ISSA rule change a tough cookie

The Star (Jamaica) - - SPORTS -

It is not dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand the ra­tio­nale be­hind the In­terSe­condary Sports As­so­ci­a­tion’s (ISSA) re­cent de­ci­sion to al­ter the trans­fer rule gov­ern­ing the move­ment of stu­dent-ath­letes as there is more than enough ev­i­dence to sup­port the claim that the high schools with lim­ited re­sources are be­ing ex­ploited by the so­called elite schools.

In fact, I con­cur with the sen­ti­ments ex­pressed in a re­cent Gleaner ar­ti­cle in which the as­so­ci­a­tion’s vi­cepres­i­dent, Keith Welling­ton, who is also the prin­ci­pal of St El­iz­a­beth High School (STETHS), pointed out that the stu­dent-ath- letes from schools with less-es­tab­lished sports pro­grammes are be­ing lured away by the schools with re­sources to make them at­trac­tive of­fers.

I also be­lieve that Welling­ton was ab­so­lutely right when he was quoted as say­ing, “The rea­son for the rule change is based on the in­vest­ment some schools have made in many of their stu­dents who are then trans­ferred from their schools to other schools, specif­i­cally be­cause of their sport­ing tal­ents.”

It is no se­cret that over the years, the schools with the ‘strength of cash’ and ‘con­nec­tions’ have be­come like leeches on the less fi­nan­cially se­cure schools, mak­ing lu­cra­tive of­fers to the most gifted stu­dent-ath­letes, which the ath­letes and their fam­i­lies find dif­fi­cult to re­sist, es­pe­cially in our fi­nan­cially chal­leng­ing econ­omy.

It is also quite true, as Welling­ton stated, that the pre­vi­ous trans­fer sys­tem was “cre­at­ing an im­bal­ance in our com­pe­ti­tions be­cause schools are able to cre­ate su­per teams, and there­fore, it cre­ates an im­bal­ance, and the com­pe­ti­tions are be­com­ing unattrac­tive be­cause of the one-sided na­ture of the com­pe­ti­tion”.

How­ever, while I fully un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate ISSA’s po­si­tion, I must ad­mit that those who are op­pos­ing the move could also mount a com­pelling de­fence, es­pe­cially if they are not driven by parochial emo­tions but by the wider be­lief that a stu­dent-ath­lete with a solid plat­form is more likely to suc­ceed than one in a si­t­u­a­tion that is not con­ducive to devel­op­ment.

BET­TER OP­POR­TU­NI­TIES

In fact, I find it dif­fi­cult to ar­gue against a sce­nario where a young foot­baller with the cre­den­tials to go far in the sport ex­presses a de­sire to move from a school with weak in­fras­truc­ture to one with strong pro­gramme, which would give him the best op­por­tu­ni­ties to show­case his tal­ent and gain recog­ni­tion.

While there are ex­cep­tional cases like Wil­liam Knibb High School, which, de­spite hav­ing only a mod­est track pro­gramme, gave the world Usain Bolt, the great­est track ath­lete ever, in most cases, the na­tion’s top-flight foot­ballers, crick­eters and track stars have come through schools such as Ja­maica Col­lege, Kingston Col­lege, Vere Tech­ni­cal, Corn­wall Col­lege, Rusea’s, Holm­wood, and STETHS, which all in­vest heav­ily in sports.

Since go­ing for­ward, the new sys­tem at ISSA is un­likely to fa­cil­i­tate the cre­ation of su­per teams, or­gan­i­sa­tions like the Ja­maica Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion, the Ja­maica Cricket As­so­ci­a­tion and the Ja­maica Ath­let­ics Ad­min­is­tra­tive As­so­ci­a­tion will need to step for­ward with their own pro­grammes to cre­ate nurs­eries to sup­port their sport.

If the var­i­ous sport­ing as­so­ci­a­tions, pos­si­bly through sup­port from the Gov­ern­ment, could start look­ing at cre­at­ing their own sport­ing acad­e­mies to open up av­enues for the devel­op­ment of our gifted young ath­letes, such a struc­ture could take the bur­den off ISSA and its high-school sports pro­grammes, which are be­ing used as the na­tion’s un­of­fi­cial nurs­ery by the var­i­ous sport­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions.

While I am some­what torn be­tween ISSA’s po­si­tion and those who op­pose its lat­est move, the sad re­al­ity is that we sim­ply can­not have the best of both worlds. Maybe the time has come for us to use the model be­ing used by the Mount Pleas­ant Academy in St Ann, where young­sters are be­ing pre­pared to be­come pro­fes­sional foot­ballers.

Ath­letes com­pet­ing in the boys’ 5,000m open event at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships at the Na­tional Sta­dium on Satur­day, March 24, 2018.

Welling­ton

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