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JEFF BROOMES: No drums, no tiers

Jeff Broomes

JEFF BROOMES: No drums, no tiers

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The knees have stopped lifting, the  cheers have gone silent and the  track lays empty as the sun sets on another successful inter-school track and field championships.

The winners are well known; in one case, perennial and in the other the reconfirming of hard work and dedication.

As the formal and informal reviews are voiced, two issues have been brought to the fore, the absence of drums (music) and the structure of the competition itself. As one of the leaders who banned the drums and who would have experienced no fewer than three different structures, I feel constrained to make my comments.

I thought the decision to ban drums was the correct one then, and I still think so now. 

The drums-driven indiscipline within the stands and then on to the street gave good reason for the decision. The complaints from persons whose personal property was damaged cannot be forgotten. Neither can the accompanying violent acts along the streets. These are different days from when I walked from Kensington to Ashton Hall.

I see children from all schools having good healthy fun in the stands and giving support to the important persons involved in the activity, the athletes. Let’s focus on their training and preparation, their nutrition and rest and their focus and execution. I was pleased when, just a few years ago, I visited the high school championships in Jamaica and discovered that drums were also banned there. Performances were still good though.

I heard my friend Mac Fingall asking for the championships to be divided into different divisions, and I could not disagree with him more. Sorry Mac, you’ve just got it wrong.

Track and field, though producing school champions every year, is ostensibly an individual and not a team sport. I cannot see any benefit to deciding that one set of schools be division one and another be division two or three. All athletes at any of these schools do not fall into those predetermined categories.

Teachers, parents, coaches and sponsors work judiciously every year to produce the outstanding athletes who will bring glory to our country. Yes, Springer Memorial has been a dominant force, but it is the individual athlete from that school who represents our country. Indeed, some even get beaten on national sports day. Parkinson Memorial has been in the lower half, but Sonia Gaskin shone quite brightly as an individual and there are others of like ilk.

Are we prepared to put Daryll Jordan Secondary in the lower division as their points would mandate and deny Mary Fraser the needed top flight competition? Or are we simply creating the prescription for the inevitable poaching of athletes that will emerge.  Indeed, this is already raising its ugly and, unfortunately, distasteful head.

I believe there is a need for a change of structure that will give all schools a day of glory and reduce the amount of disruption and lost teaching time that occurs every year.  Let’s go back to the zonal system. This way all schools will be disrupted for no more than two days as opposed to the five they must now give up. Each zonal meet should involve four schools (five meets) with the winners from each event from each zone plus the next three best times or distances going forward on sports day.

This will give every athlete a chance to shine in his or her zone thereby increasing competition and will not restrict the cream from coming to the top. Sports day would indeed have the best of the best on show.

That’s my advice to the organisers as the way to go.

Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator,  principal and community organiser who also served as vice-president of the BCA and director of the WICB. Email: [email protected]