Game Fixer

Transfer student blues

BRIAN BAKER, The Game Fixer

Changing schools can be a tough ordeal for some students.

It doesn’t help matters when they are not allowed to join sports teams during the regular season or even playoffs at their new home-away-from-home.

Take for example, when LeBron James signed with Miami: Did he sit out the playoffs? When Wayne Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles, did he have to shed the post-season along with his tears? And was Roy Halladay barred from the NLCS when he left Toronto for Philadelphia?

No.

So why did Bilie Grant, one of Eastern Commerce’s top senior girls cagers, experience being shutout from the playoffs at her high school?

She was unable to play in regional, city or OFSAA playoff games alongside her fellow Lady Saints.

“It was a little annoying,” she admitted, adding kids shouldn’t be barred from playing period.

To me it’s a huge bummer. The Toronto District School Board prides itself on its Fit For Life and Right To Play advocacy, but not allowing kids to partake in the playoffs on a technicality is a technical foul.

But you can’t blame the board because the provincial body, OFSAA, enacted the regulation.

Last year Grant started anew, moving into the Eastern Commerce catchment area, just off of Coxwell, from the Father Henry Carr Secondary School region of Etobicoke.

“It’s not like kids are getting scholarships,” Grant said.

The source for her discontent was the Ontario Federation of School Athletics Associations’ transfer policy.

According to OFSAA’s regulations, “Every student who has been registered as a transfer from another school within the previous 12 months is ineligible to compete in OFSAA-sanctioned events, unless he/she appeals and is deemed eligible by the OFSAA Board of Reference”.

Those clauses include: a change in permanent residence by the student and their immediate family; moving to an Ontario school from outside Canada or the United States; the closure of a student’s former school or no sports participation at the inter-school level for 12 months prior to transfer.

Additional concessions are made if a student has transferred prior to their grade 10 year for personal, social or academic reasons; changed residence to live with another guardian; has removed themselves from an abusive home environment or has been forced to leave an independent school.

I’m sure you glazed over that legalese. I know I did. And that’s a lot of red tape especially for teens who just want to play. I know this isn’t the big leagues, but let’s just let the kids play.

Board athletic administrator Nick Rowe says the transfer policy — established province-wide in 1986 — was enacted to reduce an uneven amount of playing teams.

The results from too many powerhouses led to some schools folding certain sports teams.

Rowe illustrated OFSAA’s point with an analogy: Three Etobicoke kids want to attend Leaside for the football program. The Lancers star junior running back, who lives on the hill behind the school, is now trying out for the senior team in his grade 11 year.

However, he is displaced because the three Etobicoke transfers have made the team instead.

The OFSAA transfer policy helps to discourage that sort of event from happening.

Now, the board has granted concessions, allowing transfers to play during the regular season. Regional play bared little influence on OFSAA contention for schools, Rowe said.

These students are part of a clause called, “Section G”.

It’s that same consideration that allowed Grant to play in the Saints’ South Region matches.

The provincial body has no qualms with such allowances.

“OFSAA always supports the decisions of local associations,” Rowe said.

Still, Eastern Commerce qualified for OFSAA last year, and Grant was unable to play.

The grade 12 admits if the team gets anything less than gold this year, not being allowed to play in 2010 will sting even more.

“It will kind of hurt,” she said. “You didn’t get to play even if you live in the area.”

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