Time for two-tiered schoolboy system
From the Sports Desk
THE schoolboy football season is into stride and the early results indicate a chasm between teams in the Manning Cup, in particular. This justifies calls for a two-tiered system to prevent embarrassment and false accomplishment and to improve the product overall.
At the time of writing, there have been two massive blow-outs. A beleaguered Meadowbrook were beaten 14-0 by Charlie Smith High, while pre-season favourites Wolmer's Boys' had a field day against a hapless St Andrew College, whom they walloped 15-0 for the biggest margin of victory to date.
In spite of the victors' euphoria in these instances, this is hardly a plug for the current standard of the urban area high school game. In fact, it contradicts the prestige and spirit of the competition in an era where, ironically, all coaches have been certified, as mandated by the governing Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and its subsidiary, the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA).
Curiously, due to the disparity that existed between institutions which emphasised sports and those that didn't, these kinds of results were the domain of the rural area daCosta Cup competition in days gone by. But the tide has shifted, it appears.
In this period of enlightenment where education is informed by psychological theories and findings, school-based professionals should be conversant with the possible impact of sporting result on their students.
While the average Joe may dismiss the issue as light-hearted schoolboy activities, the more prudent will recognise the life-changing effects these seemingly innocuous results ultimately have on adolescents.
For, in this period of development when the individual is expected to make critical decisions about his future, his self-esteem and self-concept will invariably be affected by competition. Of course, there will be winners as well as losers in sports, with learning how to accept whichever being a crucial aspect of one's emotional growth.
However, when a team is humiliated on the field of play, we're into the delicate domains of school loyalty and spirit; choice of schools for succeeding generations, and the subsequent attitudes of youngsters towards a particular sport.
For, let us not be fooled into thinking that preferred schools are arrived at by accident, or purely on the basis of academic accomplishment. In fact, to a significant degree, youngsters at the prep and primary levels make their choices based on the popularity and culture of secondary institutions, which is often achieved though extra-curricular activities.
A case in point is Ardenne High which, despite lifting the Manning Cup in 1991 and being consistent performers in netball and basketball, evolved into a 'school of choice' based on its successes in the Spelling Bee and Schools Challenge competitions, and not on the basis of sports.
The suggestion of a two-tiered system for schoolboy football is plausible because it pits teams of homogenous standards and ensures a level playing field for the schools concerned.
Further, selecting the teams for this process is not as problematic as some might imagine as this would initially be determined by their recent records over, say, a five-year period. Like its cricket counterpart, there would be a system of promotion and demotion based on positioning at the end of the season.
But while the status quo obtains, another solution resides in the preparation of teams. Clearly, some schools place greater emphasis on football, while others are seemingly more interested in participating — a noble idea which nonetheless precludes other possibilities and is, therefore, naïve within the context of this milieu.
A chief responsibility of the schools is thus ensuring they put in the fundamental levels of preparation to ensure that even if they are not contenders, their boys are at least competitive and will not be embarrassed on match day.
My concern here is the mind-set of those youngsters who find themselves at the sullied end of the aforementioned results, oftentimes through no fault of theirs. Depending on their mental fortitude, some will use this as a form of motivation. Others are, however, not like-minded and will be greatly affected for years to come.
Since the experts assert that memory is a key aspect of personal identity, some of these young players could struggle to find their true places in society. It's therefore up to school administrators to provide that delicate balance that will, at the end of the day, ensure a meaningful high school tenure for every youngster.
Not one of which they will perpetually be ashamed.