As Ronald Forbes tours various schools in the Cayman Islands, part of his message continues to be the link between education and sports.
Over the last two weeks the North Side native has had speaking engagements at Grand Cayman’s primary schools and John Gray High. Forbes states part of his endeavour is to prepare local youngsters to balance sports and education abroad.
“My grades were good and I graduated in the top 50 in high school,” Forbes said. “But I was never on the honour roll. I didn’t get any awards at my graduation from John Gray. My experience at school was fun and good. I remember in year 10 I was hanging with the cool kids. It was only in the middle of that year did track become serious and after that it was all about sports.
“One of the hardest challenges for me was getting off to college in the States. Without the grades I couldn’t run in college. I was a student athlete. I had to study first then train. My parents had to pay for me first and then I got a scholarship.
“Hurdles is one of the most technical events in track and field. My inspiration is my dad. He inspired me to be a hard-working person. I’ve been doing track since year eight/nine and coming out of North Side I had to get up four o’clock many mornings. I’d take the public bus to George Town to train.”
Forbes, 26, is a national track and field hero who will represent Cayman at the 2012 London Olympics in the men’s 110m hurdles. Currently he is on Island taking a well-deserved break.
On Friday, Forbes wraps up his three-week speaking tour in Cayman Brac, where he has never been before. There he will talk at four of the main educational institutions in West End, Creek and Spot Bay primary school along with the Layman Scott High School.
Forbes, who has spoken in front of roughly 100 kids at each of his seminars, states his message in the Brac will centre on the power of sports and positive decisions.
“The two topics I focus on is the power of choice and sports. Choice is a powerful thing, you have to use it wisely. Everything stems from choice. Sports is something the youth have to get involved in. It’s not about whether they like it, it’s about giving them something to do and possibly they could see parts of the world they would never dream of.
“Aside from that sports can keep them healthy and occupied so that they don’t find idle things to do. Sports instil discipline and you will have to adjust to that.”
Interestingly, Forbes has been joined by other local athletes at his speaking engagements. One of them was female boxer Jessica McFarlane-Richards, who was at John Gray High last week. She spoke to the kids there about her journey in the ring.
“I’m nervous before fights, I have a lot of health issues,” McFarlane-Richards said. “I could train as hard I like but the biggest challenge is staying with the sport in spite of injury. My hardest fight was against an Argentinian girl at this year’s Pan Am Games (qualifier in Panama City). I felt like giving up after that but I picked up the pieces.”
Forbes’ speaking tour comes after a busy and productive summer. His biggest showing was in Daegu, South Korea where he reached the men’s 110m hurdles semifinals at the 2011 International Association of Athletics Federation World Championship.
Forbes is expected to head back to Miami by the end of the month to resume training for next year’s Olympics. As part of his rest period in Cayman, Forbes admits his free time has centred on being a typical young adult. “In my free time I go to the movies, drive up and down and play my video games (XBox and PlayStation 2) by and by. I love drag racing, I would watch that all day.
“To the young people I would say follow your dreams. I make a good salary and I’m paid to run. It’s not a National Basketball Association salary but it’s good enough.”