Editorial

Cut Poaching Students, Future Welfare Must Always Be Priority

Athletics Fiji’s chief development officer Joseph Rodan Junior is another who has spoken out- claiming student athlete “poaching” was never an issue in the past.
08 Apr 2019 13:05
Cut Poaching Students, Future Welfare Must Always Be Priority
Sprinter Banuve Tabakaucoro. Photo: Zimbio

A debate is raging about the way some schools recruit top student athletes from other schools just for the Fiji Secondary Schools Athletics Association national final, otherwise known as the Coca-Cola Games.

It was sparked by comments from national sprinter Banuve Tabakaucoro, who labelled the practice “poaching” and claimed that these schools give little thought to the athletes’ welfare.

Tabakaucoro pointed out that some schools were recruiting student athletes for the sole purpose of winning the Coke Games and their education was simply not a priority. This, he said, was destroying the competitive culture schools that have not had a lot of sporting success were trying to build and harming athletics as a whole.

The article airing Tabakaurcoro’s comments was published on Saturday and has garnered more than 10,000 engagements on Fiji SUN’s official Facebook page, reaching more than 61,000 people.

The national 100m and 200m record-holder is the first high-profile athlete to publicly speak out about the is- sue, although it has been discussed in the athletics fraternity across Fiji.

Athletics Fiji’s chief development officer Joseph Rodan Junior is another who has spoken out- claiming student athlete “poaching” was never an issue in the past.

Rodan Junior believes recruiting athletes for short- term gain is tantamount to exploitation.

There is also a flip side to the debate.

Some Facebook users have rightly pointed out that it is up to the students– and their parents– to decide what school to attend. This is true. Parents cannot be faulted for wanting their children to receive the best education and better opportunities for growth through sports.

But the concerns raised by Tabakaucoro and Rodan Junior deserve to be looked into seriously, at least for the sake of the students.

If schools are indeed neglecting the educational and development needs of student athletes in the interest of sporting prestige then they need to be taken to task.

Tabakaucoro also claimed that some student athletes, mainly those leaving after Year 12 and 13, return only for the Games despite having graduated.

They then go missing from school after the competition. This is a serious concern.

Not only does it defeat the spirit of competition, it unfairly deprives students of crucial opportunities to represent their school at the highest level.

The Fiji Secondary Schools Athletics Association in February barred 20-year-olds and above from participating at the games this year.

This ruling suggests some issues do exist.

Athletics isn’t the only sport affected by so-called “poaching.” There are also lessons the authorities can learn from the questionable recruitment approach used by schools in Australia and New Zealand to attract our immensely-talented rugby players.

They entice our talented players with offers of “better opportunities” and “sporting success” with little intention of keeping those promises.

We cannot let our athletes become hostage to their own sporting talents – as if that is the only valuable thing they can offer.

Education and athlete welfare must always be a priority.

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