On Target
September 16, 2011
Balancing with the books

The 2011- 2012 academic year has begun, and most of the students are in new classes, while many are in new schools, a different environment, but with a common goal.{{more}}

But as the school year begins, there is no evident excitement in the sporting calendar for the students. The run of the mill stuff is again in train.

This is the first term, and for the secondary schools which host most of the competitions, Netball and Football are set to take place over the next two months.

One will again see the rush by the various Physical Education teachers to get their teams together, with the hope of bringing glory to their institutions.

But we have come to realise this type of sporting “trouble shooting” and crash courses do not bring the intended results of excellence.

There is always a struggle to get school principals to give their students the needed time away from the academics for practice, as “it is a loss of instructional time”.

As it is, the academics is still the priority, and we are still lagging behind, in seeing the marriage between sports and the books; both go hand in hand.

There is now a dearth of student-athletes. We have good students who are tops in their academics, and conversely, there are accomplished athletes, but who are not proficient with the books.

In getting to that point, we have to have a paradigm shift in the way things are done.

Therefore, schools should put in place systems where students must have an accepted level of performance in their academics in certain core subjects and should also have a minimum attendance level in order to maintain their places on the schools teams.

It is pointless to have a top athlete who is good at his /her discipline and cannot acquit himself/ herself at an accepted level.

This should also be a training ground for the students who have many opportunities to earn a living, an education, and develop themselves otherwise.

We also have to do away with waiting until the term begins to begin to put the teams in place.

Schools should endeavour to identify their eligible players during the third term and start the process there and then.

Over the last decade or so, we have started to have “summer” vacation, instead of the long July/ August vacation, in this country. Those seven weeks should have been used to prepare school teams and get them ready for the competitions in the first term.

Instead, we rush through the competitions, for the sake of having them, and with not much new talents being unearthed.

In the current set up, most of the matches are played during school hours.

This is certainly detrimental to the students who represent the schools, who are in class and can hardly focus on the academics, but are psyching up themselves for the upcoming matches.

Therefore, it may be wise if these matches are slated for after school or on weekends.

It is the norm in other Caribbean islands, and should be established here, as we seek to maximize time and restrict the amount of idle time available to our young minds.

With us, this should not be a problem, as the same students are often seen loitering after school at the various meeting places and bus stops, basically “liming”.

It is these same youngsters who participate in other areas and national competitions after school. Some schools have teams which compete in the National Netball Club Tournament, which takes place at 4 and 5 O’clock in the afternoon.

With the change in scheduling, principals, parents, teachers, past students, the current students and the general public can have an opportunity to see the players.

Also, there are volunteers who are willing to assist some of these schools, but cannot do so because of the scheduling of the matches during normal work hours.

Additionally, the members of the Division of Sports and Physical Education who possess the technical expertise can come forward and assist the school in getting to the next phase of development.

Their few hours stretched out with different schools within the 9 to 3 time frame is not enough.

Making these shifts is among ways we can add invigoration to our school sports, which would result in, ultimately, better national teams, as the schools are the bedrock.