'Twas an eye- opener!
Intercol sports exec Hall reflects on UK stint, deems it a success
AFTER three weeks of an eye-popping stint looking at the inner workings of tertiary sport in the United Kingdom, Jamaican Rashid Hall claims he is better positioned to play his part in the development of the Jamaican product.
He hopes the "wealth of knowledge" gained on the exchange programme that took him on a roller coaster ride across the British intercollegiate sporting landscape can be applied in his jurisdiction in Jamaica, even one step at a time.
What he has found is that university and college sport in the UK is a "massive" beast entrenched in the common principles of business. It's all about money. Hall concedes that there is no basis on which to justifiably compare Jamaica's situation to what unveiled itself on his fact-finding mission. Making any such comparison would be disingenuous, considering that the two economies are poles apart.
Still, he believes, there was good coming out of it all.
"We are on a completely different scale; to compare ourselves to the UK is almost unreal," said Hall, who the Jamaica Observer caught up with at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games staged in Glasgow, Scotland.
The British Universities and Colleges Sports (BUCS) Association, the equivalent of the local Jamaica Intercollegiate Sports Association, is a behemoth of a body, and Hall was quick to point out the gaping chasm between the two.
"In comparison to us, they have 35 staff to cover over 100 universities, so it's a massive organisation," he explained. The Intercol association in Jamaica does not have a single fully employed individual, and survives solely on volunteerism and sponsorship funding.
But Hall, the second vice-president of Jamaica's Intercol sport, has a vision for the tertiary schools' sport movement in his homeland.
"We want to improve administratively this year. One of the things we want to do is get a full-time person in the office. Also, we have to try and communicate better with our stakeholders — the institutions and the students themselves -- and also to prepare ourselves for future events to come," he said.
Immediate on the international intercollegiate sporting calendar is the World University Netball Championships in Miami this year, and then the marquee World University Games set for Gwangju, South Korea, in 2015.
The experience and exposure garnered from his UK sojourn, Hall noted, has made him a stronger administrator, a more informed leader and a man armed with the ammunition to take on the challenges that lie ahead.
"As a young sport administrator, this opportunity has certainly added to my exposure and experience in a great way. To see sport at the highest level, internationally, and to interact with some of the key players in the delivery of sport has helped to motivate me to continue to improve, not only the field of sport within which I operate locally, but also to improve my personal delivery.
"There is no foreseeable limit to where we can take Jamaican sport if we think strategically and work together to ensure that our efforts don't go in different directions, but pool together towards a common goal," said Hall, the sports co-ordinator in the Sports Department at the University of the West Indies, Mona.
Even though the local association is still a creeper compared to BUCS, for example, Hall thinks Jamaica's Intercol sport has seen positive growth under very trying circumstances.
"When I became a part of the association some four years ago, from where we are coming from and where we are today, I must say I am very pleased.
"We have attended the last two World University Games and a lot of those athletes are here (in Glasgow) and winning. We saw O'Dayne Richards, the first time he won a world title was in 2011 at the World University Games, Hansle Parchment won his gold (at University Games) and then became an Olympic bronze medallist the year after," said Hall as he pointed to examples of some of the successes of the Intercollegiate sport system.
Richards won the shot put gold in Glasgow, while another collegiate star Rasheed Dwyer, won the 200m gold in a Jamaican sweep. Warren Weir was second and Jason Livermore third. Parchment, however, was a late pull out from the games due to injury.
Hall, 26, who stayed back in Glasgow after his exchange stint ended, to be a part of Jamaica's official party at the Commonwealth Games, says Intercol Jamaica has a clear path and vision, and he is convinced the individuals involved are equally motivated to drive the dream.
"What we need to do is continue to improve our administrative side of things, and try to push the profile of sports, so we can let people know that collegiate sport is around and very much alive, and also to just be that opportunity for students after high school to get a chance to further develop their talent.
"It's important to know that every student will not come and win a gold medal, but we want for them to continue to be active. Sport has a role to play beyond just competition, but in health and wellness," he argued.