ISSA hits back at coaches
PRESIDENT of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), Dr Walton Small, has hit back at high-school athletics coaches, saying that proposed changes for the ISSA-GraceKennedy Boys and Girls Athletics Championships were based on their own complaints about watering down the event.
Small has also said that ISSA governs school sports, and that the issue of recruitment, as it relates to academics, is the purview of the Ministry of Education.
ISSA's Technical Committee will vote on Friday on several changes to the annual high-school track meet. One change would see track athletes being restricted to two individual events, as well as two relays.
The proposals have been met with opposition from the Jamaica Track and Field Coaches Association (JATAFCA).
Last week, a post on JATAFCA's Facebook page pointed out that despite adjustments to the rules, 454 fewer athletes competed in Champs in 2016 than in 2010.
"They (ISSA) are presiding over a period of decline. They need to pause and do the analysis in terms of the decisions being made," JATAFCA President David Riley told The Gleaner.
Small said coaches were instrumental in those changes.
"When I hear that, I wonder if they have memory lapse, because we made those changes because of their suggestions ... from the coaches and other experts in the field that what we were doing was bringing student athletes to Champs that did not merit the quality of the meet; that we should be displaying the best of the best. It was because of that suggestion why we increased the standards, and if we increase the standard for qualification, you are going to automatically get fewer people," Small said.
"Every year after Champs we do a review and we have a technical committee that is made up of very knowledgeable people and they advise us based on reactions, and one of our things is looking to just cutting down on the workload of students because one of our aims is to ensure that we do not expose our students to undue stress and pressure.
"These rules that we have made are because we are listening. It must not be said that ISSA was insensitive to the health of the students," he added.
Small conceded that Champs athlete numbers were getting smaller, but said that it was because the quality had improved, thereby weeding out athletes who were not up to scratch.
A bone of contention for Riley was that the practice of recruiting student athletes needed to be regulated.
Small, however, said ISSA has rules governing how recruited athletes can participate, but that he could not stop the schools.
"We are not into the business of regulating where students go. That is the business of the Ministry of Education. However, so as not to have wanton movement, we have put in rules. Yes, there are the pros and cons of transfer, (but) not all good athletes move from their school," Small said.
A number of student athletes, with and without Jamaican familial connections, have participated at Champs, and while the argument was made that they are being developed at the expense of Jamaican students, Small again said he had no control over their movements.
"If a child comes to Jamaica, we cannot stop them. Once you are a student you have a right to participate in ISSA sports," he noted.
Small said a clearing house system had been instituted with the intent of regulating how students are recruited.
The clearing, house, he said, prevents one school from recruiting a student without the knowledge of his or her current school administration. A registration system also identifies any student moving from one school to the next.