ISSA calls off all sports for Christmas term

Observer writer

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

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Keith Wellington, president of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), has expressed his disappointment with the cancellation of all sports for the Christmas term due to “the spike in positive COVID-19 cases” in the country over the past few weeks.

The principal of St Elizabeth Technical High School, who describes himself as “an avid sports fan”, said the cancellation of sports which would affect the very popular schoolboy football, boys' basketball, Under-16 football, netball and swimming, would be denying the students the opportunity of taking part in the sports they love.

With the late start of the school year he said it was likely there would be an extension of the last two terms and that would give them an opportunity to try to arrange sports in that time for the benefit of the students.

Last week the Ministry of Education announced that the start of the school year would be pushed back by a month to October 5, and the ISSA release said: “Having previously proposed an October 16, 2020 restart to our competitions, ISSA will use the next eight weeks to reassess the conditions under which schools will reopen and how they will operate.”

Yesterday's release also said: “Subject to this assessment and the suitability of conditions, ISSA, through consultations with its membership, will determine the list of competitions to be offered and a new timetable for the resumption of school sports. We would like to reassure all our stakeholders, that ISSA is cognisant of the role of organised sports in the physical, mental and psycho-social development of our teenaged high school population.”

With the holistic development of the students in mind ISSA is already looking ahead to the return of sports. “As such, we are committed to ensuring that at the earliest possible opportunity, we will re-engage our students in our various competitions as we play our part in bringing back some sense of normalcy to their wholesome development.”

With the students at the forefront of the organisation's planning, Wellington told the Jamaica Observer yesterday: “I think we are in this to provide opportunities for the youngsters and not being able to do so is a disappointment. We also know that, however we feel, the kids who participate in these sports would be even more disappointed than we are.”

“While we know that we are not at fault for any of this, there is a sense of disappointment from my perspective, we understand that it is a difficult time for everybody but we will continue to plan and look forward to better days,” he added.

Despite the cancellation of sports between the start of school and December when the term ends, “we would have put off these events for the first term with the intention to continue to assess and look at what is happening”.

“Of course, a lot of what happens will be determined by what is happening with the spread and how we are able to manage it, but also that school is going to be starting late, maybe we will have an extended school year and therefore we will have a longer time during the last two terms to look at what type of events we can put on.”

ISSA, he said, would be relentless in its pursuit of opportunities for the students. “Therefore, we can look at the best-case scenarios for these last two terms, what type of competitions we can have, what kind of formats we can use to expose as many of the kids as possible to what they have become accustomed to, just for their sake, not necessarily for ISSA or spectators or the media purposes, but just to get the kids involved...we will be looking at it and see how we can organise activities for them to get involved in.”

“It is more than just providing a competitive arena for them; it is about their mental, social, psycho-social, and physical development and we want to make sure that if that opportunity arises for us to help them we are going to do it.”

Looking ahead, he said he expects that sporting activities on school campuses would not cease completely. “How we operate during this first term is going to be dependent on what we are allowed to do from a Government perspective, as well as from just common sense. So, I would suspect we are still going to have some people who will be involved in some form of preparation for sports, whether it is going to be track and field, cricket or even football.”

Using his own school as an example, Wellington added, “Speaking for myself, I had my kids in camp for the last two weeks and I am not sure that I will be sending them home just yet. We will probably keep them for another few weeks as they are relatively safe in the environment that we have them and I think just keeping them in training, keeping them with their friends, once we can get them to observe the protocols, will do a lot more for them that sending them home.”

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