JAAA's Blake, Dyke back recruitment of student-athletes
As the country's finest young athletes look to display their talents this week at the ISSA GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Championships, president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), Dr Warren Blake, has weighed in on the recruitment of student-athletes and how it impacts Jamaica's track and field.
For many decades, schools with underdeveloped sports programmes have chastised those with great track records in sports for stealing their athletes but Blake has seen where Jamaica's track and field has benefited from this.
"Talent will have a better chance of coming to the fore at schools with a good track record in sports, because they will have the equipment and talented coaches to get athletes to the optimum," Blake said. "We benefit from having athletes attend a specialist school - a school that does well in sports."
Blake said there are some drawbacks with recruiting. There have been cases, he said, where student-athletes are forced to believe that their only purpose at their new schools is to take part in sports.
"Some of the people think that school is all about sports, and that is where the negative part of it comes in, because when an athlete is recruited because of sports, there is a feeling sometimes that all the athlete needs to do at that new school is to perform in sports, but school is about the overall development of the students, not just for their sporting prowess," Blake said.
Michael Dyke, who has transformed Edwin Allen High into a dynasty at Champs after implementing boarding at the school as a part of his recruitment strategy, also stated that recruiting student-athletes plays a big role in the development of Jamaica's track and field.
"Some people will complain that we should allow them [student-athletes] to stay at their schools to build their schools' names, but some of them do not have the facilities and they don't have the know-how, and they do not get the support of the administration either," Dyke said.
He added: "I believe the recruiting of athletes has helped a lot of athletes over the years, because when you look at those international meets, most of the athletes who are bringing home the medals are athletes who were recruited by some of the good programmes."
Earlier this year, several coaches from the eastern region blamed recruiting for the underdevelopment of track and field in their region.
"We have athletes, but they leave," Andre Anderson, coach of the Morant Bay High School, said at the time. "Retention is our biggest problem here in the eastern area. I could name quite a number of prominent athletes, now at different schools, who started out with us, so there is a talent drain."
One of those athletes is Kimara Francis, who won the Class Two girls 400m at Championships last year in the colours of St Jago High School.
"Francis was one of my athletes at Seaforth High, but as soon as they show good signs, the big schools come in and take them away," Anderson said.