Tue | Aug 21, 2018

RJRGLEANER Honour Awards | For Sport: Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) - Creating a better tomorrow

Published:Monday | February 12, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Dr Walton Small
Dr Walton Small
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Making stars

 

"ISSA prides itself on being able to say that it is responsible for creating the platform for the majority of Jamaica's biggest names in sports with its Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships (Champs) and its various urban and rural competitions in its schoolboy football season, which runs from September to December each year."

 

Plans for growth

 

"ISSA said it wishes to give more focus to less popular sports in Jamaica in 2018 and to do more to regulate its competitions at the secondary-school level."

 

Boosting the economy

 

"I know, especially at Champs, towards the semi-finals and finals of the Manning and daCosta cups, a lot of people make arrangements - some people schedule their holidays to come to Jamaica. You can't find hotel rooms because a lot of people are coming out, and we really pride ourselves on creating that environment that will boost the economic activity of the country."

When elected for his sixth successive term as president of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) in June last year, Dr Walton Small said that his plan for making the body a better-functioning one would be to streamline its operations.

Within ISSA, Small created a policy committee, an executive board and an operations panel with the aim of achieving this objective. As a result of this campaign to be more efficient, ISSA earned itself this year's RJRGLEANER Honour Award for Sport. This is for the role it played in developing and nurturing student athletes looking to become Jamaica's next global superstars in their respective sporting disciplines.

ISSA prides itself on being able to say that it is responsible for creating the platform for the majority of Jamaica's biggest names in sports with its Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships (Champs) and its various urban and rural competitions in its schoolboy football season, which runs from September to December each year.

With the Jamaican Government still seeking to fix an economy many have considered ailing for a number of decades, Small said that ISSA has played its part, especially last year, in offering help in its growth.

 

ECONOMIC ACTIVITY

 

"Our involvement in sports creates economic activity for the country," Small said. "I know, especially at Champs, towards the semi-finals and finals of the Manning and daCosta cups, a lot of people make arrangements - some people schedule their holidays to come to Jamaica. You can't find hotel rooms because a lot of people are coming out, and we really pride ourselves on creating that environment that will boost the economic activity of the country.

"Though people don't see that aspect of it, we at ISSA focus on creating an excellent product that will make people want to come. And in coming, we create that economic benefit for the country, and that is one of our opportunities of showing the pride that we feel when other organisations can recognise us."

A budget of around $80 million to organise last year's staging of Champs was used to maintain the event's reputation as the top track and field meet in the world at the secondary-school level. This sum could be considered modest, given how little ISSA has to spend in comparison to associations in the developed world organising meets at a similar level. The same could be said of its estimated $56 million used to put on its schoolboy football tournaments.

Small stressed that this financial attention is crucial at this level if the nation is to continue with its long-term aim of marketing Jamaica as a brand through sports.

"If you remove high-school competitions from the development of sports in Jamaica, we are going to be in a crisis," he said. "That is why I have to say thanks to corporate Jamaica for recognising ISSA's worth, because they invest a tremendous amount of money for ISSA to provide the platform. If the Government recognises that, too, and see it as one of the bases of really developing sports and start pumping funds into high-school sports, we could do wonders."

ISSA said it wishes to give more focus to less popular sports in Jamaica in 2018 and to do more to regulate its competitions at the secondary-school level.

"We are gradually looking at taking sports like wrestling, rowing, archery, chess, and others, under our umbrella," Small explained. "Right now, because of our small staff, we have to give control of some of the sports that we now operate to their respective parent bodies. Hockey, swimming, tennis - what we do, because we do not have the manpower to manage them, we sometimes support them financially and also to give them the opportunity to work with us."