Schools' leagues not rushing students into competition

Secondary Schools Cricket League president Nigel Maraj. - Newsday File Photo
Secondary Schools Cricket League president Nigel Maraj. - Newsday File Photo

THE presidents of both the Secondary Schools Cricket League (SSCL) and the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) are elated that young people will be allowed to play sport again but said school sports must resume cautiously as the safety of children is of paramount importance.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Sport and Community Development said the safe zone return to play proposal has been approved.

Despite the announcement both the SSCL and the SSFL must wait on approval from the Ministry of Education as they fall under their watch. “National governing bodies and sport serving bodies will now be able to host sporting events and execute sporting activities for fully vaccinated athletes, coaches, officials, and administrators, at specific sporting facilities,” the sport ministry’s media release said.

“Approval has also been granted for fully vaccinated spectators to attend events at 50 per cent facility capacity for outdoor events, and 25 per cent facility capacity for indoor events subject to guidelines to be issued by the Ministry of Health.” The new Public Health Regulations took effect from Monday.

TT’s young cricketers can be involved in cricket from next month as the TT Cricket Board is planning inter-zone youth tournaments.

The Under-19 and Under-15 competitions bowl off in February, followed by the Under-17 tournament in March.

The Under-13 tournament is carded to begin in May but is questionable as children Under-12 are not allowed to get vaccinated in TT at this time. In a radio interview on Monday, Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe said, “School sport is managed by the Ministry of Education, they have their own unit and division set up to do that, but as it relates to this regulation this is for vaccinated athletes so I think it will carry the school-age children who are vaccinated.”

President of the SSCL Nigel Maraj said plans are in place whenever schools cricket gets permission from the Ministry of Education. The planned TTCB tournaments are separate from the schools’ cricket tournaments.

“Within our eight zones we created vaccination cricket safe zones,” Maraj said. If approval is given by the Ministry of Education, cricket teams will play in their respective zones. “The directive has to come from the Ministry of Education.” Maraj said school cricket fields must be enclosed to monitor who enters and leaves the ground, students vaccination records must be kept and all stakeholders must have a keen interest to ensure safety.

“It will take (an) all hands on deck approach.”

Maraj is glad students may be able to return to the field soon, but allowing children to have fun as opposed to competition is key at this time.

“That is why we will take our time…not force competition aspect onto our children.” Maraj said the dream of the students to earn selection on a TT youth cricket team has been dashed by the pandemic.

Maraj said the fitness of the cricketers must be monitored as if athletes are rushed back into competition there may be a rise in injuries.

The SSFL, under president Merere Gonzales, has been trying to keep their footballers active by having an online skills competition. Gonzales is “heartened and encouraged” by the news he heard on Sunday. However, Gonzales said safety is key as football is a contact sport.

“You have to challenge for the ball, so there is going to be people breathing down your throat and into the air space that you are.”

Gonzales also spoke about how footballers will be affected after not playing for two years.

“You just can’t throw them out on the field of play just like that…the standard of football will not be as good as before…you also have the possibility of increasing injuries occurring. If there are any serious heart issues there is also the possibility of somebody collapsing and dying on the field of play.”

Gonzales said students must develop holistically which includes playing sports.

He said football creates opportunities overseas. “The sporting, cultural and entertainment and artistic area within the education system is critically important and we want to make sure that the platform is on a continued pathway for students especially those who are knocking on the door with the possibility or the opportunity to further their education through acquiring successfully sporting scholarships.”

Gonzales said the SSFL will aim to continue keeping footballers active with webinars and activities online.


"Schools’ leagues not rushing students into competition"

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