Use Jamaica’s Champs example to fire up local sporting passions

Originally published on Monday 10 April 2023 in Wired868

Two of our Ministers recently attended Jamaica’s Champs Track and Field Event. This was a great idea to expand the education of Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, the minister of Education, and Shamfa Cudjoe, the minister of Sports and Community Development.

If their interest was really in coming up with a solution to our “sporting pothole” they would have looked over their “imaginary fences” and chatted with former President of The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) Larry Romany.

Jamaican teenaged sprinters compete at the 2015 Jamaica Champs track and field event.
(via Ketch Caribbean)

He would have pulled a quotation from a 2012 article in which he said: “Jamaica puts a qualified physical teacher into every school, but more than that, each physical education teacher in Jamaica is actually qualified in track and field.

“So they are a coach as well as a phys-ed teacher and they go into the system, and that is why Jamaica has had such success because there is a focussed attempt, a strategic intent on creating track and field stars.”

If the Minister of Community Development was curious about why Jamaica is dominating track and field globally, she would have reached out to former national hockey player Dr Iva Gloudon, a former High Commissioner to Jamaica. And she might have explained that Jamaica’s Champs has been staged for more than 100 years.

There are so many people “over the fence” who could share solutions to our sport and social issues and are ignored because of the perceived colour of their allegiance.

I hope that the two Ministers return home with the understanding that Champs is a grassroots activity. The average Joe Jamaican will find an old school tie or socks or t-shirt or undersized shorts and proudly strut their stuff at the Champs while rooting for their secondary school and re-living long lost memories.

Patrons at the Jamaica Champs track and field event.

When an activity assumes the cultural significance of Champs, it is an easy sell. But Champs is more than the expression of sport and culture, it is the culmination of years of hard work.

During my Caribbean Games experience, my mantra was: “sport must become the weapon of choice for our youth”. I still believe in the potential and possibility of this statement, but it will only become a reality when we devote the time and effort to craft the strategy for the sport industry.

Of course, this has been done before but our leaders choose not to build on previously laid foundations but to smash any bases that exist.

Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe (centre) joins the Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team as they salute the crowd in Bacolet, after qualifying for the Concacaf W Championship with a 2-2 draw against Guyana at the Dwight Yorke Stadium on 12 April 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

As blood continues to fertilize our land and our people flounder it is urgent that we put a strategic plan in place to capture the imagination of our youth and fire up our people’s passion for sport and culture.

Whatever we do, there is the grim recognition that it may be another generation before we reap the rewards. But if action is taken now, my generation may pass on, confident in the knowledge that our future sports persons will thrive in a nurturing, passionate environment.

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