ISSA welcomes foreigners - President Wellington comfortable with participation of aliens in school competitions
Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) president Keith Wellington, does not believe local high schools are bending the association’s recruitment policies to suit themselves, when they enlist student-athletes from overseas.
He does, however, agree that discussions on whether or not the practice should be allowed to continue might be useful in the future.
“We have rules that speak to student exchange. So I don’t think they (schools) are circumventing the rules. What they are doing, the rules actually allow it. Whether or not we should prohibit it from happening, is another discussion, but I don’t think it is worth discussing right now,” he continued.
ISSA’s new eligibility rules, which took effect on January 1, 2020, apply to, among other things, restrictions on the number of student-athletes that a member school is allowed to have representing them in ISSA competition after that student-athlete has represented another ISSA member school in that same sport.
However, with more and more overseas recruits, particularly without Jamaican heritage, being brought into the country by several top programmes, most notably in track and field, alarms have been raised that this practise is a means of circumventing the eligibility system and limiting opportunities for local student-athletes.
Wellington insists the association has guidelines to govern, member and non-member schools as well as exchange students, and does not think overseas-based athletes being enrolled to, among other things, compete at events such as the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Championship is a major issue.
“First of of all, to say they (schools) are recruiting, I have no evidence of that. But we have had many students from foreign countries attending schools here and have represented their schools while here,” Wellington noted.
“The circumstances (under which) they get here may differ, but the fact is that we would have had many students that have come here, maybe because of a particular talent in whatever sport (they do), not just track and field and they would have come and represented their school,” Wellington said.
Several rural and Corporate Area schools have fielded athletes from the Caribbean, North America and even Africa at Champs over the years, with Kingston College’s Ugandan student-athlete Ari Rodgers, sparking national debate a couple years ago, after his transfer to the North Street institution.
“As it relates to the circumventing of the rules it is not. The rules clearly state what we are trying to do. We have rules that govern the admission of students from member schools, non-member schools and students from abroad would be referred to as admissions from non-member schools,” Wellington stated.
‘Not a concern now’
“It’s not really a concern now. We would have to find out the circumstances under which these students are here attending schools and if it is that these circumstances are nefarious, then it would be a concern. But as it is, I don’t know if it is anything new. People would be referring to those coming from the African countries, but how many are there four, five? So it’s not something we are too bothered by right now,” added Wellington, who also dismissed the notion that the presence of foreigners is limiting the development of Jamaican athletes.
“Anytime one person qualifies ahead of the other, it means one person is not necessarily being denied the opportunity, but that somebody is better. As it relates to these athletes not being Jamaican nationals, I don’t know how significant the numbers are to prohibit it or for it to be detrimental to our own development. It has not been discussed at ISSA and is not currently on agenda, as it has not been brought up in any official conversation,” Wellington stated.