Power of sports
Sociologist McCalpin argues sports and academics possess potential to rein in crime monster
Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, multiple Olympic and World Championships goldmedallist and a daughter of the tough inner-city community of Waterhouse, holdsa Bachelor of Science in Child and Adolescent Development from the University ofTechnology, Jamaica. Fraser-Pryce is a prime example of the importance to balancingsport and academics as a way of positive upward mobility. (Photo: Observer file)

Sociologist Dr Jermaine McCalpin says that education is the key to keeping youngsters away from a life of crime and violence, but that education must be one that is balanced between academics and sports.

Although many local sporting competitions are contested without adequate funding, their organisers have often said that they continue with them, especially in lower-income communities across the island, because they help to address Jamaica's crime issue.

The belief is that keeping youngsters who may not have employment opportunities busy through sports is enough of a distraction from joining gangs or carrying out illegal activities to earn a living.

Although many sporting competitions take place across the island, the problem of crime and violence still exists, which raises the question of whether sports have done enough as a deterrent.

MCCALPIN... excel on the track and the field, but also continue to excel in the classroom (Photo: Observer file)

McCalpin, a former lecturer of transitional justice and political institutions in the Department of Government at The University of The West Indies, says that education is the solution as it allows for the reintroduction of core societal values.

"I'm a believer in values and that's what culture is about the transmission of cultures across time," McCalpin told the Jamaica Observer. "Education is an opportunity to transmit values. We have to develop a different model of education, where it's not just schooling, but actually training for life bringing back civics in the school, respect, and love for our fellow human beings, believing the creed of the pledge to be true. I believe that education must provide this opportunity for our students. It must give them an alternative to the things that are being broadcast and being said.

"For me, education is not just what happens in school from 7:30 am to 2:10, it's when our students are at home and what happens throughout their lives. So, we must return to that model that says education is the only means by which our society can develop, not the fancy cars we have, not how often we can fly, not what we have access to on YouTube and social media, but how far education can take us."

McCalpin says that education is not just the learning that takes place in the classroom, but also the values gained through sports.

However, many scholar-athletes have found difficulty in striking that balance, with some who have not realised the promise shown in their junior athletic careers, struggling to make ends meet afterward because a lack of focus in the classroom meant little to no qualification and lesser employment opportunities.

"We have many students that just go through high school, we want them to excel academically, as much as we want them to excel athletically," said McCalpin, who is also a director at the Pocket Rocket Foundation (PRF), a charity founded by Olympian Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

"It is not accidental that the scholar or the student comes before the athlete. I tell students all the time that they can retrieve many things in their lives. You can have an injury that causes you to be on the sideline, but no one can repossess your education," he reasoned.

"It's fundamentally important and that's the message that we continue to send to our scholar-athletes [at PRF], 'Yes, excel on the track and the field, but also continue to excel in the classroom.' The NCAA has a motto and it says that you will dominate in the sport of life and in some other arena than the sport of athletics. The point is that if you're a scholar-athlete, it's scholastic pursuits first, and then track and field. Education is valuable irrespective of whether you have a future in track and field or a future in the wider society," McCalpin ended.

BY RACHID PARCHMENT Digital sports coordinator parchmentr@jamaicaobserver.com

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