The last time the Jamaica Observer Career & Education caught up with 19-year-old student-athlete David Martin he underscored the importance of unlacing his spikes, taking them off, putting them aside, and then opening his books. These days the 2017 ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys' Championships gold and silver medallist in the 800m and 1500m, respectively, shares exciting news that he is now a freshman at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) in the United States.
Martin will be pursuing a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology on scholarship while training for three events — cross country, 800m, and 1500m.
Martin, who holds seven Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects and four Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) units, described pursuing his degree programme as killing "two birds with one stone".
"The purpose of selecting a major or minor in college is to set the foundation for a career path. At this point in most students' development they are aware of the path they are carving for themselves. I am no different. I established a base in CSEC and CAPE through biology and physical education to assist me transition into my chosen field," he told Career & Education.
"It is akin to my sports and so one complements the other. In my mind, study what you love and enjoy, and you are assured of success. On the other hand, I am better able to understand and appreciate my discipline on the track. It is a win for both UMES and I," Martin continued.
UMES has a 62 per cent acceptance rate and an average tuition cost of US $15,000 after aid.
The six-time ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys' Championship finalist and member of then record holding 2020 Gibson Relays 4×800m team advises senior student-athletes who are planning their jump from high school to university to be smart before saying "yes" to scouts.
"For every senior athlete on the cusp of transitioning from high school to college they should develop a good working relation with their guidance department, their coaches, and, where necessary, members of the team management. This support system is important to navigate some of the fundamental areas of the process, particularly in the absence of parents."
To begin the process, he said, "It is advisable that the student-athlete targets schools with a record of good performances in their event, ensure that they develop a marketable academic transcript that will help them to readily get cleared by the NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association], along with a competitive track career that can be placed on a profile that can be shared with interested coaches."
Martin reasoned that, in some instances, some schools are "fortunate" to have a system of alumni support that assists with the transition process.
"A crucial point to note is that parents should prepare to pay the associated fees as there are things the scholarship does not cover, and they are compulsory," he said, adding that being aware of the intention of scouts is one thing, but selecting the right university is just as important.
When asked how he knew UMES was the right fit for him, Martin responded, "Of the number of schools I had dialogue with, the initial contact with UMES, the process, and the client relation skills of the coach and the other school representatives stood tall in comparison. Alongside that, I had my own guiding philosophy of what I was looking for and the UMES approach and offerings aligned perfectly with my Habakkuk 2: 2 approach, causing me to confidently check the remaining boxes on my list."
In his last bit of advice to transitioning student-athletes, he underscored the need to not put all eggs in one basket. Martin related that he had applied to several universities and considered other options in the event that his plans to settle at UMES didn't materialise.
"I was confident that as a first generation college prospect my journey from St Elizabeth did not end at Calabar High. I had no choice but to go to college overseas. I expressed interests in a number of colleges, and was contacted by a number with different offers and proposals. Along the way I had to be shortlisting and deciding as I went along.
"One thing was for certain was that UWI, Mona [The University of the West Indies] was always an option. It became clear that putting all my eggs in one basket would see me in a quandary. I am eternally grateful to the Achieve a Dream Foundation for the mammoth role they played in this process."