Tue | May 28, 2024

Lascelve Graham | Champs and its crippling effect on socialisation system

Published:Sunday | March 31, 2024 | 12:08 AM
This 2023 photos shows fireworks at ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls Champs at National Stadium in St Andrew.
This 2023 photos shows fireworks at ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls Champs at National Stadium in St Andrew.
Lascelve Graham
Lascelve Graham

Many are not aware that I represented my beloved alma mater, St. George’s College (STGC) at Champs. No, I was not in the mould of a Usain Bolt. In fact I must have been considered by the coach to be numbered among those of little talent, who had the temerity to turn up for track training. I was not a star.

However, among the cohort of students who qualified to be at STGC, and was interested, I was the best he could find. STGC in those days was rated among the best, if not the best, as an academic institution. In those days, the wholesale recruiting of sports talent by public schools had not yet taken root.

My teammates and I ran our hearts out, experienced the exhilaration, the thrill, the joy of representing our school, gained self-confidence, learned self-reliance and the benefits of teamwork, delaying gratification, perseverance, that with effort comes improvement, conflict resolution and so many other things. We learned that it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game that matters!

Co-curricular activities like Champs, were teaching/learning tools, targeting the student cohort, who had qualified by our publicly declared protocol, to be at a given school. By earning the right to do the curriculum at a particular public high school, this student cohort, stars or otherwise, was entitled to be the focus of all the school had to offer, including co-curricular activities, in its push to make them the best citizens they could be. They were the representatives of the school! The individuals of this student cohort knew that they belonged in the particular academic community, which is key to improving academic, technical and vocational performance, the primary mission of school.


School is also one of the main socialising agent of society. Co-curricular activities are offered particularly to help the school function more effectively in this area. The priority is to help teach life lessons that are more difficult to teach in the classroom, thus producing a more “rounded”, holistic experience for our young citizens.

Co-curricular activities are supposed to be an attempt to go beyond the curriculum in endeavouring to inculcate (in the students who have qualified to do the curriculum at a particular school) the values, attitudes, behaviours and life skills necessary for a sustainable society. This is especially important in Jamaica today where antisocial behaviour is so rampant.

However, over the years our political and educational leadership have been overrun by those who espouse a win-at-all-costs approach to sports by our public schools. This has resulted in heavy recruiting for sports by schools, so that those who do well at Champs, schoolboy football, cricket and a number of other sports are those with long pockets, able to assemble the best talent on their campus in a particular year. High schools import to win, full stop. It is of little or no consequence whether the youngsters are rich or poor, literate, semi-literate or illiterate, whether they come from institutions with good, poor or no facilities, once they show good talent, they will be imported. This is completely out of line with the spirit and role of co-curricular activities, and among other things, has serious negative implications for the poorer, less-endowed schools, whose improvement is critical to the implementation of the lofty ideal expressed in the declaration that all children can learn, all children must learn.


School sports have become intensely competitive and counterproductive with outside talent being imported not only from local sources, but from overseas as well. To win at Champs and other sporting events is the overriding imperative! The role of sports as a socialising, co-curricular activity, for the benefit of those who qualified to do the curriculum at a particular school, has been thrown out the window. School is now the developmental arm of our various sports associations. Our schools are operating as sports academies, clubs. The hijacking of sports as a co-curricular activity, as a teaching/learning tool (focused on socialising the student cohort, who have qualified to do the curriculum at a given school), has led to the use and abuse of our children with the horse trading which results and the concomitant weakening of our education/socialisation system. The ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys & Girls Athletics Championships is one of the driving forces of this abuse!

The overemphasis on winning sports has led to many unfortunate antisocial incidents over the years, including violence, associated especially with Champs and football. At a recent Champs, a female athlete was beaten for changing allegiance. More recently the Manning Cup presentation had to be postponed because of the horrible behaviour of the winner’s supporters who also mounted a demonstration at JC, the losing finalist, and behaved in a most scandalous and despicable manner.

Other countries, e.g., Finland, Singapore, South Korea, former members of the USSR, China, etc., which have lifted themselves up economically and socially, have all done so by making education/socialisation top priority. Their schools played a major role in their having a strong education/socialisation system. A number of them have “merit” systems similar to ours. None used their schools as sports academies, clubs.

Jamaica beat the world at our first Olympics in 1948. Jamaica has held all the male 100 metre titles, in all age categories, at all levels at the same time. Four of these six world titles were held by athletes who did not attend high-profile schools. There is no reason for our schools to recruit for sports, except to win at all costs, to beat the system, to cheat! The negatives associated with this practice by far outweigh the positives. The practice should be banned! This is NOT an extreme position, bearing in mind the norm in successful countries worldwide.

Dr Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham is a former captain of Manning, All-Manning, All-Schools and All-Jamaica football teams. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com