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30 June 2021 | in FISU Student Ambassadors

Jamaica: 'University Sport is far more than just physical activities'

In a one-on-one virtual interview, Dr. Dorothy Hudson-Gayle, president of the Jamaica Intercollegiate Sports Association (Intercol), discusses the profound and indirect positive effect that participation in university sports have on athletes.  The experienced and multifaceted president spoke about how university sports teach athletes critical life lessons and core values that are far beyond the game itself.

 

With over three decades of experience in the sporting industry, Dr. Gayle started off participating in sports from the high school level where she did netball and track and field. The next step was obtaining her diploma in sports administration and teaching at the then newly established GC Foster college for sports. After working as a physical education teacher for several years, Dr. Gayle then decided to pursue a degree in education and administration, where she continued her sporting involvement in netball, volleyball and track and field as a university athlete. Her continued involvement has brought many accomplishments, such as winning the university of the West Indies sports woman of the year twice during her tenure. Dr. Gayle has had the opportunity to be involved in various sports such as cricket, netball, volleyball, basketball, and track and field, some in which she did so as an athlete, educator and administrator at all levels.

 

When asked about her reasons behind running for president of the Jamaica Intercollegiate Sports Association, there is no doubt that her vast experience and history as an athlete had much to do with her overall interest. It was however Dr. Gayle’s belief that there was a dire need for change and structure that motivated her to go for the position.

 

“There seem to have been quite a bit of chaos in the organisation when the previous general secretary resigned and no one was really stepping forward to take up this mantle, so I decided to put myself up for the position. I believed this was an organisation that needed a lot of work, a lot of restructuring and a lot of assistance to really bring all the colleges on board and to further develop the association,” Dr Dorothy Hudson-Gayle said.

 

One of the most unique things about university sports is how beneficial it is to the physical wellbeing of the students who take part in these activities. Dr. Gayle however believes that although this is true and is extremely important as well, what most individuals tend to overlook is the mental and psychological positive changes that sport has on students. Being a former university athlete herself, as well as an educator, national team manager and junior development officer for the Caribbean Zonal Association (CAZOVA), President Gayle has first-hand experience in this domain and has seen the changes that sports brings to student-athletes.

 

“I've always believed that sport development at the youth level is important because of all the important lessons that can be learnt from sports. Besides the discipline of training, performing and teaching them to manage their emotions in victory or defeat, it also teaches them to be sociable as they spend a lot of time with teammates or training partners. It also teaches them to manage their time, as they have to try and find that balance between training, events and school. For me, sport teaches about discipline in many aspects of daily living, teaching athletes life-long skills, while ensuring that they maintain a healthy lifestyle both physically and psychologically. The earlier this routine is developed, the sooner it will become natural. All these skills and teachings can be applied to their life, which is why I believe university sporting activity is far more important than simply being physically involved.”

 

With everything in life, no journey is expected to always be smooth sailing, and Intercol is no different. Throughout her current tenure as president, Dr. Gayle expresses that the biggest challenges faced as Intercol President has been and continues to be finances, sponsorships, and support. Because of the massive backlog of records and the overall financial management of the association, her new role has been made even more difficult. This lack of finances makes it difficult to persuade different institutions to join the association as they see no benefit to become a member. Encouraging the 21 member institutions to pay membership/miscellaneous fees has also been a challenge, but is vital to keep the association afloat.

 

In more recent events, the Covid-19 pandemic affected all aspects for human existence and sports was no different. Dr Gayle expresses how covid has taught Intercol the importance of being diverse in its sporting activities and how to remain engaged and involved as an association. On the other hand, it was useful to take the time to think about how to educate university athletes on the theory of sports as well as sports operations. It was also an opportunity where Intercol introduced esports within the university sports community. For the celebration of IDUS, Intercol was able to host an online esports competition that saw 38 participants from several member universities compete against each other. Many other virtual interactions were held, such as the Intercol sports debate competition which was very constructive base for a future annual competition. The association also held weekly seminars that were aimed at different sporting topics each week. The seminars were focused on topics such as mental health, staying fit and motivated during covid, career opportunities in sports, etc. President Gayle also believes that the break from university sporting events as a result of the pandemic should be used to think about more creative and structured ways to improve competitiveness and development amongst university athletes and teams. An example was to introduce a tier system within team sport competitions, so that less experienced teams can play against other teams of a similar level and gradually develop their skills.

 

Despite the many challenges that the association has faced since being president, Dr. Gayle believes the most rewarding experience so far has been the opportunity for the association to re-implement the Intercol awards ceremony, that was not held for almost two years’ prior to the 2019-2020 academic year. She believes that hard working student-athletes should feel recognised and appreciated for a successful season. The ceremony that was held in July 2020 awarded both university teams and individual student-athletes for their success over what was a very stringent and tedious end to the 2019- 2020 sports season.  Student-athletes, managers and teams all appreciated the ceremony that was streamed live on YouTube, thanking Intercol for the much-needed lift in spirits after the pandemic brought an abrupt end to the sporting season.

 

By FISU Student Ambassador of Jamaica: Tajae Wallace