This is the season that we loosely describe as school sports. Separate rounds of track-and-field events which begin at the Inter-House level then move outward to a more broad-based competition among the schools and the regions.
From the standpoint of the school being the breeding ground for honing talent and producing quality athletes, school sports really ought to be an important national event.
In a different world we ought to have our talent scouts and our coaches there and our record-keepers ought to be in attendance too to chart the progress of the schoolboys and girls; how quickly they run; what times they set; how high or far they jump and what distances they throw the discuss or the javelin.
School sports really ought to be seen as the bottom tier that fashions a path for elevation to the top.
But that is an altogether different story.
School Sports in Guyana is an interesting affair.
The season appears to provide opportunities for a temporary setting aside of the day-to-day curriculum.
Sports days and the season as a whole, have come to be regarded – by some though not all schools – as unofficial holidays. Children who are not lovers of sports simply stay away from school, taking advantage of a certain temporary loss of control on the part of their teachers.
The events themselves are as much opportunities for having a good time as they are for the display of athletic prowess.
Sometimes there is music and children show up dressed for a party. It is the party side of things that appears to attract most of the children. It would have been a good thing if there was some point to these events beyond a temporary distraction from the classroom.
Opportunities for exercise, competition and displays of athletic prowess ought to be an integral part of the school experience. But then there has to be context and meaning to those opportunities.
Children – save and except the handful who are dedicated athletes – are pressed into a brief and mostly uncoordinated and unsupervised period of preparation for school sports. Often the selection of the participants for the various events has to do as much with individual enthusiasm and willingness to participate as it has to do with athletic prowess.
How much can be expected to come from such randomness is anyone’s guess.
Then there is the question of facilities.
After decades of waiting and talking about how much Guyana has moved forward we are yet to turn up a single athletics track anywhere in the country. School sports are run off on grounds that are in varying stages of readiness.
They hamper performances and render children vulnerable to injury. But the school sports routine must go on. As the politicians might say it is part of our tradition; a tradition that has taken us nowhere.
And after the season of school sports is finally over the children return to school with their prizes and their bragging rights and with no real expectations beyond next year’s school sports. Meanwhile, they have a whole year in which to turn their attention to other things. Potential is buried in a lack of concern and official failure to recognize the pointlessness of the ritual.
And we appear not to have learnt from the examples of elsewhere, countries in which there is an acute awareness of the fact that what we in Guyana loosely describe as school sports is far more than a momentary distraction from academic pursuits. It is here that talent is spotted and stars are born. Ask the Jamaicans; they have taken school sports talent to the highest levels.
It is a shame that no one seems to recognize the nexus between school sports and taking our country places. It is a shame too that the national budget takes no really meaningful account of the importance of investing in school sports. It shows in what has become a frustrating condition of underachievement on the international stage and in the comments that are made by our more perceptive athletes about our complete lack of preparedness to compete with the rest of the world. It is a shame, really.