This balance of sports and education
The writer who goes by the nom de plume The Laird has opened what we believe is an interesting discussion in his latest column in this week’s edition of the online newspaper, Public Opinion.
Basically, The Laird’s position is that high schools should give greater focus to providing students with sound education instead of what appears to be a blinkered determination to produce professional athletes.
In his piece, The Laird looks at the competitions run by the Inter-secondary Schools’ Sports Association (ISSA), which he describes as Jamaica’s greatest professional sports organisation.
“None of the ‘great’ professional sporting organisations and their clubs respectively, whether the Jamaica Football Federation or the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, or their clubs (such as Harbour View FC, Arnett Gardens FC in football, or MVP Track Club and Racers Track Club in track and field), can compare with ISSA or the ISSA-sanctioned and approved clubs,” he argues.
His use of the word clubs, he says, is because when it comes to sports some of the islands top secondary education institutions do not operate as schools “whose primary purpose is to produce well-educated and well-rounded young men, or whose other primary purpose is to produce graduates with adequate qualifications for either the workforce or tertiary education. Instead, they operate as sports clubs”.
To support his argument, The Laird states that a significant percentage of the majority of the pro athletes produced by the “ISSA-sanctioned clubs” are not the superbly qualified individuals that the schools should be producing to fill professional and managerial positions.
“The main function of secondary schools is the preparation of young men and women who will become productive, decent, law-abiding, employed or self-employed citizens of our country. It is not to produce pro athletes,” he insists.
He also argues that of the thousands of student athletes who compete each year, young men such as Messrs Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Ricardo Gardner are the exception and not the rule.
“Our secondary schools ought to be designed for the ‘rule’, not the exceptions,” he adds.
The Laird then goes on to say that he is willing to place a small wager that if a proper and professionally constructed and executed tracking analysis is done over the 20-year period 1997-2017 of the “stars” of the Manning and DaCosta cups, as well as the Boys’ Athletics Championship, a majority of these “stars” will be found not to have truly benefited from their secondary education.
The Laird, we believe, has raised a most important point — a point that we should want to discuss if we hold the best interests of our children at heart.
We are not here saying that engagement in sports is not beneficial to our children. We have long held the position that sports is important to the moulding of human character, as it instils in our children the will to succeed, magnanimity, discipline, critical thinking, and, in the case of team events, the benefits of working together to achieve a common goal.
The question, therefore, is how much effort are our schools putting into ensuring that students with athletic abilities are being equipped with the academic skills that will assist them to survive and make meaningful contributions to the country?