Sun | Nov 27, 2022

St Jago find link between volleyball and academics

Published:Sunday | September 25, 2022 | 12:15 AMHubert Lawrence - Gleaner Writer
St Jago High School’s volleyball team.
St Jago High School’s volleyball team.

ST JAGO High School have consistently been a conqueror in volleyball and their long-serving coach Byron Martin has observed a correlation between athletic performance and academic excellence in the team. Martin believes one feeds the other.

A classroom veteran, Martin exhorts his students, whether they are volleyballers or not, to pay attention to their books and he feels it pulls them to the game.

“They know I will push them; they tend to come out and at the same time, I realise that once the students are academically strong, the mental ability for them is good.”

Recently retired after teaching the sciences at St Jago for the past 32 years, Martin said: “There’s a camaraderie with the group of students. They help each other and the other students in the school will see that, and they gravitate towards it because St Jago students always want to do well academically. So that is a pulling force for a number of students.”

His next comment was telling.

“They push themselves and they help each other, and I realise that in volleyball, repetition in practising, it rubs off on the academic work. So even then, they become used to repeating and to do over the thing, practising it more than once, it pulls the academic work as well. Consistency in getting the students to perform in volleyball rubs off on the academic work as well,” he explained.

As proof of his theory, the 2022 team has several academic highflyers. Five of them passed eight or more Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects with that group amassing 23 distinctions.

The mix seems to work. St Jago won the ISSA Boys’ National title in April and the girls, perennial runners-up to Wolmer’s, took the title in 2016. Along the way, Martin’s squads have furnished Jamaica with fine players, including national standout Rick Webb.

This year’s win came against Wolmer’s, 25-22, 23-25, 25-20, 25-22 for the boys’ title.

It added to an impressive portfolio with wins in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2017 and 2018 and runner-up finishes in 1999, 2004, 2005, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

In addition to the 2016 win, the girls placed second in 2005, 2006, 2011, 2013 and 2014.

With the continued help of fellow St Jago Spanish teacher Majorie Quesada, a Cuban who used to play for Venus Volleyball Club, Martin is rebuilding the St Jago boys’ team for 2023.

“About four of the persons we lost this year and the ones we are having right now, they are new to volleyball,” he said.

“We still have two very good players, Peter Grant and Lovelet Blake, but we have all of the girls still. The girls’ team is a stronger team this year,” the coach concluded.

Blake is one of the 2022 team’s highflyers with 7 CSEC distinctions.