Adrian Frater | ISSA rule change a tough cookie

by

October 13, 2018
Wellington
Athletes competing in the boys' 5000m Open event at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships at the National Stadium on Saturday, March 24, 2018.
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It is not difficult to understand the rationale behind the Inter-Secondary 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 so-called elite schools.

In fact, I concur with the sentiments expressed in a recent Gleaner article in which the association's vice president, Keith Wellington, who is also the principal of St Elizabeth High School (STETHS), pointed out that the student-athletes 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 a weak infrastructure to one with a strong programme, which will 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 of ever, in most cases the nation's top-flight footballer, cricketers and track stars have come through schools such as Jamaica College, Kingston College, Vere Technical, Cornwall College, Rusea's, Holmwood and STETHS, who 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 (JAAA) 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.

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