ISSA will not allow indiscipline to derail plans to resume sports — WellingtonTuesday, September 28, 2021
BY PAUL A REID
Keith Wellington, president of the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) says the organisation will not allow the indiscipline of a few to derail their plans to resume sports at the high school level and they will move on with those who are willing to do what is required to participate.
ISSA is well advanced with plans for high school football in this school term and a proposal was to be sent to the Ministry of Sports and the Office for Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management yesterday with an eye on kicking off the season in early November.
After being forced to cancel last season because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, ISSA, who was able to successfully stage the ISSA/GraceKennedy National Boys' and Girls Athletics Championships in May, is hoping it will get the go-ahead, if not for this calendar year, then at some time in 2022.
In a virtual meeting last Thursday, Wellington said ISSA would not bend the rules for anyone and insisted that all the protocols that the Government has put in to help slow the spread of the virus would be upheld. He noted that ISSA was following the Government's lead by insisting that everyone who will be involved must be fully vaccinated and that it would not allow any premature practice games involving any school teams.
“We have been hearing about schools who are playing practice games against community teams and against other teams,” the tough-talking Wellington said. “You see those schools, if we find one case in those schools, we are not going to ask whether or not you are going to play in the competition. I think we all know what the Government's stance is. ISSA would have also made it clear what our stance is re practice games and whether or not we are allowed to be playing practice games and if we want to play practice games what we should be doing. This sort of indiscipline cannot be tolerated...we have to be responsible and we have to act like the adults in the room.”
Until the onset of this latest wave of the novel coronavirus on the island, there had been plans for an October start to schoolboys' football and one of the protocols at the time was for a limited number of practice games under strict protocols after permission was given by ISSA.
Preseason tournaments would also have to be sanctioned and would attract serious scrutiny they had said then, and Thursday's meeting heard that if permission was given for the season to go ahead, the protocols would not change.
The meeting had heard, also, that only players and people attached to the teams who were fully vaccinated would be allowed at training or games, and Linvern Wright, chairman of the daCosta Cup committee, said they were not forcing anyone to take the vaccine but the competitions would be open “to those who were vaccinated”.
Wright, who is the principal at William Knibb Memorial, said, “We know that it is an issue that many, many people have their own views about vaccination. As an institution, as a body, ISSA has to take a position about vaccinations.”
“Our position about vaccination, essentially, is that our official position is that everybody who is going to be involved in the competitions that we will have will have to be vaccinated because we have to be able to guarantee the highest level of safety that is available, according to the science, to our parents, because we have children in our care.”
He added: “If it was up to us adults, it would be a different thing, but children in our care means a different thing and once there are safety nets that will allow us to indemnify ourselves against anything that will happen we have to ensure that we access all such safety nets.”
When a coach asked whether teams could still participate if only a portion of the players was vaccinated, Wellington said, “I am a principal and I am speaking as a principal who loves sport and loves the young people, but who also understands that I have a responsibility as a principal and not as a football fan or a cheerleader for the football team. My football team is made up of 30 students who are at camp, I have 900 boys at STETHS [St Elizabeth Technical High School] and any 30 can represent the school, so if I have 30 boys who we think are the best 30 boys but only 10 want to take the vaccine, I have to go find 20 from somewhere else. We have to get past the stage where we have our students believing they are the be all and end all of the programmes and if they don't play, then the school don't play.”
The ISSA president said most schools have between 400 and 900 boys and so “let those who want to play, play. Make up your mind if the school wants to play, not if the boys want to play. If the school wants to play and if the school can find a squad of 25 or 30 boys who are going to be eligible, whether because they have the grades or if they are vaccinated or because they are a part of the school, then you use those who are available and eligible. It's the same reason why we have people who are jumping through all kinds of hoops to get people to play who don't come to the school, who have no grades, and who have no interest in the school. It is the school that is being represented, not the boys.”