Athletes commitment lacking
From time to time one hears older folk discussing sport and drawing attention to the level of commitment of the sportspeople of their time. The young athletes of today often respond claiming that they are of a different generation and are often misunderstood and misrepresented.
Analysis of the reality may well yield some interesting points that make food for thought.
Athletes of the past were in no way as well off in terms of access to resources for participation in sport than the athletes of today. They however appeared to have been much keener than their modern day counterparts where sport is concerned. They somehow appeared far more committed to doing well.
Despite possessing slender resources the athletes of the past found their way to the playing fields to hone their skills even with the crudest instruments. They complained less than today’s athletes about what was available to them.
In order for athletes to travel they often engaged in their own fundraising efforts.
In stark contrast today’s athletes seem anxious to be pampered. With few exceptions many of our athletes today do not seem prepared to do much for themselves. They desire everything on a platter and make comparisons with what they see and hear from international athletes without giving due consideration to our country’s economic circumstance or that of the national association to which they are affiliated.
While seeking to be treated as elite athletes of more developed countries who have made world ranking many of our athletes today fail to appreciate what it takes to get there. Their demands are often very unrealistic.
Today’s athletes have far more opportunities for honing their skills than hitherto. They have access to more resources, coaches and equipment yet often limit themselves to complaining that not enough resources are being thrown in their personal direction.
Today’s athletes in some sports seem to think that the governing body for the discipline must provide everything for them. They seem to ignore the dictum that the tradesman must possess his own tools or suffer the consequences.
In Jamaica, it is common for past student organisations of many of the country’s schools to engage in fundraising activities wherever they exist to provide support for their respective alma maters. That does not seem to apply here and unfortunately so. Nonetheless athletes seem to be too dependent on handouts and some go so far as to threaten to drop out of the sport if their demands for gear are not met, as though they are punishing the organisation or the country.
Some of the former athletes look on in awe at the conduct of some of today’s sportsmen and sportswomen for whom so much is already provided but for whom nothing is ever enough.
Admittedly there are some sports that are still relatively expensive and where one can distinguish some class differences even though the organisations strive to change this. The cost of the equipment for some sport is just prohibitive and without some serious investment on the part of parents and individuals themselves it is not possible for some persons to become involved as athletes.
There seems a sense in which our athletes today do not feel that they should invest in themselves but here again this does not apply to all persons in all sports.
In many of the sports practise din St Vincent and the Grenadines today the athletes do not take telling. As soon as they show some talent and this is acknowledged in the media they become primadonnas and fall prey to all that comes with it. The lose sight of the big picture and soon enough fall by the wayside.
Too many of our young athletes do not take the time to read on their particular sport to know its history and develop themselves as athletes did in the past.
National representation meant much to the athletes of the past. Those who donned national colours were the envy of their peers. Today, national representation may still engender envy amongst peers but not for the same reason. Today the envy has to do with the fact that athletes are often perceived as benefitting from a trip. The results seem to have no impact on the athletes. If they lose in regional and international competitions they have no problem. They accept as part of sport. In the past the athletes felt that they had let down the country, their families and the other institutions in which they are involved.
Parents of children in the past seemed eager to have their children involved in sport, especially the boys. They considered it an integral part of growing up.
Parents were keen on building the family and so encouraged their children in their undertakings. While it appeared that parents were encouraging their children to become lawyers, doctors and engineers as economically rewarding professions they saw sport as something that children should do for their physical and emotional development.
Gears were not cheap but parents did what was possible to facilitate their children having access to the necessary equipment. Better yet, parents who could not afford the cost of proper gear encouraged their children to make do with what they had. Nothing else was forthcoming. This is the reason that one saw so many children learning to participate in sport without shoes or the appropriate clothing.
Parents took an interest in what their children were doing in sport to such an extent that they made themselves available to be with them when they were involved in sporting endeavour.
In contemporary Vincentian society we have more children being parents clearly unprepared for the challenges of family life. Children are socialising children in several instances. Single-parenting has reached at a level where it is clearly more popular than marriage and this impacts the children and their involvement in different activities.
