We must protect our student athletes, urges outgoing ISSA president

Observer writer

Sunday, March 24, 2019

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EXACTLY twenty years ago in 1999, the governing body for high school sports, the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), made the decision to merge the then Boys' Athletics Championships with the Girls event from which emerged a super championships.

This has brought forth a tremendous five-day athletics spectacle that intensely engages Jamaicans at home and abroad in indescribable fashion.

As the 2019 staging nears, one of the persons who has steered the ship for a significant period and overseen the growth of Champs into what it is today is the outgoing President Dr Walton Small. The Wolmer's Boys' Principal is proud of what ISSA has achieved under his tenure, especially the aspect of levelling the playing field and nullifying the opportunities to cheat.

“In terms of the policies that are in place to make sure that ISSA operates on a level playing field, is important. Once upon a time, there was doubt as to the validity of the participation of individuals in the various sports because of overage, because of the falsification of grades and so on.

“I am confident that after 12 years, putting in that electronic system that we now have, that can flag somebody who is not properly qualified, it has made a difference at ISSA and I think for me that is an exceptional activity,” said Small.

Whilst the legitimacy of the results are no longer questioned and the athletes are now seen as competing as fairly as possible, Small wants to ensure that the interest of these gems of the soil are given a fair shake.

“We must continue to go into schools randomly, check on the grades, check on the performance of the students to make sure that the students who are participating in sports are getting the help in schools.

“Sometimes we will say to a school, to the principal, what do you have in place to ensure that the students who are participating in sports are get additional assistance? They will give you something nice and pretty, but if you check on the ground you will see that it's not happening. That system is in place for us, but we need to make it a little more robust just to make sure that these students (are protected),” he insisted.

Small says he has boundless respect for student athletes who make great sacrifices for their schools.

“The kind of respect I have for these athletes is amazing because when the other students who are not participating in extra-curricular activities, they go home and they go to parties and they enjoy the holidays, our students who participate in sports or extra-curricular activities, they give up so much.”

Small wants the new ISSA administration that will take over when he demits office to look after the students who engage in extracurricular activity.

“Schools must find a way to give back to these students, to make sure that the playing field is level, so that is one of the things that I would encourage the new administration to ensure that we step up on that business,” he noted.

The main, who hails from the western side of the island, says he leaves a legacy of excellence which he expects to continue, long after he is gone.

“When you leave an environment where they demand excellence, I am hoping that I am going to another situation now where I will surround myself with that same kind of environment, where people demand excellence, so that my contribution will continue to be one of excellence

“I am leaving ISSA, I am leaving Wolmer's, I have enjoyed both organisations tremendously... I believe the teams I have worked with at ISSA and at Wolmer's have helped me to leave a legacy of excellence at both institutions. I am, therefore, comforted with the fact that these two institutions, ISSA and Wolmer's, that they will only get better because the people in these organisations are people of excellence and it will continue,” he concluded.

Small will get one last chance to preside over Champs, which begins on Tuesday, and says he expects it to be the best ever.

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