Fri | Sep 22, 2017

The Wright View | Stop Abusing Our Junior Athletes

Published:Tuesday | January 24, 2017 | 1:00 AM
Closing ceremony at Champs 2013.

Every year, November is celebrated as Youth Month, with November 19 being World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse. The celebrations of these important landmarks have been muted here in Jamaica.

Recent occurrences affecting the lives of our children here at home seem to have been the attention grabber that has galvanised ACTION that may have the required effect of altering how we look at the lives of our children. The problem that I have with the term child abuse is that it is used to refer predominantly to sexual abuse.

To me, the abuse of a child encompasses more than sexual (or even physical) abuse. Things that we do to our children, or allow them to do, when we know that what they are doing will (at some stage) result in either physical or mental harm is child abuse. It took the death of at least eight children, dating from as far back as 2009 (a footballer), before the authorities began looking at the causes and possible ways of identifying those at risk for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), the most probable cause of their demise.

The move by the organisation in charge of school sports (ISSA) to insist (for now) that participants in school sports will need a Pre-Participation Evaluation Clearance certificate before being allowed to compete is most welcome. Kudos must also be given to Team Jamaica Bickle, a diaspora organisation that has come forward with equipment that should be mandatory at every ISSA-controlled sporting event. This should result in a welcome reduction in cases of SCA in children who show no outward signs of a possible cardiac problem, but who really are disasters waiting to happen.

Children who show signs of 'difficulty' in responding to the dictates of coaches and trainers in practice or games, claiming that they are tired, can now be examined by trained specialists to determine if they have medical problems that may be the cause of their tiredness. No longer will our children in sports be the subject of abuse by enthusiastic 'drill sergeant' coaches. Similarly, the sight of our children doing multiple events at the ISSA GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletic Championships (Champs) will now come to an end, as the controlling body for school sports in Jamaica, ISSA , ruled last Friday that children at Champs will not be allowed to run, jump, and throw themselves into injury mode or overuse syndromes.

As can be expected, this has not gone down well with coaches or those who have nightmares thinking that these 'new' rules may adversely affect their chances of winning no matter, what happens to the child next year or the year after.

 

Unanimous votes

 

Thankfully, the principals that make up ISSA voted unanimously last Friday to (for the first time at last) take the control of Champs out of the hands of past students and coaches and assert their rightful status, as the ones who the Government and parents expect to save the children in their care from abuse.

The fact that ISSA had a meeting on December 5 last year, attended by coaches and interested parties where suggestions were solicited in an effort to prevent burn-out and overuse injuries affecting our children, seems to have been lost on some of those protesting the decisions ratified by the principals last Friday. The acceptance of this 'win-no-matter-what' culture in school sports has adversely affected the lives of our children, who are not equipped mentally or physically to decide what is best for them. The age of consent exists because it is universally recognised that children NEED help when making decisions that can adversely affect their future. So, when a coach says that so-and-so (a child) wants to do four events that is why he/she is allowed to do them, we now recognise that such a coach is guilty of neglect in the discharge of his duty to the child.

Congratulations to ISSA. We are, at last, taking actions to minimise the possible abuse of our children. January 20, 2017, was the Jamaica Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse.