Schoolboy football in January? - Stakeholders weigh in amid reports of new year considerations
The recent spike in local COVID-19 cases and the continued absence of approved sports protocols could lead to a January 2021 start for the schoolboy football season, according to information reaching The Gleaner.
While noting that they are considering all options, a coy Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) president, Keith Wellington, did not rule out the possibility, but refused to confirm that a new year start for the marquee Manning and daCosta Cup competitions, as well as the Ben Francis and Walker Cup knockout tournaments, is among the considerations.
“I won’t discuss that option just yet. When I speak, I speak on the behalf of the people I represent,” Wellington told The Gleaner. “We are looking at all options, including not having any sports at all; but everything is still an option, including having it and not having it. I can’t say what the other options are, as we haven’t discussed them.”
The senior ISSA schoolboy football season also includes the Olivier Shield and Champions Cup.
Nevertheless, Ludlow Bernard, coach of reigning Manning Cup champions Kingston College, and Dr Dean Weatherly, coach of last season’s beaten daCosta Cup finalists Cornwall College, do not believe it would be a good option to start in January, as it would ‘congest’ the high-school sports calendar.
However, both coaches are not against the idea of starting competitions this year and carrying it over into 2021.
“A January football season would just make the whole sporting calendar very congested because we would be going into the track and field, cricket and other seasons. So it would be very difficult, and it would take quite a bit of logistical planning. Also, some schools don’t have a lot of facilities, fields on which to train, so you are going to have a problem as it pertains to training activities,” Bernard reasoned.
THIS YEAR IS BETTER
“I am optimistic it could start this year, and even if it’s completed next year, that wouldn’t be a problem. But starting next year throws the whole things into uncertainty because even the whole training period (for players) becomes unattractive, because you are training and you don’t know if the competition is going to be played or not. So I would encourage the authorities to look as best as possible at starting this year,” added Bernard.
Despite the uncertainties surrounding the season, Bernard remains positive it will go ahead.
“If the Government can implement some more stringent measures to facilitate some amount of discipline and control, I think we can get back to normal. We still have up until the end of February, so we still have a bit of time,” Bernard said.
Meanwhile, Weatherly believes that in order to start schoolboy football competitions in January, other sports would have to be pushed back to accommodate this.
“I don’t see no reason they can’t push back the other sports. If you can push under-14 (football) to May-June, you can push Champs, basketball, cricket further down. They (ISSA) have enough time to prepare,” Weatherly commented.
He, however, expressed frustration with the delays in establishing protocols and guidelines for even training to officially start, and hopes to see the season start no later than November.
“I know they are discussing it in the (ISSA) executive. They say it is an option where January is concerned. If it starts before January and goes over into January, that would be different; but starting in January wouldn’t be a viable option. A late start, as late as November, won’t be bad,” said Weatherly.
“ISSA doesn’t even want to make a decision even to start training, and the onus is on the headmaster of each school and the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education; but no one seems to be coming up with anything. I don’t know if they are watching to see what is happening globally, but starting January would not be viable, based on the other sports,” he added.