Evening schools’ athletics – a new trend begins in earnest

Three years ago the principal and staff of the Bethel High School (BHS) bought into the initiative suggested by physical education teacher, Theon Gordon, to make a radical departure from the norm in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Gordon had suggested that the time had come for the educational institution o host its annual track and field championships in the afternoon going into the evening, rather than during the normal school hours.
Gordon’s thinking was that this novel approach would achieve several objectives that are not currently met by the traditional modus.
The principal and staff therefore banded themselves together and created a very delightful package for their institution’s annual track and field competition.
The rationale had several facets.
The intention was to transform the sports into a major showcase of the Bethel High School, past, present and future.
By starting in the afternoon student athletes more time to prepare themselves for their respective events on the day of competition.
The athletes were also able to encourage their parents, family and friends to be a part of the BHS experience.
Past students would be able to share in the experience by turning up to the event after having completed their work day.
The general public would seize the opportunity to pass by the event following work.
The BHS recently hosted its third annual afternoon-evening track and field championships at the Victoria Park.
Significantly, the Barrouallie Secondary School – BSS, (Central Leeward Secondary School – CLSS) held its annual track and field competition on Friday last (24 February), for the very first time, as an afternoon-evening event, at the Victoria Park.
The Vincentian tradition in respect of school sports is to organise these events during the normal school hours. This was the most convenient and perhaps cost effective, as far as the leadership was concerned.
It was always assumed that teachers would not wish to be part of an activity that calls upon them to give their time working outside the normal hours for something as frivolous as sport.
Principals, staff and the Ministry of Education officials were all of one accord that should school sports be conducted after school hours and into the evening there was the likelihood of mayhem; loss of control. The students would not be anxious to wear uniforms; they would not readily conform to school rules; they would be readily influenced by non-school features; they would make the event into a major entertainment package that detracts from the real intent of the activity; and the list goes on.
Perhaps more than anything else is the fact that the pervasive nature of call-in radio programmes and of social media, would offer significant opportunities for intense scrutiny of everything that could go wrong or that breaks conventional norms of school sports.
The propensity to have the conduct of the schools’ students in the public domain sent chills down the spines of those in authority in the vast majority of our institutions.
Generally, many principals are far too tentative in respective of their own anticipation of the possible reactions of the officials at the Ministry of Education, the public and the media.
In many respects the reality was and, in many instances, still is, that people, especially our principals and staff, appear far more accepting of the status quo; it is their comfort zone.
The reality is that it takes too much out of us to consider change, especially radical change. Change brings with it far too many challenges; the potential to be too disruptive.
Breaking the mould
Youthfulness has tremendous benefits if only we are prepared to give the young opportunities to express themselves and participate in the realisation of their ideas.
The society that develops is that which allows all of its citizens to participate in its decision making by granting them the freedom to be.
We often pontificate of the ebullience of youth and the energies they bring with their ideas but seldom take them seriously enough to allow them to put their ideas into practice. Generally, we are too timid and we have a strong desire to maintain effective control.
Showcasing the institution
The BHS initiative conceptualised the transformation of its annual track and field championships into a major entertainment event. It was to become the institution’s grand annual showcase.
The intention as to create an event where every aspect featured the institution. Tis necessitated the full involvement of students past and present as well as their parents.
The competition already featured current students but past students would also be allowed some special events as well.
The entertainment was intended to feature artistes from the school, past and present. This therefore allowed for the creativity of these students to be publicly highlighted in a manner that would probably never have happened otherwise. They were given a major national platform to do their thing, display their talent and potential.
The food preparation was also undertaken by people associated with the BHS.
In a sense, everywhere a patron turned one was confronted on the history, legacy, contemporary reality and immense potential of one of our nation’s educational institution.
Upon entry into the Victoria Park no one can have any doubt that the school was able to create a BHS Day, in effect.
Increased interest
The mere creation of a BHS Day generated great interest amongst those currently attending and working at the institution.
There is a sense of pride engendered amongst staff and students when afforded the opportunity to showcase what the institution is about to the nation and, via the social media, the world. This is what has been witnessed first at the BHS event and more recently by that of the BSS.
The tentativeness attendant to the original venture would have by this time dissipated in the face of the tremendous response by parents, past students and enthusiastic sport fans.
Of course the media showed and continues to show much interest in the annual event and the news have spread far and wide.
Interest is shown in the Diaspora as much as it is here at home.
Increased participation
Increased interest has obviously yielded greater participation in the different aspects of the annual event.
More people at every level are desirous of becoming a part of their institution’s moment to shine.
The fact that there is a distinctive opportunity for the non-competitive students, past and present, to be on the national stage serves as its own motivation.
Generated interest would continue to give rise to increased participation at all levels going forward.
Enhanced performance
Increased participation and participation inevitably leads to enhanced performances at all levels. The quality of the product is the eventual beneficiary.
Those in attendance at this year’s edition of the annual track and field championships of both the BHS and BSS would admit that the athletes gave of their very best. They knew they were under lights at the Victoria Park being watched by large, enthusiastic crowds, eager to be entertained and they delivered.
Indeed, the enhanced performances at both institutions have already sent strong signals to the traditional leaders in the annual Inter Secondary Schools Athletics Championships (ISSAC) that they pose serious threats to their continued dominance of the event. This is a trend that is also likely to continue.
Revenue generation
Hosting the annual track and field championships is a costly affair for all educational institutions. Few however deliberate on innovate ways of generating the required revenue through the very activity.
The approach of both the BHS and BSS is intended to realise significant revenues by creating an exciting and entertaining package for all patrons.
The attractiveness of the package generates large crowds, many out of sheer curiosity. Attendees spend monies to show how much they appreciate the initiative and to lend their support to the institutions.
The generated revenues can go a long way towards assisting the leadership of the institutions to procure much-needed sporting equipment and school supplies, in addition to facilitating other more general improvements of the institution.
Enhanced reputation
Performance enhances or destroys reputations. This is as true of institutions as is the case with individuals.
The performance of the BHS and now the BSS in the initiatives undertaken with regard to their respective annual track and field championships have already positively impacted these institutions amongst the school populations and the Vincentian public at home and abroad. This can only get better in the future.
The BHS and now the BSS are by no means considered the most outstanding educational institutions in St Vincent and the Grenadines. This is because of the archaic approach to education that somehow implicitly ranks schools purely on the basis of the annual examination results.
What the BHS and BSS have done is to show that education must not in any way be one-dimensional. Education has always multi-dimensional in nature and caters to the development of the whole person, thereby making a most significant contribution to the genuine development of Vincentian society.
Perhaps it is instructive that in both cases – BHS and BSS – the initiatives emanated from relatively recent young graduate physical education teachers.
Myopia gets us nowhere.
Our leaders often boast of the importance of seeing the bigger picture. Alas! They do everything in their power to engage in a practice that allows them to impose upon us as a people their vision of the big picture.
Congratulations to Theon Gordon (BHS) and Chester Morgan (BSS) for daring to be different, the principals of their respective educational institutions for taking on the challenge and the Ministry of Education for being open and mature enough to afford change.