Two-tier sys­tem is not the an­swer

Jamaica Gleaner - - TUESDAY SPORTS -

THE 2016 school­boy foot­ball sea­son is in full swing with all the spills and thrills that a typ­i­cal school­boy foot­ball sea­son brings.

This sea­son, how­ever, comes into spe­cial fo­cus, as it un­folds in the im­me­di­ate after­math of yet an­other failed World Cup-qual­i­fy­ing cy­cle.

As the dis­cus­sions, de­bates and anal­y­sis con­tinue with added fer­vour. The age-old pro­posal of a two-tier sys­tem for the Man­ning and daCosta Cup com­pe­ti­tions is back on the front burner. Vet­eran school­boy coach Patrick ‘Jackie’ Wal­ters has been for a long time cham­pi­oning of the call for the best teams in the Man­ning and daCosta Cup to be sep­a­rated into di­vi­sions with an A divi­sion com­pris­ing the big­ger and bet­ter teams with the weaker teams to play in a B divi­sion with a rel­e­ga­tion and pro­mo­tion process en­forced.

The idea is that in­stead of play­ing so many mean­ing­less games against smaller so-called in­fe­rior teams and win­ning 8-0, 9-0, and 10-0 the top teams should play more of­ten among them­selves, thus guar­an­tee­ing more com­pet­i­tive games, bet­ter foot­ball, and more mean­ing­ful devel­op­ment of the play­ers.

This, to my mind, is trend­ing down the dan­ger­ous road of elitism in what are still am­a­teur school com­pe­ti­tions. This rad­i­cal change would ef­fec­tively be telling smaller, poorer, less-equipped schools like Tar­rant High, Edith Dal­ton James, Pap­ine etc., that they are not good enough’ to rub shoul­ders with the likes of St George’s Col­lege, Kingston Col­lege and Jamaica Col­lege.

The same sub­lim­i­nal mes­sage would be sent to the smaller ru­ral schools, such as Green Pond, May Day High or Black River High, that they don’t be­long on the same field and are in­fe­rior – not just as foot­ballers, but as a school com­mu­nity and as in­di­vid­u­als. That they are lesser be­ings that their coun­ter­parts who at­tend Corn­wall Col­lege, Munro Col­lege or Claren­don Col­lege.

NO NEED FOR SPLIT

As the com­pe­ti­tions are more even af­ter the first round, the main ob­jec­tives sought af­ter by this pro­posal are for the most part achieved as the prover­bial sheep are sep­a­rated from the goats, as the elite teams do emerge and com­pete against each other for cham­pi­onship hon­ours.

The ad­vent of the high-pro­file ISSA-Flow Su­per Cup pushes the con­cept even fur­ther pro­vid­ing an even big­ger stage for the top teams to strut their stuff against each other, which fur­ther di­min­ishes the need to split the com­pe­ti­tions into di­vi­sions.

The Man­ning and daCosta Cup com­pe­ti­tions as they are, are highly suc­cess­ful and hugely pop­u­lar prod­ucts that pro­vide a piv­otal plat­form for the ex­po­sure of the na­tion’s best young foot­ball tal­ent.

It is the skill of mean­ing­fully iden­ti­fy­ing that tal­ent and what we do with that tal­ent that have been our most sig­nif­i­cant let down.

The School­boy foot­ball com­pe­ti­tions are far from per­fect, within an even more im­per­fect foot­ball struc­ture in Jamaica, but we have to keep our feet grounded in re­al­ity. The mag­ni­tude of im­prove­ment and im­pact be­ing craved by some of th­ese sug­gested changes to the school­boy foot­ball prod­uct are un­re­al­is­tic.

There are more achiev­able fun­da­men­tals such as im­prov­ing the sur­faces and be­gin­ning the trans­for­ma­tion in the way tal­ented young Ja­maican play­ers view them­selves in the wider scheme of things. The prac­tice of drilling it into the sub­con­scious of our top 17, 18, 19 year olds that they are “so young” and have so much time to de­velop, is a crip­pling and dev­as­tat­ing mis­take.

The ca­reer path of a pro­fes­sional foot­baller is gen­er­ally clearly de­fined from as early as four­teen or fif­teen years old.

When we keep telling our best young play­ers how young they are, we are covertly set­ting back the psy­cho­log­i­cal devel­op­ment and ad­vance­ment an av­er­age of five usu­ally detri­men­tal years.

Th­ese are but some of the im­me­di­ate prob­lems we need to ad­dress in our foot­ball be­fore we fur­ther muddy the wa­ters with an­other act of clas­sism.

WAL­TERS

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