The Barbados Secondary Schools Athletics Championship [BSSAC] is eight months away but already the race for transfers has begun, to the disapproval of at least one-experienced track and field coach.
The seasoned coach who spoke to Barbados TODAY on condition of anonymity and in the interest of athletes under his charge at his school, has helped to nurture and develop several young track and field talents over the years. He vented his frustration over what he described as “a willful act” by some schools that already have a strong track and field programme, who are feeding off the ones who are trying to develop their programmes by grabbing their few good athletes.
Every year emerging athletes who do well at the National Primary Schools Athletics Championship, especially those in the Under-13 Division, are scouted by eager secondary schools looking to win BSSAC.
Describing it as an Animal Farm situation where all children are equal but some are more equal than others, the coach said that this did more harm than good for the sport and he singled out reigning BSSAC champions Christ Church Foundation School and the St Michael School as the ringleaders at snatching up other schools’ athletes.
According to the coach, these particular schools needed to learn a thing or two from former Lodge School physical education teacher Mac Fingall, who worked with what he had and as a result managed not only to win BSSAC titles but also developed and produced outstanding athletes.
“I suspect that in the long run, it will destroy sports because the schools that these good athletes pass for may not have a strong athletics programme, and then you take them and carry them to schools like Foundation and the St Michael School, then what will happen, the other weak schools’ programmes will continue to suffer because they don’t have those top athletes from primary school to work with and represent them. Tell me how is that good for track and field when one set keeps doing this nonsense every year while the other schools are made to suffer,” the coach lamented.
Barbados TODAY was reliably informed that so far one of the best athletes to grace St Jude’s Primary, passed for the Lodge School this year but is now being transferred to Foundation. Over the years athletes have been transferring from one secondary school to the next, so this is nothing new. A perfect example is Wilan Louis, one of the best quarter-milers in Barbados who left St Leonard’s Boys and attended Foundation where he performed exceptionally well at BSSAC.
And ever since that time, the trend has continued with three CARIFTA medallists Sarah Belle, Antoni Hoyte-Small, Jonathan Jones, along with numerous others, transferring to different schools. The coach contended that because something was done for 25 years did not make it right and he reasserted that the nonsense had to stop.
“This situation has reached a point where it needs to be stopped. I am not saying a child shouldn’t be transferred for whatever reason whether it be family, academics, location, or for whatever reason because things do happen. But when you willfully go out there and try to pull children…At least let the child spend a year or two, but not as soon as the Common Entrance finish you approach the children and their parents right away. And Christ Church Foundation now wants everybody and that means next year Foundation will have the best eight or ten Under-13s and possibly win again.
“I know certain athletes that have been approached but I cannot confirm whether they have accepted the offers or not. But I think that it is time the ministry or someone in Government, somebody starts looking into this matter and deal with it. There needs to be some sort of control, we need to look at the long-term effect it will have not just on those weaker schools but the entire track and field programme in Barbados.
“If nothing is done or said about it, it is going to get worse and a lot of those other secondary schools like St George, Grantley Adams are going to get good athletes but not able to develop their track and field programmes because this nonsense happens every year. And as I told a parent, why would a child want to go to a school and be a pawn, when you can go to a school and be a king or queen? When your child goes to Foundation and the St Michael School that already have top athletes who came from other schools to help them win BSSAC, then what? All I am saying is these children should be allowed to go to the school they passed for and be a leader, stand out and help their schools’ track programme to develop. That way we will have a balanced track and field system in terms of competition and not just two and three schools dominating all the time,” the peeved coach said.