High school sports is back in The Bahamas, but the question is being asked by coaches and officials of all sports, is it really back?
They are voicing their displeasure about not being paid what is owed to them for years, and are threatening a no showing at the various events. Sports in the private school sector in New Providence starts with softball. The government schools usually start with volleyball and end with softball or soccer.
This year, there was expected to be a resurgence in local high school sports with the commodity making a grand return after a two-and-a-half year hiatus. It was shut down nationwide following the arrival of COVID-19 in the country in March 2020.
Athletes, physical education teachers, and coaches have been yearning for a return of high school sports, and this fall was selected as the time for it. However, there is another issue that has surfaced.
“Why is the small man always getting taken advantage of? GSSSA basketball was completed February 2020, and why is it that officials have not been paid to date?”, asked an official who wishes to remain nameless. “National high school basketball that is played in Freeport, Grand Bahama, is the worst of the worst. Referees and table officials worked the March 2018 event, went back and worked the March 2019 event and was about to go back in March 2020 when the country was shut down. Most of these officials would have left their families to travel to Freeport to complete this job to ensure the event runs smoothly. Each day begins around 10 a.m. and finishes after 11 p.m. with some table officials unable to move, not able to eat at all most days and many times rushing to use the restrooms or not using them at all because organizers are only concerned about hurrying the games along.
“Some coaches, for various sports, are finding it tiring, waiting and asking when will they be paid. Officials, referees and table officials, have been trampled on for years but the worst it has ever been is within the last five years.”
Softball is underway in the Bahamas Association of Independent Secondary Schools (BAISS) here in New Providence. However, volleyball, the first sporting discipline on the calendar in the Government Secondary Schools Sports Association (GSSSA), has yet to commence. Basketball follows, set for October/November, and there has been no schedule released as yet.
“Imagine studying late hours, many hours, taking tests after tests to ensure you are very knowledgeable on rules and the process of a sport, you are now certified and you officiate a game, only to be disrespected by not being compensated, and for years,” said the disgruntled official. “This is what has been happening to coaches and officials who have worked, not only high school sports, but for other private entities who seem not able to get it together.
“What is really concerning is the fact that not only are documents asked for to prove each official’s number of games worked, and are submitted, but as in previous years, officials’ total number of games are always cut by someone who feels that these officials should not be paid what is owed to them. All you are trying to do is get remuneration that is owed to you. Persons have died and were not paid nor were the monies given to their families. People’s lives could have been made a little easier during the COVID-19 pandemic and it was needed with the cost of living being inflated so high.”
The official said non-payment has occurred under both the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and Free National Movement (FNM) governments and that they are unwilling to continue in their capacities until the debt owned to them is taken care of.
“How would these government agents feel if it were them? Trust has gone out of the window,” the official stated. “If high school sports are going to be played, certified officials will not be used. Some government agents are trying to avoid them anyway. There has to be a better way forward for paying officials for sporting events, if The Bahamas is serious about sports.”
Up to press time, no official from the Ministry of Education & Technical & Vocational Training, could be reached for comment.