Lascelve Graham | ISSA must send a clear message
Last month I attended the media launch of the 20th staging of the Wesley Powell Benjamins Track & Field Meet inside Excelsior High School auditorium. The guest speaker was the president of ISSA, Keith Wellington. His topic, ‘The eligibility of the student-athlete and ISSA’s enforcement mechanism’. He said all the right words and expressed very clearly all the right ideas, as he has done throughout the years, even before becoming president.
He recognised that students are multifaceted and so co-curricular activities are organised to help them tap into different abilities, different aspects of their being, and enhance their learning in meaningful ways, outside the classroom. He went to great lengths to stress that a student-athlete is a student first, who participates in athletic activities. Core function is that of a student. He then stated the parameters which determine eligibility – attendance at the school, attempting to do school work and the transfer rules. He also mentioned the importance of the integrity of school officials in having the process operate effectively.
As a vice president of ISSA, some years ago, Wellington noted that our schools are not the developmental arms of the various sports associations. They are educational institutions that play sports. This means that co-curricular activities are for the students who legitimately qualify to do the curriculum at a particular school. They are the target of co-curricular activities, in keeping with giving them a holistic school experience. That sums up, expresses the essence of what Wellington tried to convey at the launch. If the spirit of that statement were adhered to, and captured in the rules, regulations and penalties administered by ISSA, then the education/socialisation system and sports would blend seamlessly at their interface, and there would be no recruiting for sports purposes by our schools.
NOT QUALIFIED FOR CO-CURRICULUM
Recruiting for sports purposes, bringing in other children based on sports ability, by our schools, indicates that the children at the school qualified for the curriculum, but not for the co-curriculum! It’s an unacceptable, absurd double standard which makes a mockery of the concept and role of co-curricular activities! It’s beating the system!
Wellington said the nicest things, the right things, but somehow there seems to be a tremendous loss, a most inefficient transfer, a disconnect, in converting from words to ISSA’s ensuring the effective implementation of said words. ISSA talks the talk. It’s past time to walk the talk.
It might be appropriate to insert some definitions here. Curricular activities are ones that are part of a standard school curriculum. Co-curricular activities are ones that are outside of the school curriculum, but complement and supplement it. Extracurricular activities are ones that are completely outside the school curriculum.
Defining sports, as Wellington did, as a co-curricular activity, emphasises, makes even more pronounced its role as a tool, a part of the teaching/learning arsenal of the school, which serves to widen the dimensions, the horizons of the students who legitimately qualify to be at the school, whether sports stars or the other extreme.
The penalties meted out for breaching the eligibility rules encourage, facilitate the win at all costs recruiting for sports purposes mentality. The logical conclusions of ISSA’s words would lead to discouraging such activity. A lot is lost in the translation. An example of dissonance, inconsistency, incongruence between ISSA’s words and deeds. The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.
The win-at-all-costs mentality drives schools to recruit for sports purposes. Schools recruit even from sports academies, which have the best facilities, programmes and coaches for the development of the sports potential of our youths. Some essentially co-opt sports academies to represent them. They bring in foreign sports recruits who take the spaces of poor Jamaican children, who yearn for, deserve and could make good use of the opportunity to attend a good school. They will do just about anything to win at sports. Such is the overemphasis on winning at sports in our public schools!
In such a scenario, one of these schools could have recruited a very good team, but feel that they would have an unbeatable one, if they had an excellent goalkeeper. So, they find such a keeper, and play him, knowing that he is ineligible. If it escapes the authorities, they win the competition easily. As things are now, with a good excuse, if they are discovered, they get a slap on the wrist by ISSA, from which they can recover, effortlessly. It is worth taking the risk!
RAISE THE BAR
ISSA has set the penalty bar too low. It should not be worth their while to take the risk. The cost should be too high. Hence, the bar needs to be raised.
Any school that uses an ineligible player should be eliminated from the current competition.
The flexibility should be with respect to how many seasons they miss. Ignorance, misinterpretation of the rules, etc., is no excuse. That would send a clear message to all and sundry that playing within the rules is very important. I can assure you that suddenly, very experienced, highly capable administrators, would no longer be misinterpreting or be ignorant of rules, or situations relating to their charges. They would start living up to their reputations and doing what is expected of them.
It would be good if ISSA stepped up to the plate and does what it obviously knows is the right thing, if one is to go by the utterances of its president. It needs to go to the source, the root cause of the problems mentioned above and many others, and ban recruiting for sports purposes by our schools. Give those schools resolutely attempting to carry out their mission, a fair chance, a level playfield.
Dr Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham is a former captain of Manning, All-Manning, All-Schools and All-Jamaica football teams.