The Commonwealth Youth Council had a chance to catch up with young Jamaican Shamal Thomas with his story about how sports changed his life and how he is using sports to changed the lives of others.
Q: How has sports impacted your life and your community?
A: I’ve been involved in sports for as long as I can remember. In fact, I can recall engaging in every sport at one point in my life. You name it, from football (soccer) to table tennis I’ve tried it. My engagement in all these sports over the years has taught me valuable life lessons such as the importance of self worth, self actualization, selflessness, respect, courage, desire, determination, contentment after giving an honest effort, relishing the moments of victory and learning from defeats but most of all, the insurmountable accomplishments that can be achieved through teamwork. All the life lessons and more were garnered through my involvement in sports and has contributed significantly to the young man I am today. Opportunities have presented itself to me that would not have been given to me if I wasn’t a sportsman. My greatest to date, is the opportunity to attend the University of the West Indies, Mona on a full scholarships where now pursuing a degree in Psychology.
Q: So we heard you had a bright idea …
A: A year ago I came up with an idea as to how to diffuse the same lessons, and make children aware that there are opportunities available to them if they engage in sports. With the help of like minded people I managed to start a non-profit organization called the Game of Life Foundation (https://www.facebook.com/Game-of-Life-Foundation-385697684930927/?pnref=lhc) in which we make donations of football equipment to primary schools in the corporate area of the country. Since inception in January of 2015, the foundation has managed to donate equipment to 6 schools with plans in place for more donations in the upcoming school year. We have also selected ambassadors for the foundation in the form of national players and outstanding student athletes to fill the capacity of role models for our primary school level students. This is in an effort to have them strive to achieve their goals and become more rounded individuals.
Balancing studies and sports
As a student athlete myself and as an organization, we understand the importance of balancing education with sports and as such we have incorporated the educational side of the foundation that we call G.O.L.S.A.P- Game of Life Student Athlete Program. G.O.L.S.A.P was launched in May 2016 and facilitates Grades 4 and 6 students who sit the external Grade Four Literacy and Numeracy Test and Grade Six Achievement Test respectively during the school year. Recently over 80 grade four student seasons were accommodated in Chancellor Hall at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus where they were helped with preparations for their exam by students living on hall and teachers who accommodated the students. Mock test papers were prepared and administered to the students in which strengths and weaknesses were identified. Emphasis was placed on the weaknesses of each student so as to get everyone up to par for the exams. 2017 will see the launch of the G.S.A.T student athletes in which the same approach will be taken.
Q: What advice do you have for young people?
A: I’d say to those who are involved in sports, strive to become one of the best to ever play the sport and if you happen to fall short of that, be content with the fact that you gave it an honest effort. Also, despite how young you are, people are always looking so I implore you to be positive in all your actions. A positive role model is what you should strive to become. To those who are not involved in sports, do all that you can to empowerment yourself despite your social background and whenever that it do needs, do whatever little you can in helping to develop your community. Our environment will thrive on this approach. The world owes us nothing, go out and get what you desire.
Q: In relation to sports and community development, what is your proudest achievement?
A: My proudest sporting achievement to date is being a part of a historical Triple Crown Jamaica College u-19 Manning Cup football team. The 2010-2011 season saw us coming away victors of all the title that were up for the taking. That marked the first time an accomplishment of that magnitude has ever been done by a Jamaica College team in its 227 year history.
My proudest moment in community development came recently after actually realizing the 150 lives that has been impacted positively since the inception of the Game of Life Foundation in January of 2015.
The month of July is dedicated to sports and community development- share your story!