They are students first - Wellington defends ISSA's academic rules at TVJ Sports Town Hall
Keith Wellington, the vice-president of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), used the second RJRGleaner Sports Town Hall on Thursday evening to remind Jamaica why academic requirements are imposed on student-athletes.
Wellington was one of the main speakers at the meeting, which took place at the Mico University College Auditorium and which was geared at bringing clarity to the quagmire high school sports and academics have become.
More than two decades ago, ISSA imposed academic requirements on all students who wished to participate in their competitions.
Student-athletes must obtain an average of at least 45 per cent in the subjects they take in school and have an 80 per cent attendance record to be able to take part in any ISSA competition.
"Our objective at ISSA is to protect the influence on the athletes to put a lot of time into the sport rather than striking a balance with sport and their schoolwork," Wellington said. "We are coming from a time when students are just turning up for games. There was a time when a boy would not go to school for an entire week and would show up for the game on Saturday. That is how the rule came into being. These requirements are indications that these are general students. That is why you have the attendance and the identification cards. There is still the propensity for student-athletes to only participate in sports."
Wellington also rubbished the argument purported by popular sport commentator Oral Tracey that the academic requirements imposed on student-athletes are discriminatory as other students who are participating in non-sporting extra-curricular activities are not required to meet these standards.
"ISSA has no control over the requirements to compete in non-sporting activities because ISSA only governs sports in High School. We do not organise All-together Sing or School Challenge Quiz, and, therefore, we cannot impose any requirements on those competitions, and, therefore, those out there who are saying why are we just imposing requirements on athletes, the argument is null and void," Wellington explained.
The St Elizabeth Technical High School principal also stated that there is a tendency for exuberant sports fans to pay athletes to perform well at football games or at athletics meets.
"We have to protect the amateurism of these athletes. There is a trend where a lot of incentives are offered to our sportsmen, especially in track and field. We at ISSA have tried to nullify that by putting in a number of amateurism rules that speak to what a student-athlete can take from someone else as incentives as it relates to them performing in a sport," Wellington said. "The rules came about in 2015, and though they have not been popular, we intend to enforce them where we can."