Athletic talent abounds here in SVG

There is little doubt that after reviewing this year’s edition of the annual Inter Secondary Schools Athletics Championships that St Vincent and the Grenadines is in no way short of the athletics talent evident in the rest of the Caribbean.
While admittedly the girls segment of the Championships was weak in many respects there still abounds immense talent here that, if harnessed, can serve this country in the regional and international arena.

Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines has, over the years, trained scores of physical education teachers and coaches around this country more than most Caribbean islands with the exception of Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. Not even Jamaica has trained as many coaches under the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Coaching Education Certification System (CECS) as has St Vincent and the Grenadines.
One of the complaints of the National Olympic Committee over the years is that given the abundance of sporting talent in this country it has trained numerous individuals as coaches in accordance with the development programmes of their respective international federations yet the numbers actually working in the field are in no way reflective of the investment made in this regard.
It remains an amazing reality that our trained personnel have not readily delivered in respect of the preparation of the talent available to them in their schools and communities.
The preparation for the annual Inter Secondary Schools Championships would have begun in September of the previous year. In the schools sports programme this is also the period for football for the boys and netball for the girls. In both cases running is an important foundation and the average coach could easily use the preparatory phase for athletics to facilitate the involvement of the athletes in football and netball competitions between September and December.
The point being made here is that rather than consider the involvement in football and netball as inhibiting the preparation of their track and field athletes the physical education teachers and coaches should seek to encourage the athletes to understand and appreciate how they can work well for the athletes’ overall sporting proficiency.
Schools have to recognise the athletics talent within their borders and harness them. The leaders of these institutions must encourage their PE teachers to work with coaches if they are not themselves appropriately qualified, to aid in the preparation of their athletics personnel for the annual Championships in the second term of the academic year.
Once the football and netball are completed it is important for the PE teachers and coaches to have the athletes focus more directly on their preparation for the track and field competition.
There is also an important psychological preparation for the annual Championships that is necessary. Athletes have to be prepared for the emotional challenges that they face in athletics competition. These competitions involve individual challenges as opposed to the team effort of the aforementioned sports. The preparatory work is long and hard but infinitely rewarding if success emerges. Success can only come with due diligence.
We have repeatedly pointed to the seeming lack of commitment on the part of many of the athletes in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
In an earlier article we pointed to the fact that it is often the case that our athletes seem to be keen on participating in athletics at a very early age. However when they reach a certain age they lose that interest and fade out of the sport.
Some may well argue that the level of commitment is influenced by the family in the first instance.
Athletes all want to be stars. This is one of the reasons why so many want to become sprinters. As evidenced by the popularity of Usain Bolt it is the sprinters of today that are considered the most popular in the sport of athletics. One consequence of this is that those athletes who fail to make it as sprinters often consider themselves as failures with little chance of success in the sport.
Of course, Pamenos Ballantyne has shown that it is possible to work diligently enough at distance running to become a star. Adonson Shallow has begun to show us that in the field events too an athlete can work hard enough to achieve popularity.
Increasingly athletes have come to stardom in almost every discipline in track and field athletics.
Pamenos Ballantyne has shown our athletes that he can train come rain or shine. This is a remarkable feat and while many may be critical of him for other several reasons they still find themselves admitting to his exemplary approach to his craft in respect of his commitment to training.
Pamenos’ approach is all the more remarkable when we recognise that he has at times been working alone, with nether coach nor training partner for support. Such is his level of commitment.
Parents have an important role to play in encouraging their children who have chosen the sport of athletics to commit to the requirements of their preparation and striving after excellence.
Teachers must also step forward to encourage the talented athletes to commit to developing themselves in athletics.
Talent Identification
If we claim that talent exists then we have a responsibility to seek out that talent and nurture it for the benefit of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Much time has been spent over the past several years crafting an approach to talent identification in the sport of athletics.
Some coaches have been involved in this effort and have found the exercise a most challenging one.
The joy found in the faces of the children who are introduced to the sport with a range of fun implements have themselves served as a form of reward for the interested and committed coaches.
Unfortunately, the coaches have not been coming forward in sufficient numbers to have the programme extended to all of the communities across St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Given the abundance of talent that exists one would wish to see more coaches taking the plunge in respect of the sport.
Our media can play a critical role in encouraging our PE teachers and coaches to do more in respect of the unearthing of the wealth of talented children spread across this beautiful country.
We have to develop a culture of athletics that embraces all of our society.
Lest there are some who would lay claim to the emphasis being placed here on sport as somehow negating the importance of the athlete’s academic performance it should be stated that the balance between the two must always be uppermost in the approach being undertaken.
Parents, teachers, principals, PE teachers and coaches must all work as a team. Together they must understand the importance of the holistic development of the individual and promote this for the benefit of the individual athlete.
PE teachers and coaches have a responsibility to ask questions about the athlete’s academic development and his/her conduct at home and in the school. The athlete must be a model student and model child in the home. If it is true that sport engenders discipline in the athlete then there is every reason ort us to believe that we must encourage excellence in all of the aforementioned aspects of the athlete’s life.
We have, in the past, used this forum to highlight several athletes who have taken athletics seriously enough to allow them to attain athletic scholarships especially given their parents’ inability to meet the financial requirements of studying overseas.
Some athletes have obviously stayed focused on the sport while others have run as long as it was necessary to maintain their scholarship while pursuing academic excellence.
It is a challenge that requires great discipline whatever the choice undertaken by the athlete. Success is possible with hard work.
Inter Secondary Schools Athletics Championships have come and gone. It is now part of this country’s athletics history.
Where we go from here is dependent on all of us, not just the athlete.
We are all stakeholders in the development of our athletes.
Our children have done us proud and we must encourage them to stay with the sport. Through this medium they can make their own significant contribution to the development of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
If we do it right we can ensure that this year marks a new beginning in the development of our thrust towards fulfilling the vision of Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines – To make athletics the # 1 sport for individuals in schools and in Vincentian society.