A sudden death in a family is shocking. There is a moment of silence, utter disbelief and total confusion in ciphering the details of what just happened.
Parents, team mates and friends are in the twilight zone.
Puzzling minds are screaming , NO! NO.!
Emotions burst open initiating an overflow of fear, anger and disbelief.
The mood is heavy. This was my brother.
The news of the death of young Dominic James tore at the heart string of every Jamaican .Death , even for young people, is not unusual in Jamaica. The island struggles with levels of crime that can only compete with large urban cities like Chicago in the US.
But this was not death by a bullet. This death drew us even closer to our own mortality, reminding us that death comes unannounced and is swift.
Dominic died from an apparent SCD , Sudden Cardiac Death syndrome, and everyone who saw the incident and those who hadn’t , is in shock and disbelief as they all temporarily died suddenly with him.
For many it was facing a brutal truth. Dominic had just faced his.
People do sports because they feel good. Drive around the island and you will see every open lot engaged by Jamaicans kicking a football. Doing sports in Jamaica whether it’s track, football , swimming, basketball or even netball is for most fun, occupational therapy, adrenalin flowing and most importantly simultaneously meeting their required exercise requirements.
When registering to an expensive gym is not financially feasible, play a sport. Our little nation has made international headway in Sports, creating many “firsts”, movies made because of our firsts; our involvement in the World Cup was another first that coined the name “Reggae Boys” . Our Bolt led track team has changed international discussion on the perception of Jamaica , referring to it as a “Sprint Factory”.
Umm here’s a tip to the Jamaican government, Trademark the term “Sprint Factory”.
Bit I digress .
And there are many, many more “Firsts”. Yes we have entered the sporting arena with a bang challenging the big boys at there own game. Exceptional.
So it is easy to see why sports in a nation like ours is so important to the country’s national development. But I dare ask is Sports a national importance to Jamaica and if it is so, what is the national policy that drives what we do in Sports as it relates to the overall objective of development, inclusion of genders, representation, community development, social integration, economic derivatives, job opportunity, educational resources and the implementation of Sports as a national industry?
I began my quest to answer these questions by researching the relevant Ministry responsible for Sports. The Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports website is the obvious place to start. It’s a website, a virtual Ministry where geeks like me can go and get answers without enduring the treacherous wait of unanswered calls from lazy or otherwise too busy public servants.
I found nothing.
There were many policies pertaining to youth and culture . Nothing about Sports. Doubt my honesty? Go to the site yourself and please correct me if I am wrong .
On the site there is the usual Vision and Mission-
The Vision:- To be a vibrant and dynamic organization, excelling in service delivery, realizing the full potential of Youth and Culture in nation building.
The Mission: – The Ministry of Youth and Culture is mandated to lead social transformation and enhance social well-being through programmes, services and activities geared towards youth development as well as contribute to economic growth and advancement through the development of the cultural industry by generally pursuing policies and programmes which help to boost Brand Jamaica.
To me the Vision and Mission do not reflect the Objective in total of this Ministry which is the office and oversight for Culture, Gender, Entertainment AND SPORTS. I guess they are probably in the process of updating the site by writing these policies, if at all.
My point however is if there is no professional direction from the Top, how can we expect any professional execution from the bottom?
Let us leave the government for a minute while they get their act together and move to the private sector and the various Sports authorities in Jamaica.
DONT LET THEM DIE YOUNG
In November 2014 in an article in the Jamaica Observer, written by one Professor Ernest Madu entitled “Don’t Let Our Athletes Die Young “, gave a definitive understanding of SCD in young athletes and stated that this unusual medical occurrence is not foreign to Jamaica. It also drew references to best practices and data from other countries and ways of providing some direction for treatment. The article also announced this ground breaking policy at the time:
- On April 16, 2014, the Heart Institute of the Caribbean (HIC) and Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) signed a four-year agreement that would see HIC donating $10 million in free cardiovascular screening to JAAA athletes from 2014 to 2018. This agreement came on the heels of the sudden death of St Jago High student Cavahn McKenzie in Trinidad and Tobago. Cavahn collapsed and died after completing a 6K race on February 22, 2014 while representing Jamaica in the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Cross-Country Championships in Tobago. On July 29, 2014, the Jamaica Observer reported the sudden death of another young man, a Jamaica College (JC) footballer who collapsed and died in the bleachers of the sports complex at the St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) grounds. Apparently, the student was among a group of JC Manning Cup players resting in the bleachers after a road run minutes earlier.
In the context of Jamaica getting this professional service to its young athletes, this was BIG NEWS. To borrow a phrase from the American election cycle, this was HUUGE.
For me it was probably one of the first time my country was thinking like a ” first world ” country. Recognizing there is a problem, a policy was established and delivered by intelligent minds using data, not Jamaica’s data of which there is none, and concluded that student athletes must undergo regular tests and not your friendly neighborhood Doctor stethoscope test, but professional tests run by cardio vascular trained personnel.
But this was a J.A.A.A initiative and I give them full marks. The article went on to recommend and invite all sporting bodies to join this break through important service necessary for the sustainability of sports in Jamaica.
The question now to be asked is did I.S.S.A jump on board at this invitation?
In January 2015 there was an article announcing another earth moving initiative for student athletes in Jamaica for cardiac care of which it would appear that ISSA was involved.
The headlines read:
Student athletes of St Jago High School, Vere Technical, St Andrew Technical High School and GC Foster College are to benefit from a cardiac screening initiative called the One Love, One Heart Program.
Quoting from the article it said : ” the athletes from the mentioned schools were scheduled for screenings and workshops from January 19-21 to be taken at the time at Knustford Court Hotel in Kingston.”
