The pressing need to train, nurture, protect sports officials

The pressing need to train, nurture, protect sports officials

Saturday, July 18, 2020

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We have said before in this space that sport is big business and provides the basis for a wide variety of professions.

In fact, minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Ms Olivia Grange, has said that the entertainment, cultural and creative industries, including sport, contribute approximately $195 billion to the Jamaican economy each year, and employ 76,000 people.

Against that backdrop, we applaud Mr Keith Wellington, principal of St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) and head of the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), for a recent appeal to school coaches and leaders.

We are told that during a virtual meeting, Mr Wellington urged that student athletes be encouraged to not just compete in sport, but also aim at becoming officials, administrators and give of themselves in other areas allied to sport.

It's an aspect that far too many people deeply involved in school sports ignore. It seems to us that the responsibility of a school's sports coach or manager can't just be to build a winning team or winning athlete, but to help everyone under his/her care to be the best they can be.

That player or athlete who lacks the basic talent to succeed as a competitor may have all the attributes to become a first-class referee, umpire, coach, manager, physiotherapist, and so forth.

That person should receive guidance towards achievement of potential.

Says Mr Wellington: “Encourage that man who is the number 25 player on your squad, the one who you are only going to give a game when you are leading 6-0, encourage him to be a referee, encourage him to get involved.”

Mr Wellington's comments came against the backdrop of a felt shortage of qualified officials and coaches in all sporting disciplines.

He is reported to have suggested that active recruiting of students should start at about Grade 10, noting that physical education is part of the CSEC and CAPE programmes for high school students.

The ISSA president said that in the case of football referees, the relevant national association would be called on to lead the way in training.

Not just football, but all sporting associations should be anxious to partner with schools in the training of aspiring officials, we think.

In all of this, G C Foster College of Physical Education and Sport should be front and centre.

Finally, the point is repeatedly made that many people are reluctant to become football referees because of the all-too-frequent verbal abuse coming from spectators, and at times the very real threat of physical violence.

This represents an ugly side to Jamaican sport which needs to be snuffed out.

The long break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity for the relevant authorities to think through how to deal with issues such as this.

There can be no place in a modern, civilised society for the abuse of sports officials.


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