André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
ISSA's Forbes says boys' category will not be included at Champs
George Forbes, competitions director at the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), has refuted claims that the organisation will be adding Class Four competition in the boys' section at next year's ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Championships.
News reached The Gleaner indicating that the addition was imminent and several of the nation's top high-school male programme coaches voiced their support of what they felt was a long overdue move.
However, Forbes underlined that his organisation is not considering adding a Class Four boys' schedule to Champs at this point, noting that a proposal was flatly rejected on advice from medical experts.
Forbes believes that such a move would threaten the development of the nation's young talent, blaming the coaches themselves, who he chastised for a "win-at-all-cost" approach to the championships.
"There will be no Class Four," said Forbes. "I have heard that too and I don"t know where the rumour is coming from, but as I said, nothing has changed really, and there will not be any Class Four at Boys' Champs in the foreseeable future."
At present, the lowest class or age group that is contested at Champs in the boys' section is Class Three, which caters to Under-14 boys.
Girls have class four
However, there is a Class Four in the girls' section, which features Under-13 competitors, as females are believed to generally mature earlier than boys from a physiological perspective.
"We had a meeting, we got a proposal and rejected it from as far back as May this year," Forbes added. "The proposal came from coaches and other interested parties and we looked at it and decided to stick with the thing as it is for now. We decided to allow the people in Class Four to run in Class Three, but they would be allowed to run just one track event and one relay."
Forbes further explained: "It comes down to the whole thing with the coaches themselves and their win-at-all-cost approach and we don't think it is correct for the boys to be exposed to that kind of load at that age. People will say they compete at Prep Champs and so on, but it's two different environments and training.
"Let the youths develop on their own pace without being pushed. We have also received medical advice to let it remain as is," said Forbes.
Orville Brown, head coach of 2011 Boys' Champs winners Jamaica College, said he was certainly in favour of the addition of Class Four, but that such a move would not affect his programme in a major way.
"I am fully in support of it and I don't think that our programme would be significantly affected by it because we've operated on that principle, at least for the last two years," Brown said.
Michael Clarke, head coach of defending boys' champions, Calabar High, says it's long overdue, pointing to its benefits to the overall development of Jamaica's track programme.
Ja falling behind
"If you compare us with the rest of the world in a similar age group, they are ahead of us and it would provide better opportunity for growth and development of our Boys' Champs," said Clarke. "It makes it more exciting and gives other schools more opportunity to show themselves and to move forward. Of course, there will need to be regulations to ensure that it is monitored and not to the detriment of the various schools and programmes.
Those views were shared by Kingston College's Michael Russell, who noted his school's strength in that age group.
"It wouldn't affect our programme negatively. If you look at our results over the years, we have always been competitive in Class Four at Gibson Relays or any other meets that you have Class Four athletes participating in, so it wouldn't affect us in that way," said Russell.
"However, I am not certain of the events that would be included, but I believe that some events should not be included for Class Four boys and it's a physiological thing based on what the experts say on the development of girls versus that of boys," he added.