ISSA and the transfer rules

By Dr Rachael Irving

Sunday, October 21, 2018

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I agree there should be better control and recruiting of athletes to schools. The new transfer rules from ISSA cannot, however, be the answers to a broken education system that puts youths from a certain class at a disadvantage.

Faculties like law and medical sciences at the University of the West Indies require a student to have good passes at CAPE. Good passes usually come from the traditional schools such as Campion, Ardenne, Jamaica College, Kingston College, Manchester and Calabar. Please tell me, what is to happen to a student who did well in CXC and is a student athlete in a school where there is no sixth form.

If a school does not have the facilities for post-fifth form education should a bright student athlete stop running and just do academics? It is a balance of academics and athletics that give the edge for top scholarships. Most of our athletes who leave for universities overseas usually leave after the first year of a two-year sixth form programme.

To get into a Division One school abroad (NCAA D-1), a student is usually required to be a top athlete with at least six CXC subjects. He or she should not have spent more than a certain number of years in high school. If that person ran in Class One or Two at fifth form and has to sit out a year on transfer, more than likely the recruiters will not focus on that athlete as the athlete will not have recent performance times in school meets in his/her recruitment portfolio.

If the student just focuses on academics only, universities like Harvard, Brown, Cornell and Princeton will not give a super scholarship based on just academics. Are we saying that our student athletes should not have the option of Harvard or one of the traditional athletics universities like Auburn and Clemson?

ISSA's new transfer rules are based on the emotional response of some school principals who feel they have a right to determine the path of marginalised youths who are the very pillars of ISSA. Jamaica should demand that ISSA publish the data which indicated the reasons for the new transfer rules. I appreciate ISSA sentiments that many of the better resourced schools aggressively recruit athletes from the under-resourced schools. However, most of the under-resourced schools do not have the capabilities to take an athlete to an academic level of good scholarship and athletic growth. Most of these smaller, non-traditional high schools do not have the old boys/girls networks that will spend on an athlete when he/she is severely injured and needs extensive medical help for recovery.

Sometimes the medical cost for one athlete might run over US$5,000. I have known of athletes who were injured and some of the specialisations for full recovery could not be accessed in Jamaica. The alumni associations flew these athletes out for treatment. Not all student athletes of these traditional schools are so lucky to be so treated, but many would not have made it in terms of recovery from injuries had they not transferred to schools such as Kingston College and Jamaica College.

I am speaking from a position of research. Selection to represent Jamaica in the sprint events at the Olympics and World Championships is influenced by the secondary school the athlete attended (See Transitional Nurturing Determines Performance in Elite Sprinting, American Journal of Sports Science and Medicine: Available online at http://pubs.sciepub.com/ajssm/4/3/2).

Selection to be a national representative provides upward mobility and visibility that would be difficult to access otherwise. Only about 25 per cent of student athletes end up in college/university. My graduate student extracted information from the JAAA database, 1999-2017 and found that only about six per cent of high school athletes transitioned from junior elite to senior elite level. He, a former javelin thrower, did not transition. Most of those who transitioned went through the collegiate system. Most of the six per cent who transitioned were transferees, who attended particular schools. Most of the student athletes from deep rural areas of Jamaica who did not transfer to certain schools became invisible along the way. The rate of those who transitioned in the middle distance was about 10 times less than those who transitioned in the sprints, and the chance of success depended on the school the athlete attended (see pending publication in the Journal of Human Kinetics).

There were less transferees for the longer distances. The data proved that the rate of those who transitioned to senior elite level from these smaller, non-traditional high schools was dismal. This means that ISSA has much work to do in ensuring that some of these under resourced schools with talented students are given some of the proceeds from Champs revenues. Since they have made a bold decision in cauterising the movement of school athletes, they must be bold enough to facilitate growth of these talented athletes where they were originally planted.

Editor's note: Dr Irving is a senior lecturer in the Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies, Mona.

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