.com