Wolmer’s Boys players Yannick Elliot (left) and Andrew Daley celebrate a goal against Little London High in their recent ISSA/FLOW Super Cup encounter at Sabina Park recently. Wolmer’s won 6-0.
THERE SEEMS to be a stigma attached to schools that facilitate their advance in sporting endeavours by a particular type of recruiting. This strategy, by no means new, involves attracting student athletes who were brought to recognition elsewhere in the system. The objective is to enhance the progress or success on the playing fields of the receiving institution. It is said, and not without justification, that there are monetary gains that accrue to the facilitators, who have decisive inputs in swinging the deals. A recent post on social medi, saw a prominent and currently high-performing Kingston school, having its name tarnished as their football team has been assembled by several “raids” conducted at other schools. The label given them was St Wolbar (meaning: the recruited players were drawn from St Jago and Calabar). This speaks in stentorian terms to what is now being manifested among the schools.
Foster’s Fairplay, having first opposed, and later agreed with colleague and friend, former national football representative, Dr Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham, has taken another look. The former brilliant St George’s College ball handler, remains firm in the view that admission to high school should have a distinct academic bias. Any other talent should find a home away from the laboratories and study rooms of learning environs. Never should the ability to influence a sporting outcome be considered.
This columnist has developed some empathy for the practice, for which the doctor has little or no time, however, there needs to be an established template for this cross-fertilisation, which must be set in the interest of all concerned. What must be foremost in the mind of the relevant parties is the future of the young boy or girl. It is ideal that both the academic and sporting potential of the individual are considered, so once the switch is completed, there must be equal attempts to address both aspects. This columnist is aware of programmes where if the performance on the field of play does not live up to expectations, there is a total separation from the new school. This should not be.
In such a case, even if not previously in place, there must be an effort to upgrade academic skills to bring them closer and hopefully aligned with what is required in the classroom. Whenever this is not done, those responsible for the transfer would have failed miserably in their bid to steer a life in an acceptable or positive direction.
The country is bedeviled by rampant and raging crime. The authorities seem to be at their wits’ end to stem, much less to stultify this scourge. To virtually abandon a young life because he or she does not meet the requirements in an area of another’s choice will not provide the remedial solutions that are being sought, and which are now of national concern.
Another growing problem is that a significant portion of developing sporting talent is not steered towards the outlet that offers the best opportunity for further advance. Many are the youngsters who, given the lack of attention, fall by the wayside, ending up in the precipice of the talented but forgotten. The failure to master the arts and the sciences ought not to be a recipe for abandonment and total rejection. There must be a better way to uplift our children and not allow them to follow the wrong paths.
The Intersecondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) has a designated role here. The organisation has limiting regulations to address the issue, but more are needed and the execution must be strictly monitored and rigidly enforced. The United States collegiate system with its attendant rules and administration may provide good examples.
Let the recruiting continue, but at the same time, the school system should provide a more fertile pathway for our athletes to make the transition to the national level.
ORVILLE BURRELL aka Shaggy is a Jamaican who has garnered many awards and fans for his music. What resonated with me, however, is his relentless drive to assist the children of Jamaica through his foundation, which has virtually adopted the Intensive care Unit of the Bustamante Hospital for Children. His hit song, It Wasn’t Me has unfortunately become morphed into the anthem of adults and officials whenever there is a report of tragic abuse of the nations young. A child is shot in the back of a taxi, and after five years of supposed investigations and gathering of information in order to identify the person, who fired the fatal shot, we are left with officials scrambling to respond to the angry backlash of citizens, who demand justice; “IT WASN’T ME”. Children on the way to school, at school, representing the school in extra curricular activity, going home from school, are beaten, robbed, drowned, shot, and drop dead, and the answer from those tasked with the care and protection of our children:”It wasn’t me”. The follow-up question therefore is: “Then who is responsible?”
On Friday, November 4, a 16-year-old Jamaican schoolboy, after representing his school in a basketball match, collapsed while being transported from the game. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead! Media reports from the school community are that he died of a heartrelated condition. After the untimely and tragic demise of the captain of the St. George’s College’s football captain, Dominic James, there was a flurry of activity, all geared to not prevent, but to reduce the possibility of future occurrences and to identify and train officials at the Inter Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) – controlled sporting events, who can initiate a meaningful response geared at sustaining life. ISSA has arranged meetings with principals, where a preparticipation evaluation (PPE) for all children involved in ISSA supervised sports was mooted to be made mandatory and principals are encouraged to ensure that stretchers and other vital and necessary equipment and trained personnel are present at their events. Yet tragedies continue.
IDENTIFYING AT-RISK ATHLETES
I do not know if any or all of the students at the school where the 16-year-old basketball player attended had PPEs or if arrangements were made to have this important medical intervention done. What I do know is that the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, the Heart Institute of the Caribbean and other concerned medical professionals have come on board in conjunction with ISSA to tackle this problem. Jamaica Bickle, a group of Jamaicans in the USA have donated 15 automated external defibrillators (AED’s) and offered training in how to use this equipment, and some (not all) schools have actively begun programmes to identify children at risk for cardiac-related events, while involved in sports.
A PPE consists of a standard questionnaire, to be completed with the student athlete and a parent or guardian, who knows the child, answering the questions together, a comprehensive examination that includes Blood tests (hemoglobin, blood sugar and
cholesterol levels), urine tests,vision tests, electrocardiograms (ECG’s) and an examination by a medical professional. ECGs with unusual tracings are referred to a consultant cardiologist, who will determine if the child needs a cardiac echogram or other tests to determine if the child is at risk for a cardiac event, while playing sports. At the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, this PPE is available to any child involved in ISSA controlled sports at a reduced fee of J$2,500. If the child cannot attend at the offices of the foundation (on Beechwood Avenue in Kingston) the foundation will go to the school requesting assistance, with the necessary equipment and experts to conduct the PPE!
There is simply no reasonable excuse why our young people involved in school related activity should not be screened to identify those at risk. We owe it to our children. Let us stop blaming children. Let us stop mouthing Shaggy’s hit song:” it wasn’t me”. Let us stand up and accept the fact that children on their way to school, at school, and on their way home from school, ARE the responsibility of adults, who are paid to do their job! We cannot go on like this!