Sat | Jul 21, 2018

Laurie Foster | Stricter policies needed this season, ISSA

Published:Tuesday | January 2, 2018 | 12:00 AM
ISSA president Dr Walton Small

Foster's Fairplay begins 2018 by wishing the newspaper's editorial team, its readers, and all those associated with the column and its publication a Happy New Year and the richest blessings that you all would wish for yourselves.

With January of each year comes the official start of the track and field season. The athletes who hope to represent their various schools, clubs and institutions, as well as the nation, while not omitting those on the professional circuit, would have already launched their preparation for the level of competition at which they hope to participate. As is the tradition, they will be guided by keen coaches, anxious to prove their worth through the performances of their charges, thereby enhancing their own reputation in the hope of a better job sometime in the future.

Having said that, the traditional route taken by athletes with the ambition and the talent to go further is well known. It starts at the primary- or the preparatory-school level, more often than not, under suitably qualified coaches. At this stage, they are spotted by the scouts in the high-school system and whisked away to the one school which offers, in the mind of those recruiting them, the most attractive option to advance. All is fair and acceptable up to this point.

However, the move is, quite often, encumbered with offers of cash or kind - sometimes both - to induce the young talent or his or her connections to make a particular choice. Where this columnist has a problem is with the introduction of these 'sweeteners', which tend to vary according to the perceived quality of the athlete. In this scenario, it is only the most financially able or elite high schools which reap the best fruit.

In recent times, there has been a rising trend that is even more disturbing and which threatens to bring the whole process into further disrepute. Word coming to Foster's Fairplay is that persons who, later in the day, seek to benefit from the prowess of the athletes are brought into play. At times, they are known to foist themselves on a situation without invitation. They can be internationally accredited athletes representatives, otherwise referred to as agents or simply bounty hunters, with the intention to have their rewards as soon as the athletes attain a certain level of success. These agents sometimes work hand in glove with persons from the camp of name-brand equipment manufacturers to make the pudding that more palatable.

 

NEED TO REGULATE SYSTEM

 

Foster's Fairplay is not naive, neither is the column blind to the much-appreciated gain such a system, with all its imbalances, can bring to an athlete's family in need of financial stability. In this regard, the only intention is to have it regulated as is the case on the US collegiate front.

The presence of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) is required here. Through visits to foreign fora, the body has exposed itself more than enough to have learnt from the regulatory systems that govern these school-to-school transfers. Why can it not be instituted locally, if only to put a lid on the abuse of athletes and the corruption that can be a sequel?

Let ISSA further stamp its hand on the sport by taking on the role as suggested. As commendable as it is, the group of principals should not be all about bringing in cash-rich sponsors to enhance the image of the sports in which our young athletes take part. There are other duties to be performed with companion rigour. With the proliferation of instances of the practice, ISSA should move to stem the tide and bring the matter to easier manageable proportions.

This is not the first time that transfer of athletes, and the need for ISSA to have an input therein, is appearing in the media. Other scribes have mentioned it, and our colleague and long-time friend, Lascelve 'Muggy' Graham, has agonised to the extent of activism on the topic.

Is it too much to expect of an organisation which will readily answer to the title 'governing body' to come up with a strategy to at least temper the existing situation? Is it a matter of incapability?

One sincerely hopes not, but if that is, indeed, the reason for ISSA's failure to act decisively, the body must say so.

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