David Martin — balancing academics and athletics
Martin says being an athlete is a primary vehicle by which social mobility can be achieved

HE laces his spikes, gets on the track, and gives a stellar performance. But that’s not all there is to this student-athlete. While serving as co-captain of the Calabar High School track team, 19-year-old David Martin is also form captain, peer counsellor, executive prefect, president of the school’s sixth form association and one of the students listed on the principal’s honour roll.

In an interview with Career & Education, Martin emphasised the need for a balance between the two A’s — academics and athletics.

“Theodore Roosevelt said, ‘When you play, play hard; when you work, don’t play at all’. The balance between athletics and academics can prove to be difficult, but it takes discipline and time management to manoeuvre the task. Between the hours of 7:30 am to 2:35 pm, I’m learning concepts whether it be theoretical or practical. And between 3:00 pm to approximately 7:00 pm, I’m in practice,” he said.

“The beauty about knowledge is that it is not limited to one discipline, it can be transferred to training or real-life situations. Beyond 7:00 pm is where the concepts learnt throughout the day are practised and studied until I go to bed between 11:00 pm and 1:00 am.”

Co-captain of the Calabar High School track team, 19-year-old David Martin is also one of the students listed on the principal’s honour roll.

In 2017, Martin was the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ Championship gold and silver medallist in the 800m and 1,500m, respectively. He is a six-time finalist in the championships and a member of the record holders for 2020 Gibson Relays 4×800m.

He also holds seven Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects, four Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) units and is currently in preparation mode for CAPE Unit 2 in a couple weeks.

Martin said striking a balance was a difficult task at first, but as the years went by, he was able to adapt.

“It is often said that it takes roughly 10,000 hours to become good at something, or 28 days of doing the same thing over and over to create a habit. So I think I have created quite the habit to keep a balance between academics, athletics and a social life. I must admit that there are times when sleep is rescheduled to the next night in order to meet deadlines.”

He got involved in sports, specifically football, at age 10 whilst in the fifth grade. He transitioned to track and field at about 12 years old. Though he enjoys the sport, he is particularly focused on what it may avail him.

“I’m of the view that being an athlete is a primary vehicle by which social mobility can be achieved. Furthermore, the benefits that can be derived from sports are enormous, and I have a love for sports. Frankly put, for many like myself, it is the route to a first class education and beyond that our parents could not otherwise afford.”

He said preparing for the CSEC and the CAPE Unit 1 while competing in different sporting events was tricky.

“I love my dual work. I go out every day trying to do it the best way I possibly can. Preparation was challenging, but I view myself to be a disciplined student-athlete and I always keep in mind that I’m a student before I’m an athlete. Additionally, in my institution, the teachers are great at what they do, so they make sure that I’m prepared to be the best possible student,” he said.

But the most challenging period yet, he added, was when the novel coronavirus pandemic first hit.

“It is easier for one to lose balance than to create one. It took a while to get the hang of the then new normal of online school and having to adjust to the electronic way of doing things. The COVID restrictions put a halt on sporting actives so factors like mental health had to be more of a priority than it was, due to not being able to train and have that face-to-face interaction that was needed for personal growth and development.”

Martin advised younger student athletes to, “Be a tree; embrace all your stages so you can produce sweet fruits and remember that anything you want to achieve will not only take some time, but it will also require hard work. We live in a society that likes to have things instantly so much so that we can sometimes forget the best and most valuable things in life come from working hard to achieve them.”

He added: “To get started on your objectives or task, it will require time and lots of creativity, but you’ve got this! Whatever it is that you want to achieve, it will require all your attention and energy. Discipline must always be the secret potion in the blend of academics and sports.”

The student leader said student-athletes should have a backup plan, describing the reasons as “self-explanatory.”

“Take into consideration a sport like track and field; if we can get more specific, there are at least eight lanes on a track. In a certain event, only eight people have a shot at the three prizes, and I can assure you that over 100 people want to set claim in such a final. As for me, athletics was never the main priority. It was more of how far I can excel in athletics and how many academic benefits I can derive from it while trying to get to the highest levels of the sport,” he explained.

He reasoned that if a particular sport does not take one to the pinnacle of competition, there must be an alternative.

“I may be inhibited from competing for the rest of my competitive years, but my education and the qualifications gained have no expiry date. I must be able to support myself, my parents and the family I will one day have.”

Martin underscored the fact that many people often add to a debate about the negative effects of sports on student athletes. He believes there should be more dialogue on the multifarious ways that sports make students more rounded.

“From a sociological perspective, labelling plays a key part in how our athletes are portrayed here in Jamaica. The discipline that I have gained from sports helps me significantly with any task I take on as a student. Being labeled as an athlete has been a key part of my motivation to excel in academics. I think its full time we drop the stereotype that sports personnel generally don’t excel in other capacities outside of sports,” he said.

“Athletes, too, have a role in changing this narrative. We have to show the world that we are made up of more than how they perceive us as being. Institutions ought to be encouraged to work alongside their student athletes to maximise their potential on and off the track.”

BY ROMARDO LYONS Career & Education reporter lyonsr@jamaicaobserver.com

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