CONCERNED ABOUT CERTAIN SETTINGS It’s been ages since a school from western Jamaica won either Boys’ Championships or Girls’ Championships. Keith Wellington, headmaster at St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS), says the west can win only if the schools there prioritise Champs and if they can retain talented student-athletes who might otherwise move to schools in the Corporate Area. Wellington isn’t against the recruitment of student-athletes, but he abhors the use of financial incentives to attract them. Munro College won the last of its eight Boys’ Champs titles in 1948, while The Manning’s School took Girls’ Champs in 1965, 1966 and 1969. Despite the pre-eminence of STETHS, Munro and recently, Petersfield High and Rusea’s, no high school in the west has enjoyed the success earned by Munro and Mannings in the past. Speaking on March 3, Wellington explained, “Whether or not a team from the west wins Champs is going to be dependent on how much of a priority it becomes in any one of the leading schools in terms of how much it is that the school is willing to spend monetary wise, and capital, not just in terms of money now but in terms of the things that are required.” He pinpointed nutrition and transportation as two key areas needy of attention. “Of course, nutrition would entail having to board a large squad because as students it’s difficult for them to travel and train in the rural areas where travelling time to and from school can be as much as an hour,” he said. His list of schools in western Jamaica who could target a Champs win includes Munro, Cornwall, STETHS, of which he said, “money would be an issue but it’s not an issue that would be insurmountable”, Petersfield among the boys’ teams and STETHS, Mannings, Rusea’s and possibly William Knibb ‘on both genders’. “The talent is available within close proximity to these schools,” he indicated. Money to fund the required nutrition, possible boarding and allied transportation wouldn’t be the only matter at hand. He estimated that there are approximately 12 boys from the parish of St Elizabeth who will score 80-90 points at Champs for the Kingston and St Catherine-based schools they now attend. He extended his pragmatic analysis, saying:”Those boys will probably get into schools who are chasing Champs and will do anything to ensure that they have the best available talent. So I think that would have to change in terms if we in the west are to start prioritising Champs as a must-win. Then we would have to look at our policy as it regards the admission of students.” The STETHS headmaster isn’t against the recruiting of student-athletes. “Where I have a problem is the way it is done sometimes”, he expounded. “I think that there are some aspects of recruiting I find repulsive,” he said. “Well, for one”, he specified, “I find the issue of schools offering financial incentives outside of what is required to attend the school, offering financial attraction to 12, 13-year-old students to leave their parents’ home.” While transferred student-athletes are often housed with the families of past students or teachers, Wellington apparently was concerned about other cases where “they live in conditions I’m not sure is a family setting or something that contributes to the development of the student as a person.” “I have no problem with students leaving home to board,” he elaborated. He was, however, against the idea of saying to a parent, ‘Send your child to us, and I will give you this household item.’ He told CHAMPS WATCH that STETHS students have been approached by recruiters who take ‘everything including the school uniform for the school they are sending them to.’ “I’ve had parents call me to say, ‘Sir, this school came and gave us this. What should I do with it because I’m not moving my child?'” he related. “Up to recently,” he said, “I’ve had to speak to one principal about an approach being made to one of my students after the student participated at a particular meet. “I have no problem with students going where they think their best opportunities lie,” he tabled. “I just don’t like the idea of schools reaching out,” Wellington said, “with all sorts of ‘quote and quote’ incentives.” According to Mr Wellington, “This isn’t professional sport.” – Hubert Lawrence has attended Champs since 1980.