The Wright View | Protecting Our Student Athletes
The plea for a 'children's summit', made by Betty Ann Blaine of Hear the Children's Cry, resonates with me not only because of the consistent and persistent abuse of our children mentally, sexually, physically ('no ally'), but because I do believe that we are in danger of institutionalising this abuse by believing that children are small adults.
In sports, talented (gifted) children are required to perform for medals, points, school, club, or country, regardless of the inherent dangers, 'to maximise revenue'. The branding of children who are gifted in a particular sport is 'okay', because the stipend paid (a) to the child, (b) to the parents, (c) to the school or club, supposedly will benefit other poor and struggling children, and help the selected child to 'make choices' that would not be possible without cash. Thus, the child is professionalised, with little or no concern to the long-term holistic needs of a child in transition to adulthood.
In school sports, this column has long complained of the unhealthy practice of forcing children (boys) to play three, sometimes more, football games in seven days, not because of scheduling, but because of postponements, etc, to justify the fact that the competition must be completed before the end of the school term.
Any attempt to tinker with the present format of the Manning and DaCosta Cup competitions by ranking schools based on historical results in the competition, so that schools with a poor record of performance would play against each other in Zone B, for example, would have the 'better schools' competing against each other. The top schools from Zone B would be promoted to Zone A, while the worst-performing schools in Zone A would be demoted to Zone B the following year. This would minimise the possibility of multiple games in a week. This idea, however, is pooh poohed by school principals and past student networks as minimising income potential for a school that can barely afford the cost of competition! So play on my child, play on, regardless of the mental and physical strain on your developing mind and body. Is that not a form of abuse?
In the past few weeks, stung by the premature deaths of children in their care, the governing body of high-school sports in this country, ISSA, have initiated bold steps to try and minimise "the physical and mental abuse of children in schools" by proposing changes to how school sports are managed. ISSA has demanded that schools under their control mandate a pre-participation evaluation for every child who participates in one of their competitions BEFORE being selected to play. This bold move will not eliminate the possibility of sudden cardiac arrest (death) in children, but would identify those children at risk of this and initiate treatment or rehabilitation.
Further, ISSA has recommended changes to the rules of the Boys and Girls' Athletic Championships (Champs) regarding the number and types of events that our children can participate in during an intensive, and exciting, five days of competition. This bold attempt at minimising the potential physical and mental abuse of children in their care has not met with universal acclamation. Already, we are hearing protests from very influential groups who see the potential for reduction in points, medals and income. Let us all, with one accord, support ISSA and mark this effort as the start of a long and necessary journey in protecting our children from abuse.