SPORTS, academics, or both – the debate rages on with student-athletes trapped in the middle.
Many proponents on either side of the argument have battled over whether students who are good at sport should turn their focus to their specialisation at the expense of academics, or whether school should be the focus with sport participation a pastime.
In comes this year’s Rhodes Scholar, Sherona Forrester. Her participation in high-school sport helped fund her tertiary education as she earned full scholarships to the University of the West Indies, Mona, to complete her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics.
The former national female Under-17 football captain and member of the national senior team – until a cruciate ligament injury put her career on hold – said that the arguments for being unable to balance the two are “lazy”.
“I believe that hard work, dedication and determination are what you need, and a lot of them (student-athletes), they’re not willing to put in the work that they need to be good,” Forrester told The Gleaner yesterday.
“Their attitude hinders even their potential in the sport as well,” she added, pointing out that participation in sports provides skills that aid in other areas of life.
“What you learn in sport is transferable; you learn discipline, you learn stamina, your body is healthier, you’re taking care of yourself.
“You learn that you have to plan. In life, you have to be strategic. In the first 15 minutes you go hard and then you have to rest. You have to pace yourself, and you learn that and you take it over into life. You learn how to deal with people. It teaches you about hierarchy. It’s a lot of social skills you’re learning from the sport,” she said.
Forrester, whose mother Olive is a teacher of physical education at Vere Technical High School, Clarendon, said even while at Mineral Heights Primary School she participated in football and netball and learnt to play basketball.
While the primary years can be intense with the GSAT curriculum placing pressure on youngsters, Forrester said her parents were supportive.
In fact, she said her parents moved her from a kindergarten at which there were no extra-curricular activities to a school where she could participate in activities which were not centred solely on academics.
“I was singing and dancing as well,” the 24-year-old said.
“My father played cricket and my mom played basketball and hockey. They were always supportive.”
It was while at primary school that Forrester learnt the importance of preparation and time management.
“We did a lot of practice in class and we had a lot of homework. When it got to the day before (GSAT), we were playing. I think the preparation was really good in that regard.”
After moving to Glenmuir High, Forrester’s involvement in sport intensified to include dance, speech, choir, table tennis and chess.
“At Glenmuir, I had a few other persons, just like me, participating in sports and doing extremely well,” she said, adding that one of the members of the football team topped his class and earned a football scholarship to a United States-based university.
“It wasn’t really strange,” she said.
Forrester, who also represented the University of the West Indies in football, netball and basketball regionally and internationally, reiterated that sports participation helps the brain improve.
“The brain and body are getting fit and a lot fitter than the average person. I place value on doing well at everything I do. When I’m in class, I’m actively listening; then I practice when I can, and then sleep. Sleep is very important, when you sleep you absorb memories.
“Opportunity cost is very real. Time is limited, but it is the value that you put in the time that you spend. So, if you’re going to spend five hours training and goofing off, the two hours you put into study you have to maximise that. You make time for it because there is time,” said Forrester.