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On making more the merrier

Young Ghanaian inspirational writer Israelmore Ayivor has been quoted as saying that leaders don’t fall in love with mediocrity. His opinion is that the status quo should not be that which a leader desires to maintain, but should be something he seeks to improve.

This is a train of thought that the National Sports Council (NSC) could do well to consider in all of its possibilities. It is an irrefutable fact that the NSC has served this island well. It has been at the forefront of development in myriad sporting activities and is worthy of the highest praise.

But, as with several things in life, the bigger picture can often elude even the most observant of individuals, too willing to remain in a comfort zone or maintain that status quo. Last week the NSC announced a decision with respect to the Pine Hill Dairy-sponsored Primary School Netball Competition and participation of teams. The commonsense of that decision was as evident as the Emperor’s New Clothes. When all the preambles and explanations were dispensed with, the NSC’s edict was basically that no primary school would be allowed to enter more than one team in the netball competition.

The genesis of this decision rested in the dominance of Blackman & Gollop Primary School, where the school had entered an ‘A’ and ‘B’ team in last year’s competition and both made the final. This apparently did not sit well with folk at the NSC. Indeed, during the competition it did not sit well with some schools as well who refused to play against Blackman & Gollop. Indeed, Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley at one stage intervened and informed all and sundry that Blackman & Gollop had broken no rules and should not be hindered in giving exposure to the girls of the school.

It would have perhaps also ruffled some feathers that behind Blackman & Gollop’s successes was a man – in the form of Calvin Briggs – in a female-dominated sport. The physical education teacher won three netball titles while at St Mary’s Primary and also won in 2014 with Blackman & Gollop.

Here was an individual whose coaching methods had obviously worked well and who had been able to encourage so many girls to take up the sport that there were more players than would be required to full one team. In an attempt to develop more players through exposure Blackman & Gollop introduced two teams to the tourney. It was an initiative to be commended. But some
saw differently.

Those close to the competition indicate that games for these primary school children run a mere ten minutes over two periods. This would hardly be enough time for a squad of 20 players to get meaningful court time. Such has been the excellence of the tutorship at the Christ Church school and the quantity of quality players  available, that two teams made good sense. Development demanded it and the more girls exposed, the better for their advancement and the sport’s.

But no. The NSC has seemingly made a decision to maintain a previous status quo rather than improve on it. Rather than seek to bring the other schools up to the standards of Blackman & Gollop, that agency has taken the retrograde step of limiting rather than expanding.

That both of Blackman and Gollop’s teams made the final of last year’s competition is an achievement that should have been used as an inspiration for others to develop their programmes, and increase female participation. Instead, assistant director of sports Mona Alleyne would have us believe that limiting individual schools to one team will equate to smoother runner of the tournament and fewer controversies. This, we do not buy. The role of the NSC is not to look for the easy way out of anything; theirs should be to seek out talent and encourage it; to embrace development and expand it; to make good out of mediocre; and to make great out of good.

We have had Springer Memorial School using a system, coupled with a training regimen, that saw the school win more than a dozen consecutive titles. Neither Christ Church Foundation nor any other school sought intervention to have Springer Memorial limit the numbers they legitimately packed into events .

The other schools knew they had to raise their individual bars – perhaps even adopt some of the Government Hill School’s strategies – and Foundation overcame. Theirs might not be a replica of the Blackman and Gollop situation but the lesson is that one can succeed doing more, not pursuing less.

We believe that if a school can provide two, three or four teams, it speaks to development. One does not stymie that; one encourages more of the same. But what the NSC has effectively done is to slip into a comfort zone, take the easy road out and are now proudly parading in the Emperor’s apparel.

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