By Gregory Bryce
“I think it is the way of the world, where some have, and some don’t. In a democratic society and a free market, what naturally happens is that those who have, want more, and those who don’t have, they lose what they have.”
Those are the words of Keith Wellington, the President of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association, (ISSA) when he was addressing comments made by sports analyst Hubert Lawrence about the fact that ‘less-traditional’ schools continue to lose their top athletes to their more fancied rivals.
This is a topic that has been brought up countless different times on countless different platforms, and the harsh reality of the situation is that the schools with fewer resources are unable to compete on a level playing field with the powerhouses of ISSA.
I have spoken on this topic before in an article I wrote for the Gleaner back in July of 2019, titled, “The Harsh Reality of Recruiting.”
Back then, I had sat down with veteran coach, Calvert Fitzgerald, who simply remarked that this was just the way the world works.
“Some schools spend a lot of money on their programme, and they want to get the best team possible. It is a thing that is happening in sports all over the world,” Fitzgerald explained. “It is a part of life. It might sound a little harsh, but it is just the reality of the sport right now.”
So then, should we just accept that this just a case of ‘the haves and the have-nots?’
And truly, is this overall a bad thing?
In the perspective of the players, the chance to move to a more resourceful or traditionally successful school is one that should be acted on immediately.
After all, by making the switch, the athlete opens the door to a much wider world of opportunities that would have been previously unavailable to them. At these ‘traditional’ schools, the athlete has a higher chance of success in their sport, and in turn, carries more spotlight on to their achievements.
This gives them a greater chance of being scouted and recruited into a professional team, should this be their career path.
At these schools, the athletes are exposed to a completely different culture in their sport. They have to compete at a higher level and it is not uncommon for members of the coaching staff to have connections to a collegiate and professional setup that gives these athletes a clear path after high school.
So if these athletes are being exposed to better facilities and wider media attention, why is the practice of student-athletes leaving their original school for another school so frowned upon by ISSA?
Well, to put it simply, it creates an imbalance in the various sports and can have an impact on the country’s ability to continually produce talented athletes.
After all, if the ‘bigger’ schools continue to take from the less resourceful, then these ‘smaller’ schools will never truly develop.
“In order for us to maximize all the talents that are available, it would be better off if all the resources are spread across all schools. But, of course, that is an ideal situation that is hardly likely to happen,” Wellington said when he addressed the issue.
There are only so many spaces available at the top performing schools, so what happens to the other athletes who don’t attend these schools? Are they to be dismissed despite their talent?
What will happen to them? Should they not also be given the chance to properly develop their talents? Many schools are slowly losing out year after year because they are unable to keep a working development programme.
Just think about the likes of Tajay Gayle, the 2019 World Championships long jump gold medalist. He graduated from Papine High, the school that finished 35th overall in the male standings at the most recent ISSA Boys’ and Girls’ Champs. Yet look at him now, ranked in the top ten of the IAAF all-time list for long jump.
Or take into consideration Shamar Nicholson, the Reggae Boyz’ prolific goalscorer. Nicholson represented Trench Town High School, whose only claim to fame was a single Walker Cup title back in 1969.
If the ‘non-traditional’ school can unearth these talents with the little resources they have on hand, imagine how many more athletes might have slipped through the cracks.
Gregory Bryce is a freelance sports journalist.
We want to hear from you! Send feedback to email@example.com.