The English Romantic poet, John Keats (1795-1821), in his ode To Autumn, described this season in the northern hemisphere as the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”.
In the school system in Trinidad and Tobago, it is the season of inter-school football and this has, indeed, been a season of ‘mists’ with hopefully, a ‘mellow fruitfulness’ to follow, for student-footballers, coaches, managers, parents and school administrators alike.
The ‘beautiful game’ of football and specifically, secondary school football of the 2017 season, has been marred in some cases by administrative carelessness, downright dishonesty and attempts to deceive in one way or another. It has also, conversely, been a season of the glorious maturing of many student-footballers whose talents have been honed by rigorous pre-season training and who have been given the chance to shine on the field of play.
In this respect, added to the players’ own hard work and sweat, the support of parents, school communities, home communities, and of course their coaches and physical trainers, has been vital to the success of players.
Of utmost importance, however, especially in light of the problems that have marred the season and caused much distress and disappointment to players, is one major consideration. Win, draw or lose, players must leave the field of play with a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that they have played to the best of their ability. They must be satisfied that they have played clean, honest football, that they have conducted themselves with a spirit of true sportsmanship.
Today’s Gospel (Matthew 25:14–30) talks about the talents which the landowner entrusted to his servants. Talents are given to be developed for the benefit of the individual, his community and finally, used to glorify the Lord.
Schools are happy to develop the talents of their student-players. Sporting success, like academic achievement, strengthens that sense of pride and unique school identity that nurtures further school success.
That success can take many forms and is not limited to the playing field or to the classroom. A heightened awareness of social responsibility and a Christ-like response to the needs of others signify real success. That is education in its truest sense.
The use of the talents of our young players to achieve ‘success’ at all costs, to undermine a system that was designed to help the overall growth and development of our students can never be condoned.
An insistence on personal and team discipline, the moral and ethical training that transforms youth with raw talent into skilled, effective athletes with a keen sense of sportsmanship, is at odds with some of the underhand practices that came to light during this season.
It is incumbent that the moral and spiritual guides of our students — parents, school and sporting administrators — be upright and transparent, with a healthy respect for honesty and integrity. Their care for the well-being of their charges must become the focus of their ambitions.
Let none in authority fail to achieve that “mellow fruitfulness” that this season should have brought. Let none be thrown out into the Master’s “… dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth”.