Don't rush it, ISSA! - UWI researcher urges caution with student-transfer regulations
Dr Rachael Irving, research fellow at the University of the West Indies (UWI), thinks ISSA should wait before implementing its new transfer regulations. In the interim, schools with modest track and field programmes could be strengthened before the regulations come into force. Should ISSA, go ahead as planned, Irving projects that Jamaica will lose its edge in global sprinting and that youngsters will lose important opportunities.
Irving's suggestion is based on the findings of a 2016 UWI research project she spearheaded.
"Only six per cent of those who run at the elite junior level transition to the senior level", she explained. "Most of those who transition are from the athletic schools. As a matter of fact, looking at the data, about 0.05 per cent of those from the schools that aren't equipped transition," she revealed of the study entitled 'Transitional Nurturing Determines Elite Performance in Sprinting.'
The study concluded that "students who attended high schools with well-established track-and-field programmes are more likely to represent Jamaica at the Olympics and World Championships".
Irving said that if the rules are implemented as planned, she projects that "another 10 years, if it's like that, if it stays the same, then we will perform less".
Irving outlined the outlook of parents who entertain the thought of their children changing schools. "If I'm at a school where if I get sick, I can't be taken care of, we have no network, I do not have the money to send my child or get a good doctor to see my child, I'm going to send that child somewhere, even though I'm emotionally attached to that child, where life will be better and eventually it will mean better for me. Maybe I'm not educated, but I see by sending my child to a Calabar, a KC (Kingston College), a JC (Jamaica College), the child will get an education, plus, the child might be a national representative".
She reported that research shows that student athletes from schools with track-and-field programmes of high repute tend to get scholarships to National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 universities, while those from smaller high schools often go to US junior colleges.
"The transition rate for leaving from a junior college to senior college is less than two per cent, and the transition period is about four years. After about four years, most people don't transition," she added.
She suggests a five-year timeline in which emerging schools could bolster their academic programmes enough to give student athletes better opportunities to qualify for better scholarships. "I would recommend, you see schools emerging, a Petersfield, Green Island, Bridgeport - Jazeel Murphy came from there - you start putting in remedial programmes in place. You look at these students and think about mentoring. But until you can do that, allow them to move."
She notes that such programmes are already in place in schools noted for track and field. "I know (schools like) Calabar, JC, KC have old boys, and they mentor those students", she said.
Irving, who has also partnered with Olympian Vilma Charlton to unearth the genetic background for, the Jamaican sprint prowess, says money is a key resource.
"We have found in our research that finances is one of the major criteria that determines if you transition or if you don't transition," she said. "If you don't have the money to support the health plan, the food and nutrition, the psychology, it means that you are going to be left behind."
That led to a singular conclusion. "Until those things are put in place, I don't think we should have this transfer rule," she surmised.
"Yes, have the transfer rule, but develop a system to ensure that people are not victimised by this transfer rule," she concluded.