Thanks to athletes like Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Veronica Campbell Brown and Elaine Thompson, Jamaica has, over the past two decades, cemented its legacy as the ‘Track and Field’ hub of the world. Of course, we have managed to produce many other great athletes during that time, who went on to represent us well and have helped to put the Jamaican flag on a high pedestal. However, with talks of adding more sports to the ISSA Boys and Girls Athletic Championships, Jamaica is now in the position to expand its influence on the globe in more than just track and field. The country has impacted sports such as Basketball in the United States with Patrick Ewing as well as on the a global platform with swimming with Ali Atkinson but the idea of producing more stars in these other activities must be entertained and acted upon. Therefore, turning the ISSA Boys and Girls Athletic Championships into a platform that will feature an assortment of sporting activities will help to produce more young talent as well as impact the world in more than just athletics.
A structured approach to the ISSA Boys and Girls championships, by framing it into a professional and internationally acclaimed sporting event has reaped many rewards for Jamaica and its sporting fraternity. Over the years, we have seen many stars being produced. In recent memory we had Calabar superstar Christopher Taylor creating international buzz by dominating his events year after year, helping the team from Red Hills Road to maintain their dominance on champs.
Also, we’ve seen athletes like Jaheel Hyde, former Wolmerian, make his progression from the championships into an Olympian, reaching as far as the semifinals in the 2016 Olympics in the 400m hurdles. What we have is a blueprint for building on natural, raw talent, giving them a competitive space and turning them into elite athletes. If we were to incorporate other sports such as Basketball and Swimming then the possibility of us producing more stars in these sports as well becomes extremely high.
Over the years, Alia Atkinson has been the beacon of light for Jamaica as it relates to swimming, with exceptional, consistent performances, setting her a part as one of the most impactful competitors of her generation. By utilizing the pool at the National stadium, which has been left dormant for years during these events, a structural approach can be designed to allow schools to compete during the championships.
Likewise, with Basketball, similar measures can be put in place to create a competitive field around the sport during champs season, separate and apart form the already existing league competition between schools around the corporate area.
Simply implementing other sports into the Boys and Girls championships will obviously not guarantee the production of more stars in these fields. It is important to be aware that other factors must also be set in place such as adequate funding by schools into the training regime of these other sports, with similar intensity and focus that is given to track and field. Though unlikely, given that Track and Field is the money maker, the vision of us creating a stamp on the world stage in other sporting activities should be enough motivation to maintain an interest in carrying out this initiative.