ISSA and 'Champs'
Keith Noel, Columnist
IT IS AN Olympic year so, as expected, the world starts to question us. What is the secret of our athletic success? Is it our yams, our terrain, our special mix of racial types?
But the answer is there for all to see. It is 'Champs'. Our phenomenal success owes much to this annual event. We clearly have 'got it right' here. But some odd quirk in our national character leads us to want to 'fix' our athletics. Every time we enter the world spotlight because of our amazing success, people who should know better start shouting that we should correct the glaring 'wrongs' that we are doing.
And now, quoting some very dubious science and spurious logic, some persons at the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) and other educators have started a move to 'correct' the 'ills' of champs.
I grieve for the high school coaches of this country. They are the constant fall guys. We keep hearing of these 'unscrupulous' coaches who run our youngsters into the ground for their own glory. We are told that we must protect our dear children from these wicked men and women who wish them no good.
Many coaches assist, feed, sometimes even house athletes in an effort to help them achieve. I understand that in the past athletes have been overworked, or made to run when hurt, by overeager and ignorant coaches. But this has been dealt with. To prevent any overwork, ISSA has put in regulations to limit the number of events an athlete may enter. They have also hired medical professionals who survey any injuries and decide whether an athlete should be allowed to continue.
But the coach is the demon. I remember an athlete reporting a 'twinge' at Champs to his coach who discussed it with the medical doctor. He was tested and passed fit. Just as a precaution, the leg was massaged and strapped. I then went in to the stadium only to hear a radio announcer condemning the coach for running an 'injured' athlete, "for the sake of winning Champs".
Now the latest development amazes me. There is a move among some ISSA officials to further limit the number of events an athlete may enter. Now, if you are a principal and think that athletes should be entered for only one or two events, you can so instruct your coach. No entry for Champs is valid unless signed by the principal. So you, as principal, can make your decision. What this new rule will do is force the hand of principals who do not think that four events is too much for a teen to do over a four-day period.
This rule will prevent athletes from being able to do what persons like Yohan Blake or Melaine Walker did!
Of course! See what happened to them?
Part of the 'overburdening' argument is that a student who does two sprint events and the relays will have to perform about 12 times during the four days. This is seen as too much by the detractors, even though many of the athletes who make the finals do not have to work too hard in the heats. Yet, the heptathlon and decathlon are included in the programme. In these events, the athletes have to give their 'all' seven times (for girls) and 10 times (for boys) over a two-day period! What's this? Where is the logic?
Another argument that is almost amusing is the one which says that 'medical personnel' have advised that having Class 4 (under-13) events for boys is unwise because at that age boys are not physically and psychologically 'ready' for the rigours entailed in training for and doing two-three events at a championship.
This is either terribly wrong or the powers that be must put a stop to the track meet scheduled for the stadium this weekend. The primary school and prep school championships have well organised and highly competitive races in which well-coached young boys compete in events for boys under 12 years old and under 10 years old!.
Is it that something happens to them when they turn 12?
Keith Noel is an educator. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.