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Sports and academics do mix

Andi Thornhill

Sports and academics do mix

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For those who are still sceptical about mixing sports with academics, the reporting on the recent Cave Hill Campus graduation may have been a game-changer.
 It may not have been the first time so many sportsmen were among the university graduates, it may have been the first time they were highlighted in such a glowing manner.   
All the same it should have caused us to reflect on how much more our tertiary institutions and university should be doing to embrace our athletes in academic programmes while they pursue their sporting  interests.
Truth be told, we are still in the mode of depending on United States institutions to fine tune the best of our sportsmen when that responsibility should rest squarely on our shoulders.
We mainly export athletes while on occasion others from volleyball, basketball, tennis and swimming benefit from scholarships too.  
Don’t expect it
Even so, as I mentioned in a previous column, we shouldn’t expect foreign systems to train our athletes to beat their own, especially for major competition.
Realistically, the overseas universities and colleges recruit or grant scholarships to those who qualify to help them enhance their sporting profile and to ensure they get bragging rights.
That’s essentially what they pay for as sports is used to glorify social advancement and prove that it plays a pivitol role in nation building.
This is a universal standard and nobody can monopolize the concept. It seems that the only difference is that most developed societies place greater emphasis on sporting development while we are too reticent and indecisive until someone succeeds against overwhelming odds.
We wake up and then go back fast to sleep!
Hence, it is par for the course if the North American institutions take our athletes to a certain level. They keep their part of the bargain once our sportsmen perform well in their respective disciplines and maintain required grades.
After mission is accomplished, it is known that athletes who want to intensify their training and travel to meets to compete against the best to measure their own standard, have to foot their own bill.
Some find this too taxing and give up unless they are fortunate to get sponsorship.
Redeeming factor
The one redeeming factor is that they have their qualifications and can compete in the job market at home and abroad.
I am saying that if we were directing and guarding the interest of our own from the start, we would feel an innate obligation to help them bring their dreams to fruition.  
Blood is thicker than water and we must take full responsibility for assisting those who show the capability and the willingness to contribute to the building of a better society through sports.
Another thing we shouldn’t overlook is that the North American educational system is not only geared strategically to produce graduates with scholastic accolades but also to prepare the top sportsmen for life as professionals in disciplines like basketball, baseball and American football. That’s the concept behind the so-called draft. So, if you earn your degree you can also be in line to become a professional sportsman on merit.
Our system is divorced of this approach because there are no professional leagues in the Caribbean.
The closest we come to this is in cricket and some even question the Cave Hill model in this regard.
Personally, I would like some of the other sports to get a similar push even if cricket, the national sport, remains the flagship.   
Generally, the higher learning institutions can drive this concept with support from Governments and the private sector as a means of creating alternate or additional employment options at a time when diversity seems to be a must with fragile economies.  
There is no reason why regional universities and colleges cannot harness graduates and professional sportsmen simultaneously.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced award-winning journalist