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Open to new Secondary Schools’ football plan
There is always merit in making productive changes when necessary and the fact that the secondary schools committee has embarked upon a new format for the league, means that they are in search of a more competitive opportunity for the nation’s schools.
The initial response to the concept of having the top schools compete against each other will obviously help to expose more of the young players to gain experience in playing at the top level, travelling from the varying districts to face their opponents and also to aim for a higher stand of football at that level.
To the naked eye, this is an effort to create a progressive environment by the league authorities who will be pleased to see a more mature group of players at the age of 20 years.
Any sport enthusiast, like myself will cherish that move and hope that it serves its purpose.
As someone who tends to take a deeper look at development, I am now taking an overview of the benefits of the changed format, with respect to the impact it will have on their education, seeing that both areas of sport and education must be viewed as partners in the developmental process.
As a parent and grandparent, the preparatory process of education must be paramount in the midst of these changes.
This is why I ask parents to take good look at the time factor, vis a vis their lessons, offered to these young sportsmen, especially those that are entering the CXC level and higher.
My observation is that because the schools season is so short, the number of the matches which must be fitted in to the new match schedule, could mean an extensive amount of traveling, not only from your next door neighbour schools, but the ones which need at least two hours of transporting these kids before and after matches.
Of course, if the days for playing official matches are only on the weekends, then the number of school hours during the week will not be affected.
However, from a football point of view, asking players to play matches on Saturdays and Sundays, back-to-back, will certainly expose the youngsters to extensive physical and mental pressure.
Some may wish to compare this present format to the days when many of the country’s formidable academic students were also faced with the situation which included the same problem. This era had introduced the night study system where the players often attended classes after practice or matches, before going home.
But the increase in the number of schools across the country has produced a different picture in terms of the number of matches, the distances to travel for matches, and finally, the time of getting students to their homes from the schools they attend.
Recently, the education pattern has been adjusted so that students can spend more time at secondary schools, even to the age of 20 years.
I assume that the competition age group is now Under-20, a decision which I believe will offer some leverage for maturity, especially in the area of sport. This, however, brings a new, but extremely vital issue to the scenario. It is now quite possible for 16 year olds to compete against 20 year old players.
After working in a sport environment for 10 years, the sporting lawmakers have taken the disparity of ages between 16 and 20 in terms of the strength of their bones and the possibility of injuries, very seriously.
Some parents do not quite understand the dangers of that practice, but maybe they should just seek information from the countries who have parents taking school authorities to court for allowing their younger children to compete against players who are more physically advanced.
Can I humbly suggest that the age group for the premier division be placed between 17 and 20 years, and allow for the championship division to be 15 and 17 years.
Apart from those observations, I look forward to the outcome of the new SSFL format and hope that it will bring a better quality of play to the supporting students of school football.