JIS News

It is clear that things are easier said than done, as in the case of the bold female teachers of Vauxhall High School in Kingston, who initially set out to show their much younger students some old school netball, but instead found themselves thoroughly thrashed by the students in a 10-minute demonstration game on March 18.
The final score was 6 zip, with the students winning bragging rights, albeit for a few short minutes until classes resumed, after the official handing over of the multi-purpose court at the school.
However, not lost in the somewhat surreal moment was the fact that both teams were enjoying themselves on the newly resurfaced multi-purpose court, funded by the Sport Development Foundation (SDF). In fact, it almost seemed that the new court offered an unfair advantage to the fleet footed, who displayed such a jolly bounce in their movements, that it is very possible that the prediction of their Principal, Angela Chaplin, will come true.
The prediction, according to the Principal, is that the team will be the number one ranked team in three years.
She is not alone in this belief. Her students actually believe her. For 15 year-old Shereesha Richards, a member of the Jamaica Under 16 netball team, which will be travelling to Antigua from April 3-13 to compete in the 2008 Caribbean Netball Association competition, the possibilities are endless with the new court, which she says is more than alright for good play.
“It is smooth and it helps me play a lot better than on the first court we had. The first court was more like gravel and if we fell, we would get scrapes and other injuries. This one is so smooth and quite alright,” she tells JIS News.
“We will rise up and be number one in three years,” the tall 9th grader proclaimed, supported by the nodding of heads by her teammates.
While their belief in their talent is obvious, the journey into the present resonates deeply for the Principal who arrived with her bright vision for the school back in 2002. She remembers three of her male students speaking to her about the “dirt tracks” they called both the netball and basketball courts. “The three boys said look at our field. Look at is pure dirt,” she says. In fact, she took a picture of them posing on the “dirt track” and kept it in her files.
Comments like those from the three students provided motivation to approach the SDF. “I asked them about the multipurpose court and when they agreed, I also realised that I had the other space for the basketball court, which also needed work, so I called and I begged for them to do something,” she says.
“As it is a coed school and I have a soft spot for the boys, I had to ask because I know that once the boys are actively involved in a sport, it makes a lot of difference,” Miss Chaplin adds.
For General Manager at the SDF, Ludlow Watts, the granting of the requests was a “no brainer,” as the project defines the mission of the SDF, that of contributing to the development of the nation through sports.
“When we got the request from Vauxhall, we did not see it as a problem but more as an opportunity to fulfill our mandate. Even though you thank us, we thank you [Vauxhall High School] for giving us the opportunity to fulfill our mandate,” he said at the opening ceremony.
He explained that it was the custom of the Foundation to build one court in an institution, but Principal Chaplin was so persuasive in her request that the Chairman of the SDF, David Mais gave the go ahead after Mr. Watts had presented their case. “This is one of a few occasions that we have done two courts at one institution. The Principal said that the boys would have one facility for basketball and the other for the ladies for netball, so we did it,” he noted.
“We expect that you will keep the facility well maintained and we will return in three years time to celebrate with you being champions of high school netball and basketball,” he said.
Manager for the project, Shahitha Ahamed tells JIS News that upon approval, the $1.4 million project was relatively problem free, therefore it was completed in a timely fashion. “We actually resurfaced the court, did the markings and goal installations in three to four weeks,” she said. Work commenced in January and ended in February.
Enclosure of the area will be undertaken by New Era Fencing, which Principal Chaplin says always responds when beckoned by Vauxhall.
Equally impressed with the finished facility is proud past student and Acting Chairman of the Board, Lt. Col. Trevor McCurdy, who recalled that as a cadet, his group had to share the area with the netballers. He says the multipurpose courts will go a long way in promoting other sports in the school, especially basketball, which he reminded was played at the school in his day. In fact, back in 1974, the school was among the first to have a basketball court built. “Jamaica was however, not ready for basketball at that time,” he noted.
The sky is now the limit for what the 1,607 student population can accomplish in the area of sports. The Principal, who did not allow the school to enter the high school basketball competition because of the poor condition of the court, is all gung ho about having their teams train properly and compete in more sports.
“We can develop a better school spirit by doing this. It really makes a difference in terms of how the children operate. They feel proud about themselves and their school and this helps a lot with overall discipline,” she points out.
In fact, there are plans to put physical activities higher on the agenda as she believes that children should participate in sports up to Grade 11, which is not the case now as Grade 9 is the cut off point.
“By pushing sports up to Grade 11, this will help to cut back on the levels of obesity and depression in our children, because exercise helps their minds as well as bodies,” she says. “I am looking at the timetable to see how we can incorporate this. Also in the afternoons, we want the students to be more involved in football, volleyball and netball,” she adds.
Plans are also afoot to improve the football field, which is in need of minor adjustments. The Principal says that there is currently the need to look at the water supply to the field. “We need to re-investigate this, because we are supposed to have a well at the school, but someone will have to find and examine it,” she says. She believes that the SDF will provide some assistance in this area, as SDF officials, after the official opening ceremony, inspected the field.
By extension, the surrounding community will also benefit from the improvements to the sports facility at the school. “We are a community school, so it gives us an opportunity to have world class facilities to share with the community,” the Principal explains.
“On a weekend the community comes in and uses the facilities.and in fact, next month the Optimist Club Zone 5 is going to have sports day here [Vauxhall High School],” she notes.
The Principal says she is ready to take another picture with her three male students, but this time with an infinitely better backdrop – the newly resurfaced multipurpose courts – and it certainly will not be buried in the files. “Today is just one of those fantastic days and it is my pleasure to say thanks to the SDF,” Miss Chaplin adds.

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