Parents, even those who one would assume should know better, have a tendency to insist so much on their children’s education that they resist any attempt on the part of their children to engage in sporting activity. For some, every sign of weakness in academic performance could only be the result of the distraction of being involved in sport. They therefore penalise the children by preventing them from playing sport.
This is not to say that there are not parents who understand the importance of striking a balance between body, mind and spirit. It is just that they are not as numerous.
All too often in today’s St Vincent and the Grenadines parents are not particularly supportive of their children involved in sport. Whole undoubtedly there are parents who are supportive the vast majority often see sport as an unnecessary humbug. They are not prepared to join their children where the latter show interest in developing sport skills. Some use the Saturday training sessions organised by some of our national associations as a sort of day car centre for their children. They drop them off and return only when the children call to indicate that the training session is completed.
The school was perhaps more of an extension of the home environment than is the case today. Teachers, for the most part, seemed to have had greater interest in the well being of their students. Some may suggest that it was a case of persons entering the profession because they saw it as a vocation as much as a profession and committed themselves more.
Parents respected teachers and encouraged their children to do likewise.
It was common in the past for schools to participate in national sport competitions because of the interest they generated amongst their students and parents. This facilitated the rise to prominence of some of our best athletes because they had to train to ensure that they performed creditably against the various teams and clubs in the competitions.
Teachers were more willing than today’s cohort to work with the athletes after school to prepare them for the challenges with which they would be confronted in competition.
Athletes who excelled in sport were appreciated by their peers in school and were encouraged. Better yet, those who showed the capacity to play sport and excel in their academic work were readily admired.
When the schools were involved in competition or when the schools had their internal sport competitions the students stayed on to witness the excitement and provide support to their teams.
In contrast it is common today to find that at the sports meet of any one of the schools a significant number of students are not involved at all. The numbers in the stands serve as a telling indication of the paucity of interest amongst our students today.
It is rather amazing that even as we now have physical education teachers in our secondary schools the students seem to be less involved in physical activity.
In the past there was a greater sense of community amongst Vincentians. Certainly the nation was not as politically divided, as is the case today.
Sport was a community activity in the past. People came out because it was their activity. They saw it as involving them as much as it involved their children.
In the past sport was seen as a mechanism to bring the community together. Today that may well be the case only in rural communities. Unfortunately the ‘enlightened’ who reside in the city and its environs tend to consider the rural folk ‘backward’ as the latter hold on to traditions that have long since been abandoned by the city dwellers.
In today’s society the athletes participate and there are few spectators from their communities in support. Individualism has set in and we see this as a sign of progress, a phenomenon of development.
Today we seem to have lost our sense of community and this impacts sport.
Facilities have always been a challenge in sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines. In the past however our athletes were prepared to clean areas for themselves in order to get somewhere to practice. It is not surprising that so many of our athletes came from rural areas where the worst facilities existed for sport participation.
Today, athletes are still suffering from poor facilities but where better facilities exist little time is taken to appreciate what has been provided.
Today’s athletes are interested in playing. They see nothing beyond this. Everything else is someone else’s responsibility.
Sport is today very serious business but many of our athletes do not seem prepared to make the best of this by investing in their own development and strive after excellence.
Far too many of our athletes accept mediocrity and adopt a very smug arrogance once they have attained even the most minimal achievements.
Many of today’s athlete shave little respect for themselves and hence the reason they do not have much respect for their coaches, technical officials and administrators.
Rather than develop our sports are declining.
The girls move onto relations with boys at a much earlier age and drop out of sport for the flirtatious option.
We are also losing our young men to the vagaries of a way of life more associated with developed countries where morals and values have been in decline.
Athletes are a reflection of the society in which they live. That does not tell a very good tale for our St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The time has come for us to address what is happening in sport as a reflection of the decline in moral standing of our Vincentian society.
Certainly we must begin in the home where the family is responsible for socialisation. The school must be revisited as a socialising agent and so too our communities.
There is much talent here but ambition is sadly lacking.
We can effect change in our approach to sport if we work together at developing our athletes.