A new year of sport

newyearWe have started a new year and one would hope that the respective national sports associations would have engaged themselves in making some resolutions that would significantly impact their overall performances going forward.
The new year will pose many challenges and one wonders to what extent we can say that our associations have appropriately prepared and positioned themselves to confront what lies ahead.
For some time we have been using this forum to advocate that our sports associations must engage in planning. This must of course be short, medium and long term.
Associations must take the time to review what has been their performance in the past in all aspects – administration, technical, training and competition. These organisations are made up of athletes, coaches, technical officials and administrators, the vast majority of whom are volunteers in a society that is experiencing significant economic challenges.
Associations have to access facilities and equipment to facilitate the training and competition that athletes need. The majority do not possess their own facilities and there are major challenges that result from this that impact the kind of performances we can expect from our athletes.
It is fair to ask just how many of our national sports associations have taken the time to engage in a comprehensive analysis of what happened in 2014, how this fitted in with their established goals for the year completed and to what extent has there been any improvement on what has been happening in the years prior to 2014.
How many associations have taken the time to review their overall performance for 2014?
How many associations have been able to appropriately identify what specific progress has been made, in what areas and how do they stack up against the goals that had been established for the organisation one year ago?
What went wrong during the year?
What factors allowed for the organisation’s failure to meet established goals; are they likely to interfere with the plans going forward and how can these be addressed in the future?
Importantly, our associations need to determine whether the personnel involved are adequate in number and possessive of the skill sets pertinent to the areas where they have been assigned. In other words, have these associations appropriately assigned horses for courses.
Are the associations attracting more adherents at all levels?
Are athletes being attracted to the sport, why/why not?
Are athletes dropping out of the sport, at what ages and why?
Were their adequate funds to meet the established programme and what mechanisms failed in this regard?
Without the detailed analysis of what has happened, what has been achieved or not achieved relative to what was planned it is unlikely that we would be in a position to appropriately measure progress.
One gets the impression that at times some of our associations may be unwilling to engage in the difficult but necessary tasks associated with proper planning. We may well ask whether they have established goals that are not only related to participating in competitions abroad, but focused on all aspects of the organisation.
It is therefore most appropriate to ask how many of our national sports associations have really considered the extent to which they have adopted a professional approach to their mode of operation.
Associations usually have calendars sent to them by their respective international federations (IF). But this document relates only to the IF’s activities and at times its continental bodies.
It is appropriate to ask how many of our national associations use the documentation received from their respective IFs to fashion their own Calendars so that everyone gets an understanding of how the organisation plans to operate during the year.
An organisation’s inability to prepare a proper calendar is a sure sign of its failure to plan and a recipe for failure.
A calendar is designed to detail the key functional activities of the organisation during the year and should really be shaped by the outcome of the detailed and objective analysis of the previous year’s performance in all aspects as much as by the IF and regional programmes of the sport.
Usually the planning of the calendar begins well into the previous year as the ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the approved activities are completed and new information comes to hand.
It should be noted that these days IFs engage in planning over four-year cycles and this is of great help to the national sports associations to do likewise. The National Olympic Committee must necessarily establish four-year plans because that is the cycle of the International Olympic Committee.
The local association can prepare a four-year calendar and adjustup each year as deemed necessary given the outcome of the ongoing monitoring and evaluation exercises. To many this seems a most appropriate approach.
What are the critical components of the calendar?
Is each item justified as being critical milestones to where the organisation wants to go in the long term viz-a-viz its designated goals.
What events ought to be held and when?
What standards are to be set?
Is it compulsory that an organisation participate in all available competitions regardless of the standard attained by the athletes?
Is there a clear understanding as to why attendance at this or that event is important to the developmental pathway of the organisation and/or its members?
Associations must carefully determine precisely what goes into its calendar and weigh their relative importance to the intended developmental pathway.
A calendar must be a function of what the different members of the organisation understand as being necessary to the long term vision and mission of the organisation.
The final calendar of a national sport association must therefore be the outcome of the planning undertaken by the organisation’s members.
An important aspect of the planning process is the creation of a budget that is rooted in the calendar of the organisation.
Many organisations do very little budgeting if only because they do not have appropriately structured, realistic calendars.
Too many budgets are merely the cost of attending regional and international competitions without paying due attention to the systematic developmental pathway of the sport and the organisation itself in all its components.
Budgets must be rooted in reality and not simply a wish list.
At the local level we can ask whether each budgetary item is really necessary to the advancement and sustainability of the respective associations.
Are our associations results-oriented and how so?
Do our associations take time to evaluate their approaches to funding and their utilisation of allocated funds?
There may well be reason to review the way our national sports associations prepare their budgets and evaluate them at the end of each year as well as quadrennially.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is a small, open and highly vulnerable economy. Is it appropriate for each association to go after sponsorship in the marketplace without due recognition of the size of the economic cake?
Are associations transparent in their budgeting and general financial arrangements?
Are our associations sufficiently financially accountable with annual financials appropriately prepared and circulated among their membership?
National sports associations are increasing their demands for funding based on the growth in activities planned by their respective regional and international organisations.
Many IFs and their regional bodies have started applying financial and other penalties for non participation in some of their activities thereby applying additional pressure on the local associations.
Are our associations responding appropriately to these challenges?
How should they respond?
Some seem to suggest that associations engage in a professional approach to their administration and general management. This would mean establishing appropriate structures and attracting adequately qualified and competent persons to fill the different positions.
Planning must be the foundation stone on which national associations build their programmes. Monitoring and evaluation mechanisms must guide the implementation process and inform the strategies to be adopted in the future.
At issue here in St Vincent and the Grenadines is whether our national sports associations are professionalising their operations.
Importantly we need to ask whether our associations are willing to share best practices and engage themselves in a collaborative endeavour to better the approach to sport and to its contribution to broader national development.
Can we claim that our structures are such that we can feel satisfied that we are genuinely contributing to national development?
Are our respective operational strategies working in our best interest as a nation?
How do national sports associations provide appropriate justification to protect and preserve their autonomy in an environment of limited resources of their own?
These are real challenges that must be addressed if we are to make progress. Are we doing this?
Are we capable of getting the job done or do we need help in shaping up to the demands of a global professional sport environment?