I am a self-confessed sports junkie. I need my daily fix of sports or my life becomes a boring humdrum of work, work, work and the interventions of Hilda.
I have been a supporter of Liverpool F.C. since 1970 and of the Chicago Bears since 1984. I do not use the word “fan” to describe myself. Fan is the abbreviation of fanatic, which I am not. We of the Liverpudlian clan describe ourselves as supporters. I read everything that I can on sports. I believe that I know as much of professional sports as most of my fellow citizens. I have set out all of this as the background to this brief article.
Professional sports are organised, structured and managed establishments. Nothing is left to chance. These organisations are neither amateurish in the manner in which they are managed nor amateurish in the way that they are organised. The participants do not engage in these sports as a hobby or as some form of extra-curricular activity, to get a little exercise, to earn brownie points, or to learn the nobility of winning and losing.
My two clubs and the leagues in which they operate have structures and systems for every facet of their organisation. The clubs have scouts who, throughout the year, scout, scour and roam the countries (and even abroad) looking for talent to recruit. The leagues in which they operate have detailed rules for the acquisition, registration and transfer of the athletes. There are medical schemes. There are doctors and lawyers available to the teams. Pre- and post-game/competition analysis by back-room analytic staff is a must.
Injuries, a necessary by-product of sports, are managed, and players learn to play through the pain whilst playing. My teams exist for two reasons only. To win and to ensure that the supporters and owners can boast, brag, crow, preen and generally show-off over their rivals until the next season.
If all of the contents of the preceding paragraph seem to the casual observer not like teams/owners/players in the English Premier League or the National Football League but teams/owners/players in an ISSA-run competition, then the man on the Duhaney Park bus would be correct. ISSA, the Inter Secondary Schools Sports Association, in my view, is Jamaica’s greatest professional sports organisation. None of the “great” professional sporting organisations and their clubs respectively, whether the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) or the Jamaica Athletics Administration Association (JAAA) or their clubs (such as Harbour View F.C., Arnett Gardens F.C. 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. I say clubs, because it is my view that when it comes to sports neither Calabar, Kingston College nor Jamaica College 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.
I dare say that of the majority of the pro athletes produced by the ISSA-sanctioned clubs, a significant percentage are not the superbly qualified professions/managerial citizens that were meant to be the products of these schools. 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.
Of the thousands who compete each year, young men such as Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Ricardo Gardener are the exception and not the rule. Our secondary schools ought to be designed for the “rule”, not the exceptions!
As a punter, I am prepared 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/DaCosta Cups and the Boys’ Athletic Championship a majority of these “stars” will be found not to have truly benefited from their secondary education.
In Jamaica, secondary education in general and in particular in traditional schools such as Jamaica College, Calabar High and Kingston College is far too precious a commodity to be wasted on the altar of sporting glory. It ought to stop immediately.