Schoolboy transfers: appropriate or improper?
FROM THE SPORTS DESK
MY delay in expressing an opinion on the luring of student-athletes from one school to another has been deliberate.
Based on a recent report that players from a prominent school will turn out for a rival institution in this season's Manning Cup football competition, it apears is if it is also timely.
As expected, the long-running arguments on either side of the transfer debate have been intriguing, if not always sound, with the passion of protagonists at times threatening to overshadow the issue itself.
And so the matter of moving from one school to another takes centre stage, though not necessarily within the context of the aforementioned development which involves two institutions already established in both academics and sports.
In a nutshell, individuals lashing this trend point to the possible displacement of legitimate students (who presumably, are not athletically blessed) to accommodate more accomplished 'sportsmen' in the pursuit of glory. They, therefore, cry foul to a practice that would be deemed unethical.
The swelling theory asserts that these athletes are pervasively and predominantly used for the bragging rights and popularity of the institutions, but unfortunately, are most times academically and personally neglected in the process.
Further, they maintain that the cupboards of those schools which had the original 'rights' to these talented youngsters are unfortunately left bare — bereft of students with genuine sporting aptitudes — and their chances of glory consequently obliterated by these predatory institutions intent on bolstering their illustrious traditions.
Again, they point to this practice debilitating against a level playing field for competitions and, in fact, depriving youngsters the chance of a higher standard of play overall, considering the lopsided contests that can, and have at times, emerged.
The exponents assert that on top of that, recruiting youngsters to compete in sports at the high school level is both inappropriate and unnecessary at this stage of their development and sends the wrong message to society.
They rightly contend that school is primarily for the honing of academic, social, emotional and other skills that will foster a general adaptation, and meaningful contribution, to society. Sport is therefore, merely a past time and should remain in that domain.
On the other hand, the proponents of this practice, popularly referred to as 'buying', cite success stories of boys moving from obscurity to national and international prominence consequent to discovery and exposure by the more recognised schools, thus ultimately creating myriad opportunities for both youngsters and their families.
They further indicate that in many instances, those boys may not have otherwise got the chance of parading their skills at a time when talent scouts for clubs and national age-group teams are on the hunt for the best talent available.
The truth is that scouts will be more easily drawn to a game or a training session involving a team with championship potentialities than a mediocre one, thus enhancing the chances of players from the former setup being decisively exposed.
The nebulous concept of coaching ability is also a crucial factor in this discourse. Logically, the more established institutions would be expected to attract the more accomplished coaches; however, this notion is not necessarily true.
In fact, many 'unknown' coaches oversee and instill the fundamental sporting skills in these young charges, to the extent that they are now sought after by the more recognised institutions.
A presumption at this juncture, I've yet to gather empirical data suggesting any student has been denied a place in his designated schools at the expense of 'sportsmen'.
What is a given is that in an atmosphere of a severe shortage of classroom space and subsequent overcrowding in preferred high schools, the teacher-student ratio will be undesirable and can significantly impact the learning process.
Regardless of one's sentiments, we're living in a changing world where youngsters now have the luxury and flexibility of choosing a career in sport at a very young age, thus getting a head start in the pursuit of their dreams.
While it may be unsavoury to recruit players from rival schools on the surface, others reasonably argue that the landscape has so appreciably shifted that parents have a right to seek institutions they believe will enhance the prowess and recognition of their children, if that's the path they wish to pursue.
My suspicion is that people have a beef with the recruitment of 'star' schoolboy players because they believe it not only gives an unfair advantage to the guilty parties, but also presents a quick-fix solution to an outfit with championship potentials but which somewhat circumvents the lessons of hard work, discipline and dedication required to succeed.
Again, a chief angst is the ensuing notion of such schoolboys operating within a professional/club setup when recruited, in the process sacrificing loyalty and the revered school spirit that now seems to be a bothersome aethetics.
Amid the debate, though, an important point is the changing face of sport where only winners are truly recognised. For, the fact is that having a schoolboy accolade on one's resume speaks volumes for a young player and coud significantly determine his fortunes.
The governing Inter-Secondary Secondary Schools' Sports Association (ISSA) does address the matter of transfers. However, maybe more stringent monitoring needs to be done to prevent an escalation of the practice.