JAAA president warns student-athletes going pro
President of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) Garth Gayle is wary of track and field athletes at the high school level moving straight to the professional ranks instead of going to university to further their education.
According to Gayle, this new trend could diminish Jamaica's prospects at the international level in the future, as he argued that these athletes face burnout, which has happened in the past to several of Jamaica's top track and field prospects at the high school level.
"We would have observed that within the more developed countries, it wasn't unusual to see a talented junior emerging in the professional level at various competitions, be it basketball, track and field etc. We are now seeing in Jamaica this new situation," Gayle said.
"I believe a student-athlete education is paramount, it's very important. When an athlete, at a tender age, decides to go into the professional ranks, it is a decision that, not done properly, not in the correct programme that can nurture and protect them, can have a devastating effect because that athlete could, in short order, fall by the wayside, and we have seen a few of that.
"We have seen athletes who are dominating at our Boys and Girls' Championships and being lured by money to go into the professional ranks, it is a little too early for a few of them.
"So, I honestly believe a student athlete should be allowed to develop in all aspects of their educational journey as they continue to pursue the sport they love. We must be careful and mindful that we don't plunge them, or push them, or get them into an avenue that there is not that level of protection, and that is my fear." Gayle said.
In recent years, several of the island's top junior athletes have moved to the professional level immediately after their high school sojourn.
Only last year, twins Tina and Tia Clayton, who dominated the ISSA/Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships (Champs) for Edwin Allen High for several years, joined professional outfit MVP, while Kerrica Hill, who participated at Champs for Hydel, joined Elite Performance Track Club.
Tina is the reigning Under-20 World Championships back-to-back 100 metres women's gold medallist, having won in Nairobi, Kenya, two years ago and repeated in Cali, Colombia, last year when Hill won the women's 100 metres hurdles.
Gayle, although being cautious, argued, however, that there are also examples of athletes having positive results after going professional straight from high school, but insisted that most times, it does more harm.
Gayle, the principal of Charlemont High School, referenced the issue to 10-year-old children doing very well academically at the primary level of education, but failing to maintain the standard at the secondary level, because of exhaustion.
"Some athletes have done well, but the programme that that club operates was able to manage their development carefully, but put it this way, we have seen many of our 10-plus students doing very well academically and show brilliance, and we tend to take them right into the secondary system, some become mentally fatigue," Gayle said.