Preparations for the Inter Primary and Inter Secondary Schools Track and Field Championships 2013 began in earnest on Wednesday 13 June with a meeting of the Athletics Sub Committee of the Schools Games Committee.
The Sub Committee understands the importance of early planning and has re-committed itself to ensuring the continued raising of the bar in terms of the overall quality of the preparation and presentation of the annual Championships.
Monitoring and evaluation
The Athletics Sub Committee usually convenes in excess of 12 meetings annually in an effort to facilitate the success of the Championships. This approach has been found critical to allow for close monitoring and evaluation of the planning process such that bothersome issues can be reduced to a minimum and problems quickly addressed.
In 2011 the Inter Primary Schools competition as re-introduced using the zonal format. Following a review of that year’s Championships the format was changed for 2012. There were two days of Heats and on day for the Finals – the same format adopted for the Inter Secondary Schools Track and Field Championships over the past several years.
The Inter Primary and Inter Secondary Schools Athletics Championships were fraught with challenges. Despite the planning having started in June 2011, prior to the end of the 2010/11 academic year, virtually everything got derailed when in late October the West Indies Cricket Board announced three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) for St Vincent and the Grenadines scheduled for 16, 18 and 20 March 2012.
Immediately the planned programme for the Championships had to be redone.
The National Sports Council closed the Arnos Vale # 1 for extensive preparatory work effective November 2011 through to 20 March 2012.
Of course there was no consultation. There never is when it comes to regional and international cricket. It is generally taken as a fait acompli that once a regional or international cricket is announced for St Vincent and the Grenadines every user of Arnos Vale must understand that the facility is really for that sport and others are merely accommodated from time to time.
All the schools that had originally engaged in early planning and earmarked Arnos Vale # 1 as the venue for either their Heats or Finals, had to turn to an alternative venue.
The Sub Committee then sought to meet with the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) to facilitate access to the Victoria Park in a systematically scheduled manner to allow as many schools as possible to complete their Finals.
The SVG Football Federation (SVGFF) had already programmed it sown competition and had to be invited to the meeting with the NLA to ensure that all came away on the same page in respect of at once facilitating competitions for both sports and still leave time for the field to recuperate.
Many schools had to turn to inadequate fields for their Heats thereby limiting the capacity of some of their athletes to do well.
Many of the athletes working with coaches also experienced immense difficulty with their preparations for the annual Championships at both the Inter Primary and Inter secondary levels.
The Athletics Sub Committee therefore had no choice but to re-schedule the Finals of both the Annual Inter Primary and Inter Secondary Track and Field Championships in the Easter vacation, after the completion of the ODIs.
Of course there are those who seem to think that because international ODIs bring huge crowds to the Arnos Vale facility no other sport ought to challenge the way in which things are done relative to the planning engaged in by others for the development of their sports.
Reviewing 2012 Championships
The extensive review of the Inter Primary and Inter Secondary Schools Track and Field Championships yielded a 36-page report that included recommendations for further improvement of the events.
It should be noted that while particular care was taken to ensure that not a stone was left unturned in the preparation for the three ODIs in terms of the field, preparations for the Finals of the Annual Inter Primary and Inter Secondary Track and Field Championships did not see any such detailed attention being paid to the preparation of the same facility for the thousands of students in attendance.
The athletes do need the field to be rolled if they are to be at their best. Unfortunately this was not done.
The change of dates for the Championships meant that schools could no longer adhere to the established deadlines for the submission of their registration forms. New dates were difficult to fulfil since many had to wait until their sports were completed and these rand until very late given the problems finding venues.
In the end virtually everything ended up being late and at the Heats schools found themselves shaving to make numerous adjustments. The consequence was significant delays in the conduct of the competition using the latest available technology since the latter could only work with what has been put in the system.
This year’s competitions were exciting and the clean arena well decorated and with a painted track provided the right atmosphere for optimal performance by the athletes.
Of course they could only perform consistent with the training received under the very trying circumstances.
As always there were challenges but they were not allowed to derail the exercise.
Areas of weakness have been identified and systems already put in place top address them.
Perhaps the most noteworthy development was the agreement reached with the NLA to be the title sponsor of the event for the next three years, offering the organisers a significant boost in respect of the comfort with which they can now execute the established plans.
Outlook for 2013
The planning for the Inter Primary and Inter Secondary Schools Track and Field Championships for 2013 is perhaps even more challenging that what transpired for this year’s edition.
In 2013, there is cricket in the region for an extended period with Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Pakistan playing the West Indies at different times. However the local Association is unable to say whether any matches would be played in St Vincent. The Association cannot at this stage indicate when the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) would be in apposition to release the schedule of matches and their venues.
In the absence of the requisite information and the importance of early planning the Athletics Sub Committee has nonetheless suggested the following dates for the registration and competitions in the 2012/13 academic year:
12 December 2012 – Cross Country Championships
Inter Primary Schools Athletics Championships:
Registration – 22 February
6 – 7 March – Inter Primary Schools Heats
27 March – Inter Primary Schools Finals
Inter Secondary Schools Athletics Championships:
Registration – 1 March
13 – 14 Inter Secondary Schools Heats
16 March – Javelin Finals – all categories
28 March – Inter Secondary Schools Finals
The intention here is to at least provide the National Sports Council and the National Lotteries Authority with some sort of guide in respect of the required use of their respective facilities.
While clearly Arnos Vale # 1 is ideal for the Finals, the Heats can be held at Victoria Park albeit with severe restrictions, as was discovered when the Heats for the Inter Primary Schools Track and Field Championships 2012 were held there.
Should the WICB allocate matches to St Vincent and the Grenadines in 2013 the planning would have to work around the dates provided.
New Events for 2013
There is a proposal that at the Secondary Schools Athletics Championships the Javelin competition should be reintroduced in all age categories. This is in keeping with the view that in the absence of a synthetic track emphasis must be placed on the field events.
Another proposal suggests that competition in the Hurdles should be held in all age categories.
In respect of both the Javelin Throw and the Hurdles plans are already in train to conduct clinics around the country aimed at introducing students to the fundamentals of these two events. This is deemed critical to their successful introduction at the level of the Championships.
There is a proposal to introduce an Inter Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships to take place on Wednesday 12 December at Diamond. The proposal also suggests that the points from this event should be carried forward into the Championships Finals.
At the Inter Primary Athletics Championships there is a proposal to introduce the High Jump and the Shot Put, but only for the senior athletes.
The Relay for the Under 7 age category would take the Shuttle 30m format.
Consideration is being given to stag the introduction of the Secondary Schools
One is hopeful that in the discussions that would inevitably take place on the aforementioned proposals there would be reason enough for all to see the wisdom in improving the opportunities available to our athletes to develop themselves in the sport.