The final day of the Barbados Secondary Schools Athletics Championships (BSSAC) was an intense battle on and off the track and field.
As athletes from the island’s secondary educational institutions faced off for the male and female titles, students in the stands at the National Stadium cheered for their respective schools. But the fervour was most felt in the tents filled with parents and other patrons who screamed “run”, “go St Michael”, “go Springer” or “go Kolij” as the athletes tore down the track.
The adults came out in droves to support their alma maters and their children’s schools, wearing school ties and other school memorabilia. Their excitement was palpable, with every single person on their feet craning their necks to see the big races.
Devoted to attending BSSAC and supporting the island’s young athletic talent, some people told Barbados TODAY the annual event was marked on their calendars.
Kay Small no longer has children attending secondary school, but she has been attending the highlight of the local athletic season for nearly 18 years. Eagerly looking forward to BSSAC, she takes her vacation during the week of the championships to attend the finals on Thursday and Friday.
However, she shared her disappointment that the vibrant atmosphere BSSAC was well known for has not been the same since the banning of drums a few years ago.
“The drums are what make the day; the drums are what give you that momentum and that feeling for the day. It is all about schools’ camaraderie, everybody fighting to see who is going to be at the top, but to me I’m not getting that anymore from students. They are taking all the love for sports away,” Small lamented.
A supporter of the Christ Church Foundation School, she attributed the drop in students’ attendance at BSSAC to small sporting facilities.
“You have about 22 or 23 schools competing and if you look out there, you don’t have a big percentage of children out there because you don’t have anywhere to put them,” she said.
Roslyn Clarke, the mother of a Lodge School student, came out to enjoy the festivities and cheer for the children. It was the first time she visited the National Stadium since it began renovations in 2015.
Despite her displeasure with the seating arrangements, Clarke joined other parents in cheering and supporting the athletes on the track.
But she pointed out that with students no longer required to wear their uniform at BSSAC, it was impossible to identify the support turnout.
“I think it is a cop out from teachers in that they don’t have to police the children. If they were in stands, I believe the teachers would be there to police them in uniform, but being like that I don’t like it,” Clarke said.
Allana Goodridge, an 18-year-old enjoying her final time at BSSAC as a Harrison College student, also expressed her concern about the dress code. She said it was confusing for both athletes and students.
“I don’t think that was a good idea because you still can’t identify what schools are represented here in terms of supporters,” she said.
The days of students showing up at the National Stadium with colourful, outrageous hairstyles or dressed head to toe in school colours are clearly gone, as students today wore either personal clothing or school t-shirts.
Although the stadium was full, the numbers did not translate into big sales for all the vendors.
One vendor who requested anonymity informed Barbados TODAY that while today was an improvement over yesterday when he got very few sales, “the students ain’t buying anything”.
Another vendor, Denise, known to students as the Popcorn Lady, reported that she saw a gradual increase in sales throughout the day. By 3:30 p.m., her stock had significantly depleted, with just a few odd snacks and some drinks remaining in her tray.