ISSA’s quota system
JAMAICA’S culture of excellence over a wide range of sporting disciplines has resulted in the island developing a reputation as the region’s leader as far as sporting performance is concerned.
It is, therefore, no surprise that many of our neighbours have looked to our clubs and institutions to advance the development and careers of their most promising talent.
The greatest example of this can be seen at the annual Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships, or Champs, which is widely regarded as one of the world’s pre-eminent age group athletics championships.
Better competition, quality of coaching, exposure to international scouts and potential corporate sponsorship strike a Pied Piper-ish melody with scores of ambitious young athletes from the Caribbean and East Africa.
It has been reported that close to 100 students from other countries — primarily from within the Caribbean — competed at this year’s staging of the event. It is also commonplace to see student-athletes from outside of Jamaica featuring for a small number of schools, particularly in the Manning Cup football competition.
The existing numbers and the increasing presence of foreigners on school teams, presumably recruited primarily for sporting purposes has caused substantial discomfort among some who feel that the presence of these foreigners is taking up spots that would have otherwise been occupied by Jamaicans.
The practice is also seen by some to be creating an unfair sporting advantage to schools with more resources and recruiting pull.
On the opposing side of the argument there is the conviction that Jamaica has a role to play in the development of the region’s sporting output.
Pro-external recruitment commentators also believe that the presence of the region’s best will not only enrich Champs and the local general school sporting products, but will also provide greater challenge and, as a result, contribute positively to the growth of Jamaica’s youngsters, who are consistently exposed to the best that this corner of the globe has to offer.
However, in an effort to establish a standard and regulate the importation of student talent ISSA has agreed on a quota system, which takes effect in September.
While some support the decision, others believe it will have negative consequences for the sports sector in Jamaica and beyond.
ISSA President Mr Keith Wellington says the quota system will mirror the one that was introduced recently, restricting the number of students who transferred from one school to another for sports purposes.
Under the new standard, schools will be allowed three overseas players each for football, cricket, and hockey; two each for each class in track and field; and two each for basketball and netball.
Children of Jamaicans returning to Jamaica, members of the diplomatic corps, and foreigners under the age of 16 years old are exempted.
By limiting the number of foreign-born student-athletes, ISSA argues that it is ensuring Jamaican students have a fair chance to compete and succeed.
Of note, the wide presence of Jamaican and other athletes from across the world within the United States collegiate system — many of whom have gone on to achieve international success as seniors — provides an interesting reference point.
While the US collegiate system currently has no restriction on the number of foreign athletes, certain institutions have established their own limitations.
The question, though, must be asked.
Is this really about giving opportunities or have our schools, the cradle of higher learning and a pivotal social engine, become obsessed with winning at all costs?
What is clear is the need for greater research and discourse among the various stakeholders.
Jamaica, as a regional leader, does have a role to play in the advancement of sports across the Caribbean. Nonetheless, we must ensure that we are providing every opportunity for Jamaicans to succeed and develop. The answer is somewhere between those two points.