THE GraceKennedy Financial Group has reinforced its commitment to schoolboy cricket for the new season through a $9.5-million sponsorship deal, making it clear that despite local economic uncertainties, the Group remains steadfast in nurturing the talents of the island's youngsters, and ensuring the rich legacy of the game is passed on.
The Group, which consists of First Global Bank, First Global Financial Services, Allied Insurance Brokers and Jamaica International Insurance Company (JIIC), has been instrumental in the development of local cricket, having moulded a cadre of outstanding players, including several on the national team such as Danza Hyatt, Simon Jackson, Andre McCarthy, Jermaine Blackwood and Andrew Richardson.
Rohan Scarlett, finance manager at JIIC and one of the chief organisers behind the schoolboy cricket sponsorship, said the GraceKennedy Financial Group remains resolute in its investment.
"We have been sponsoring schoolboy cricket annually because we see the importance of nurturing and improving talents in this area, not just for the short term, but for the long-term benefits of our players, schools, and the country itself," Scarlett said.
"We see the fruits of our investment every year, through the good sportsmanship, discipline and hard work that the players exhibit. Our continued sponsorship will ensure that the game lives on with the same quality standards that we hold in high esteem."
The sponsorship sees players acquiring shirts and balls annually, and at the culmination of each season, exceptional players are rewarded with trophies, and the top four rural and urban schools and coaches receive cash prizes for their performance.
Another instrumental aspect of the Group's sponsorship is the Douglas Orane Award which recognises and rewards outstanding players who strike a balance between their work on the field and their academics.
The Award was established in 2004 and is presented to a player who has amassed significant runs or wicket averages during the GraceKennedy schoolboy cricket competition, while maintaining a high academic record. It is presented annually to one outstanding student and includes a $100,000 scholarship per year for three years, tenable at any locally accredited university.
Over $1.3 million has been invested in this Award since its inception, and so far, seven students have taken up the scholarship, moving on to pursue various first degrees at the tertiary level. At the culmination of this year's cricket season, another top student will also benefit from this award.
"We believe students should hone their skills on the field, and more importantly, they should strive to be at the top of the class academically, because life continues beyond schoolboy cricket. The Douglas Orane Award provides something to aspire towards, and we will keep it as a motivation for students," Scarlett said.
Kirk Gordon, coach of defending Grace Shield champions Innswood High, lauded the Group for its sponsorship.
"Their assistance has been tremendous. GraceKennedy has given a boost to schoolboy and Jamaican cricket with players getting the opportunity to expose their talent and move up the ladder in the sport," said Gordon, who led his team to three consecutive Grace Shield championships since 2010, plus three JIIC KO titles for the same period.
"There are other incentives too as players who perform well academically and on the field can benefit from scholarships, and the top four schools and coaches also get incentives."
Clive Ledgister, coach of STETHS, also had high praises for GraceKennedy for its contribution throughout the years.
"I have seen first-hand the benefits of the Group's sponsorship. With their assistance, players have developed and sharpened their skills, and many of our cricketers like Paul Palmer, Krishna Graham and Donovan Nelson have continued to pave their way in the field, even after leaving STETHS, because of the love they developed for the sport while they were here," he said.