In many different areas of academia it is common to find people collaborating in the collective best interest since it is more readily recognized that no man is an island and that each individual; academic can bring to the discourse a perspective that adds value to whatever project is being undertaken.
Some would also have thought that in small countries such as St Vincent and the Grenadine sit would be much easier to get people to work together in the national interest. This is not the case as individual egos seem to rule in an almost uncontrollable way.
What does all of this have to do with coaching in this country of just over 100,000 people?
The fact is that in the field of sport it has proven extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get coaches, individuals who have been trained to introduce and sustain athletes along a development pathway to work together. Egos abound, often to the detriment of the individual athletes, teams and sport in general.
Coaches’ education in SVG
Over the years we have had a flurry of comments being made by some about coaches’ education in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Much has also been said about the performance of our coaches.
Coaches come from two main streams in this country.
On the one hand there are players who have taken an interest in staying with the sport beyond their competitive years. They would like to help in the development of the particular sport and so seek to involve themselves sin getting access to the fundamental requirements of coaching.
The second stream comes from individuals who may not have been players of any significance and for any length of time but who nonetheless would have done physical education or been exposed to some aspects of physical activity and sport and developed an interest in becoming a coach in a particular sport.
There is no national coaching structure in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
All sports associations functioning in this country rely on their respective international federations (IF) to guide them along a coaches development pathway, from basic coaching in the sport through to elite coaching.
Those IFs that are financially sound tend to facilitate regular training programmes for their coaches around the world. Thus one hears of the IAAF and FIFA, to name two, offering coaches education programme through a progressive development system. Advancement from one level to the next above it is determined by success at the lower level as well as proof of continuing engagement with athletes in the field.
Those IFs that are less well off financially often call on national associations to meet much of the expenses associated with attendance at some of their coaches’ education programmes. Unfortunately, weak administrative structures have limited the capacity of some national associations to assist coaches in this latter situation, leaving individual coaches to fend for themselves to get to courses of interest.
The St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee (SVGOC) has, since 1987, been offering opportunities for national sports associations to benefit from coaches’ education programmes in Olympic sports. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) remains focused on assisting National Olympic Committees (NOC) in the development of athletes to facilitate enhanced performances at the Olympic Games. Hence its resources are directed at Olympic rather than non-Olympic sports.
Several national sports associations here have been the beneficiary of coaching courses brought about by the intervention of the SVGOC. Since 1988 there is no Olympic sport in this country whose national sport association is at once affiliated to its IF and the SVGOC that has not benefitted from organised coaches’ education programmes.
Successful coaches have also benefitted from access to advanced coaching courses here at home and in countries abroad, based on the pathway of their sport’s respective IFs.
Despite efforts by some national associations to develop an appropriate national coaching structure in St Vincent and the Grenadines, there has been much resistance from the very coaches that they had trained.
In some sports there are some coaches who seem to think that they have some almost divine right to lead the structure and process. They therefore spend much of their time engaged in the systematic destruction of whatever structure is put in place for coaches to work together. Worse, they seek to bring about the demise of the individuals who are trying to build the structure and develop coaching in the sport.
Attempts at establishing national coaching structures in national sports associations in St Vincent and the Grenadines have consistently failed largely because of personality conflicts arising from the desire to be in charge.
It is unfortunate that this is the case here since it is not possible for any sport to systematically develop without an appropriate coaches’ structure. This is perhaps the single most important cause for the lack of sustained success in sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines. One has only to examine the respective sports practised in the country to arrive at the same conclusion.
Individual coaches may strive as best they could it is not possible to achieve much for the sport nationally where over-inflated egos take precedence over the collective best interest of those who wish to forge a career pathway.
Suffice it to say that we are not alone in the challenges impacting the development of national coaching structures in different sports. This is a problem experienced globally. Professional sports do not have this problem because they hire and fire coaches based on performance.
The SVGOC has consistently received complaints from national sports associations about the limited number of trained, certified coaches who engage in the practice of their craft following the conclusion of their training.
Excuses from those trained abound.
Increasingly, trained coaches wish to be paid.
Indeed, some already accuse others of being paid.
As far as the author is aware football is the only sport where the IF facilities the provision of financial resources for the procurement and maintenance of a coaching staff. Indeed, FIFA’s wealth has allowed for the payment of executive members of national sports associations across the world over time. This evolutionary process emerged from the strength of the FIFA brand, the success of the sport and the commitment to the global development of the sport professionally.
There is one coach employed by the National Lotteries Authority (NLA), located at the National Sport Council, but whose mandate has never been made known to any of the national sports associations in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
For the most part coaches in St Vincent and the Grenadines work at their own pace and strive to outdo each other rather than engage in collaboration to develop the sport.
Some of our coaches are mortally afraid of having their athletes understand what they are being asked to do in a training session. That is a big secret. You are only supposed to know what you have to do, not why you are doing it. This archaic approach has long since proved ineffective.
The athlete and the coach are involved in a joint undertaking aimed at particular goals along the way.
In many instances, had our system of education and monitoring and evaluation been more developed we would have recognised bullying in our schools and especially in the practise of sport around the country. Each day scores of our children are bullied into doing whatever the PE teacher or the coach deems necessary with little or no regard to the impact on the emotional status of the athlete.
In many respects the plight of coaching in this country is like what was stated in the comments made in the previous Column (The News, 9 December 2016) about the Physical Education and Sports Teachers Association (PESTA) until the recent past. At least PESTA has begun to focus on the development of the discipline and by extension, of its members and their contribution to personal and professional advancement.
Sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines would continue to achieve limited and individualised success to the extent that it does not benefit from a scientific approach to coaching. This latter approach requires collective endeavour.
Physical Literacy & Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD)
National sports associations and coaches were duly invited to participate in a 15-month programme on physical literacy and LTAD.
Only a few national sports associations even bothered to respond to the invitation. The majority of the nation’s coaches showed little interest.
The LTAD programme is an initiative that involves a programme that is increasingly impacting the world. The Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees (CANOC) invited six NOCs to be involved in a pilot project in the Caribbean – Bahamas, BVI, Haiti, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
One would have imagined that national sports associations and coaches would readily have grasped the opportunity o be in vogue regarding a most scientific approach to the development and sustainability of physical literacy in a country along a pathway from birth through to death, allowing for appropriate strategies to be adopted at different stages in the life of an individual. Unfortunately, this has not been the case here.
Some of the coaches do not seem to think that there is anything new for them to learn in the development of athletes. The old way in the only workable way they know and hence run the risk of being outdated.
Not surprisingly therefore some of the coaches have absolutely no understanding of the new approach that allows for a better appreciation of the development status of each, individual athlete, in training.
In sport, athletes are to be treated as individuals. There can be no one size fits all in the approach to the development of the athlete.
The refusal of many of our coaches to re-tool is pathetic.
Just as no medical practitioner or genuinely professional teacher can survive in a changing world without engaging in a continuous search for new knowledge, strategies and techniques, in order to remain relevant, so too our coaches have to constantly engaging themselves sin research for new approaches.
Involvement in research by our coaches could also lead to them adding to the stock of information already available.
The country needs a commitment from our coaches that places the collective above self.
Coaches, like teachers, must be committed to working together, ever cognizant that they are always impacting the individuals in their charge. They could either do this for the betterment of the individual, community and society or for the massaging of their own egos.