Fri | Sep 22, 2017

The Wright View | The dark side of recruiting

Published:Tuesday | December 13, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The critique of a "boast" by Ian Forbes, the chairman of Jamaica College's (JC) Sports Development Committee, that "recruitment" is an integral part in the success of their football team, has received praise and criticism from media and sporting personalities islandwide. I get the impression that Mr Forbes is of the belief that "since others are doing it ... then it is okay!" I do recall, however, that the principals of ISSA, the controlling body of school sports in Jamaica, have frowned on this practice, and, indeed, have spoken of the intention to introduce rules that would outlaw this practice.

Lascelve 'Muggy' Graham, a former Jamaica football captain and academic, has pointed out in a Gleaner article recently that one of the other heavy recruiting schools is Wolmer's Boys' School, whose headmaster is the president of ISSA, and the minister of education was, until very recently, the principal of Jamaica College. Obviously, the plan to implement "rules" to deter "recruiting" means very little when winning is all that matters.

 

DESERVING STUDENTS SHUNTED

 

I get the impression that JC is trying to build a school that their football team can be proud of. The bald fact that recruiters and their advocates refuse to admit is that when schools admit students for the sole purpose of winning, there are usually some hard working and deserving students who are shunted aside and denied the opportunity of the holistic education that these leaders say that they are promoting.

There are two incidents that made me become a fervent supporter of anti-poaching activist Lascelve 'Muggy' Graham.

There was a child from the 'country' whose GSAT results placed him at a rural school near to his home. At his new school, his footballing skills made him a must-pick in the school's junior programme. His seeming ability to score goals from unlikely positions on the field of play made him the darling of the school and the surrounding community. One day, a visitor to the school saw this young man playing and immediately enquired his name of the coach . The coach, wary of the sudden interest of the stranger demurred. The persistent stranger soon discovered name and address of the youngster, and within a week, was a visitor at his home.

His parents - poor Jamaicans struggling to put food on the table and keep up with the expenses of secondary school life - were promised that their son would be boarded in Kingston at a home that met their approval and that there would be no need for school fees or lunch money. Their child would be transported to and from school, and his football gear would be provided free of cost. How wonderful, the parents thought. And off their son went to Kingston to join a 'name-brand school'.

He came to his new school during the holidays and was immediately selected to be part of the football squad preparing for that year's Manning Cup competition. The reputation that preceded him was soon vindicated. This young man was scoring goals from all angles. "We must win Manning Cup!" was the cry of the coaching staff.

 

LIFE ALTERING INJURY

 

However, before the season began, this young man hurt his knee. He was immediately taken to the doctor associated with the team, who diagnosed ligament injury and prescribed the appropriate treatment. The young man did not get any better. Physiotherapy was prescribed. The young man did not get any better. X-rays were done: "No bony abnormality". Another opinion was sought, new diagnosis, different treatment. No improvement in his condition. I was asked to see him. I thought that he did indeed have a ligament injury and suggested an MRI.

After a week's delay, the money to do this important investigation was obtained and the MRI performed. The result, a tear of this anterior cruciate ligament. A season-ending injury. The choice: either no more football or a very expensive surgical procedure to repair the ligament with no guarantee that after rehabilitation, his pre-injury skills would be the same.

Weeks passed. No word from his 'mentor' or, indeed, the boy himself. So I went to investigate.

The young man was still in school, but there was no more transportation to and from school. He was no longer a part of the 'squad' so, therefore, no longer received "free" lunch and snacks. He still wore a knee brace to enable him to walk with minimal pain, but there was no longer any special interest from teachers and old boys.

Recruitment for the sole purpose of winning is simply wrong and "is materially motivated in some way by an athletic purpose and is contrary to the fundamental objectives of keeping athletics in their proper place and subordinate to academics".