ON THE BALL: Athletes the losers
I REALLY don’t like to go with the prevailing view of things.
So naturally I didn’t fancy the main definition of exploitation, which is explained as the action of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.
But the Stanford Encyclopaedia Of Philosophy has a better one in my estimation; the use of another person’s vulnerability for one’s own benefit.
I would probably take it a step further by saying that it’s the use of another person’s vulnerability for one’s sole benefit.
Yet the reality is that nothing better defines exploitation than our own secondary school sports.
It’s really time we start calling out these certain “student transfers” for exactly what they are, because most of those talented athletes are being taken advantage of.
And the only ones benefiting from the transactions are the schools that make them.
It’s not like it’s some big secret either, as we all know these high-profile performers are being asked to leave newer secondary schools for older ones just for the sake of helping a programme win titles – more specifically the Barbados Secondary Schools Athletic Championship.
Every year we see, hear or read about it.
Athlete “A” has been transferred from this school to the next and athlete “A” is more often than not an extremely good sportsperson or a junior national in a particular sport.
What we don’t ever see, hear or read about, though, is their academic improvement, subsequent CXCs and A Levels or eventual academic/athletic scholarships gained from such a transfer.
Well, that’s because they hardly happen.
What we also don’t ever see, hear or read about is when those same “transferred students” leave older secondary schools without many, or even any CXCs.
This isn’t an exaggeration either. Far from, as I personally know of top level athletes who have repeated fifth form at a newer secondary school only to be transferred to an older secondary school to do complete fifth form again.
As we speak there is an athlete at his third school, who is yet to see sixth form.
And don’t think for a second that all these sixth form additions are innocent either.
One particular instance comes to mind, where an older secondary school went hunting for a top-level performer, and was so cavalier about the situation that they allowed him not to finish his lower sixth year after winning a particular title.
Of course athletes will always leave newer secondary schools to go into older ones to complete sixth form studies, and that’s really nothing new for students of any kind.
And with certain schools offering subjects like physical education, then it’s also very understandable to see children swapping one sixth form school for another.
But somehow we keep forgetting the foundation of our school system.
Right or wrong, like it or not, students are funnelled to secondary schools on the basis of their academic competency via the 11-Plus.
Apparently that doesn’t matter because now anyone can leave their school’s third form for another one that they didn’t academically qualify for once they can help a school on the field, track or court.
It’s almost like we ignore that these athletes are students first and foremost.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for our academic system moving to a point where we can provide talented sportsmen with athletic scholarships to top schools.
I’m also open to helping athletes moving from a school with a particularly poor programme in their sport to another school that is particularly strong in that regard.
Even these current transfers would be acceptable if academically weak athletes were adjusting properly to their new environs and benefiting from improved grades, more qualifications and better chances at athletic scholarships.
But the coaches don’t seem concerned with that, and the respective principals are not helping in that regard by opening their doors to athletes who wouldn’t be eligible otherwise.
And we’re only looking at this from the student-athlete perspective.
What about the “normal” student who gets put out of school for bad grades, while the star athlete is allowed to stay with even worse marks?
Who’s benefiting here?
Well, none of the above really, as both will inevitably end up leaving school without anything.
However, some lucky school may get a title as a result. Some lucky school will get a higher profile in their sporting programme.
Then again, what’s luck got to do with it when there are those who are expertly using another person’s vulnerability for their sole benefit?