Western Grandstand : The buck stops with ISSA, full stop
I must admit that I am quite intrigued by the ongoing war of words between the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) and the Jamaica Track and Field Coaches Association (JATAFCA) over the changes ISSA has proposed for the annual ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys' & Girls' Athletic Championships.
From a purely development perspective, I believe both sides are advancing fairly good arguments, which under normal circumstances would merit reasonable consideration. However, the fact that the buck stops with ISSA means that regardless of how the coaches feel, they need to be careful about overstepping their bounds.
While I don't believe ISSA should have unfettered powers in all things relating to student athletes, I don't believe that JATAFCA, which is basically an association of support staff for the schools, should be moving away from assisting into insisting, especially based on ISSA long history of serving local athletics with distinction.
Although, in some situations dissent might have its merit, and there is room for such action in some of our local sporting organisations, I don't believe that ISSA falls in that category. While the organisation is not infallible, it is also true that ISSA has gotten far more things right than they have gotten wrong over the years.
There is one crucial thing I believe that has been overlooked in all the back and forth between the two entities and that is their respective agendas. ISSA, which is an organisation of principals, has a mandate to promote the best interest of the students, while it would appear that JATAFCA is about showcasing the coaches and their capacity to create stars.
While it would be unfair to lump all the coaches in the same category, it is no secret that for many coaches, their egos and not the athletes are their first priority, so to give them a free hand to dictate terms in deciding what is best for the athletes would be a colossal error on ISSA's part.
Over the years, I have seen many a student athlete, especially footballers, fall by the wayside because lackadaisical principals had allowed glory-seeking coaches to wreck their lives, by placing too much emphasis on getting every ounce of energy out of them while ignoring the other aspects of their development.
I must commend ISSA for seeking dialogue with the coaches on this matter out of respect for their contribution to the development of sport programmes in schools. However, I must also congratulate them for defending their right to be final arbiter when it comes to decision making concerning students.
I believe that ISSA should mandate all the principals to sit down and explain to the coaches how the system works in terms of who has the overall responsibility for protecting the best interest of the students, especially where there might be a coach with a win-at-all-costs mindset.
As the guardian of the students in the absence of their parents, the school needs to be the entity guiding the students in making smart choices while protecting them from coaches who might want to see them as 'super men' and 'super woman' against their best interest.
Finally, while I would encourage more dialogue between ISSA and JATAFCA in the hope that they may yet settle on a united position, at the end of the day, the coaches need to realise that, insofar as the Ministry of Education is concerned, the buck stops with the principals - the entity that makes up ISSA.