The ball is in your court, ISSA
Foster's Fairplay is deeply concerned about some of the happenings in high-school sports, seemingly under the radar of the governing body, the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA).
This pertains to what is euphemistically termed 'recruitment', but in recent times taken to a level that is seemingly unwholesome and demands closer attention and appropriate corrective action. Given the make-up and structure of ISSA, it is difficult to accept that the body is not cognisant of these transactions, as it is the schools over which their member principals exercise control that derive the benefit inherent in this activity. In these circumstances, they cannot plead innocence.
A typical deal goes like this. School A, usually one of limited resources, identifies, tends and produces an athlete who, for ability and potential, catches the eye of the relevant parties at School B. These individuals, together with their connections, launch a determined initiative to land that bright talent with a view to have it perform in a new environment and wearing different colours. Ideally, this would occur in the following year. If the ISSA eligibility stipulations do not permit participation in the major events in the immediate term, there is a waiting time of one year after which that hurdle disappears. If the sit-out period is meant to be a penalty, it is far from being harsh enough.
For a smoother transfer and depending on the level of talent in question, inducements in cash or kind are introduced. Former students of the receiving school provide the funding, and even business entities give their support, if they can see benefit accruing to them further down the road. The items passed are varied, ranging from free schooling to household appliances. Parents and guardians have been the targets for these 'gifts'. Even the former coach can be left smiling when the move is cemented.
ISSA needs to say how comfortable it is with these transactions. Foster's Fairplay sees enough negatives embedded in the exercise to have the peace of mind that the custodians of the sport appear to have. What instantly comes to mind is that it is not all the time that promises from School B come into being, and when that happens, things can become a bit sour. No promising athlete needs to have a situation where his or her future is compromised by being the pawn in a deal where parties become unfriendly, and worse, spiteful to each other, all because things did not go as planned.
There is reluctance to call names, as usually the athletes are still at a youthful age and the ensuing stigma could cause permanent emotional damage. There is one case, however, that has come to light, and which has raised the anger concerns in this corner. What adds to the disgust is that in this case, the school which was losing one of its most promising did not fall in the category of the under-resourced.
A female athlete on the verge of representing her country at the international level was caught in the intrigue. She was allegedly being used by a coach as an incentive to secure a job at School B. His thinking appeared to have been that with the athlete in tow, he would stand a better chance of being employed. Thankfully, the coach at the receiving school got wind, saw that his job was in jeopardy and did some fancy footwork to stem the tide. When it gets to this stage, with the country's young talents used as pieces on a chess table, it is imperative that ISSA must act.
It cannot be beyond the competence of ISSA to ferret out these individuals who are orchestrating this type of activity. There is no secrecy where it is concerned, but there has to be a will to correct it. At present, given the lack of any meaningful action, it would seem that it is acceptable to those well positioned to make the difference. Schools which invest in their charges at an early stage deserve to have their names called when the success they wish for finally arrives. What would be the incentive to do the talent searching and nurturing that are inevitably involved?
ISSA, the ball is in your court. Play the right shot.
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