That was last year. But there are still a lot of unanswered questions from that news. How extensive was the test, were other schools to be involved at a later date , how many students were tested, how many true positive or false positive results, any data to be shared and knowing what we know from this test what analysis can we give to the government to aid in a national debate of lifestyles and its effect on Sports in Jamaica?
All this not known or apparently not even published on anyone’s website, data apparently means nothing to some entities in Jamaica.
NATIONAL SPORTS POLICY FOUND
I was not satisfied and said to myself there has to be a Sports policy in Jamaica. A relatively simple Google search pulled up a “White Paper” from the Prime Ministers Office , Portia Simpson at the time, outlining the National Sports Policy of Jamaica and sure enough is was a lengthy 48 page piece of beautifully crafted work on Sports and the way forward. This was dated March 2013.
It’s impressive. You should all read it, honestly.
I looked through the paper for policies regarding health and wellness of athletes and found this statement :
“The Government will also pursue the establishment and maintenance of a state of the art facility which will provide a comprehensive set of medical , diagnostic, therapeutic and general wellness for all national athletes.”
There’s Good Deeds and then there’s Good Intensions . And they are as far apart as Heaven and Hell. – Ben Harper.
This impressive document is loaded with every good intention but like most government “white papers’ , it outlines no practical way of implementing the State of the Art facility. Frankly the policy was a 49 page goal and objectives that was brilliantly written. Not sure if relevant stakeholders read the document and acted on said paper.
Is this a living document , one that acts as the bible of sorts for national development in sports or is this just another “White Paper” that finds a home in a beautiful folder and placed in a locked filing cabinet somewhere in the PM’s office? And when do you think this paper will reach the associated Ministry’s office and website?
Putting the pieces together of what we have gleaned so far we can see there is a national policy; an awareness of the problem of SCD; solutions to remedy the problem; no data established for further study of SCD; the exclusion of a number of schools and athletes for testing that I can only assume a reason of funding and accessibility and finally the apparent body ,The National Sports Council, whose role is to implement the National policy at every level, is seemingly ineffective.
Now let’s look at the facts.
1. Dominic collapsed on the football field .
2. It was reported doctors were present but had no medical assets
3. There was no stretcher available at the event
4. Ambulance was a no show
4. It was reported Dominic was taken to the hospital by his father driving his own car
These all point to one thing- the lack of preparedness and total unprofessionalism.
Regardless of young Dominic having what would seem to be SCD, he did not have a fighting chance because organizers, corporate sponsor Flow, coaches, auxiliary staff, indeed everybody seemed to be busy enjoying the entertainment value of the game, hoping that as usual , We Gonna Be Alright, and very little evidence or concerns paid to the the changing dynamics any event can serve at any time.
And so we REACT.
1.Stretchers are reportedly sold out. Every man jack is suddenly getting their act in order:
2.An ambulance is magically organized to be present at the next football match. WOW, what a joy when we actually DO something instead of “pursuing” it:
3.Every school is now initiating policies regarding school boy events. Hm, so somebody remembers there are standards to be met when you have a public gathering that you ensure available medical services close by or on site, clearly marked exit routes, clean air, a sustainable environment and security to ensure the safety of every man Jack present. You see Any person attending the event could have suffered the same fate as Dominic.
But I guess that’s not important in Jamaican culture. Public safety? What safety?
Yes Jamaica I guess the possibility of some crazed lunatic would never think of placing a bomb at any public event because this is Jamaica and it’s all One Love in this country.
Really? Keep thinking that way. Keep sleeping. It’s only a matter of time before the Caribbean gets involved in this crazy happy hour of mass bombings.
Pay attention Jamaica. Pay attention.
THE GIANT IS AWAKE
The sleeping government has jumped into their reactionary position and is reportedly trying to find that White Paper policy locked in some vault and you guess, form a Committee, to begin to read and actually DO something about the plans they made but never go around to those plans because actually they were only PLANS!
Nothing serious. Just…….PLANS.
To Pursue. Not DO!
Minister Ruel Reid said the ministry is “interested” in finding out whether there were any breaches of safety guidelines for students involved in contact sports.
There you go ladies and gents. It’s no longer pursue . It’s interested.
On the question of whether or not any “safety guidelines” were breached that is the million dollar question for this Committee, isn’t it?
Well how about this fact Mr Minister…
There were no known or seen medical service available.
Is Death good enough for you Mr. Minister for an erosion of “safety guidelines”?
Folks, I am sick and tired of getting sick and tired of Jamaica being reactive and not proactive. It is one of our biggest flaws as a country. We sit and wait on things to happen knowing only too well that sloppiness IN will always let sloppiness OUT.
Here’s the real truth Jamaica.
We let Dominic down.
We wallow in this excuse of no funds and we hope that everything will be just fine, no incidents, everybody having a good time and we all go home, scotch free.
That’s how amateurs think.
Professionals know and DO better.
They cover all bases.
We cannot continue to adore and emulate Sports in Jamaica and give it Lip service at both amateur and professional levels. Jamaica needs to stop thinking Third World and start thinking with intelligence?
We cannot have our cake and eat it. If we want to be in the Big Game then we have to be prepared to have the Big Attitude to do it right. Every time. All the time.
The difference between Third World and First World is not size, its not necessarily even money. Its simply professionalism, doing things Right, All the time . It’s that simple.
To some, Professionalism can be slow , it might lack appeal, it may even be downright boring.
But professionalism is Everything.
And Everything is theoretically and financially impossible, until it’s Done.
All Rights Reserved. 2016. Kwesi.