Perhaps the biggest problem confronting the sport development process in St Vincent and the Grenadines a conceptual one. We refer here to the seeming lack of understanding of the fundamentals. There seems little understanding by those in authority of physical literacy and by extension, physical education and sport. Because of this deficiency the national sport policy, however well written, cannot be implemented.
What we have in St Vincent and the Grenadines today is talk about sport without adequately addressing the requisite antecedents of physical literacy and physical education.
The absence of a clear understanding of physical literacy has allowed us to continue to introduce our children to physical education at the level of the secondary school rather than at the pre and primary school levels.
Our early childhood education advocates that children learn fastest in the first five years of their lives yet we have not found it necessary to introduce physical literacy alongside literacy and numeracy at the very beginning of their formal education. Indeed as with numeracy and literacy, physical literacy should commence in the home.
The conceptual deficiency referred to early has allowed for what we may refer to as vapse planning. That is to say that our authorities engage in a sort of spontaneous process. What seems expedient and perhaps more so politically expedient at any given point in time is what gets their attention and financial and other material resources. There is no long term policy and programme plan that is being followed and no genuine consultation with stakeholders on the development process.
The decision to accept what we called the ‘goat cook’ warm matches in the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2007 is a fine example of our lack of planning. It is difficult to imagine that we have spent some $52m on the development of cricket infrastructure and related aspects only to find ourselves without consideration for top class international cricket matches because of the state of our cricket facilities.
There is no sitting down with stakeholders to determine a national sport development strategy.
In the end, each national sport association is compelled to seek its own development pathway. But herein lies another problem, the failure of these national associations to work together in their collective best interest.
Our athletes are left at the mercy of significantly different sport infrastructure.
Despite the many years of pleading and in some instances begging, the national sports associations responsible for Basketball, Boxing, Netball, Table Tennis, Taekwondo and Volleyball are yet to receive due attention for their requested indoor sport facility. Instead they have been given the run around one year after another.
Basketball has been pleading for assistance with the provision of a roof at the New Montrose facility from where they can then contemplate a gradual shift towards making it an indoor sport arena only to be frustrated time and again.
It is embarrassing that sports associations are essentially being cajoled into turning to politicians almost on bended knees to garner some measure of support.
For their own part individual politicians seek to garner political support by seeking to develop the sports facilities in their respective constituencies. However well-intentioned politically, some of these facilities do not measure up to the requisite standards of international competition but the politicians do not seem to care.
Swimming has been able to access the requisite resources to significantly change the face of the sport because of the facilities the national association has been able to build. However, even here, the fraternity does not yet have a warm-up pool that is usually required for international competition.
While we have essentially guaranteed Cricket a playing pitch on every outdoor facility that has been created, no others port has been as fortunate. Interestingly though, Athletics, Aquatics and Squash have consistently outperformed Cricket at the regional and international levels over the past four years and are expected to continue in this vein. Why then are they not receiving greater attention in respect of their needs?
One of the most critical areas of sport development in any country is the training of personnel in the several areas of importance.
In St Vincent and the Grenadines there seems a sort of indifference to training in the ever-increasing range of professional career options that are now available.
We have some young people who have been to university, graduated and returned to teaching for five years and have not yet been appointed as physical education teachers. How is this possible?
We do not have a planned system of training individuals to become physical education teachers or to take up any of the other careers in sport beyond coaching. In the case of the latter career, it is the National Olympic Committee that has, since 1989, been pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars in the training of coaches in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Unfortunately, while many have come forward to be trained in different sports the vast majority of the successful personnel seem content with hanging up their certificates on their walls at home rather then become active practitioners in the field.
It should also be noted too that a sort of rat race has emerged amongst some coaches where they seem only too eager to claim ownership of athletes by selling themselves as the only ones who can assist this or that athlete instead of seeking to develop a coaching fraternity where they help each other in the best interests of the athletes in training to represent St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The conceptual deficiency amongst the authorities in St Vincent and the Grenadines, mentioned above, is also responsible for a failure to understand the importance of planning for human resource development in this country in physical literacy, physical education, sport and the numerous career options that continue to emerge in these fields.
Given the foregoing arguments it is extremely difficult for St Vincent and the Grenadines to produce quality athletes here at home.
It is a challenge for any sport to meet the expectations of the sport loving people of this country. Unfortunately the populace does not have the patience to understand the severe limitations that sport faces in this country.
Many are in awe ate the pace with which The Bahamas continues to develop athletes in different sport – Athletics, Swimming and Tennis in particular. We are amazed at how such a small country could play host to several international sporting events annually. In 2017, The Bahamas would host Carifta Swimming Championships as well as the Commonwealth Youth Games, in addition to the slew of other Annual international sporting events.
How is it possible for The Bahamas to make sport tourism a major plank in the nation’s national development policy and we seem to have no such interest?
Our youths watch as their counterparts around them move ahead in sport as exemplified by neighbouring Grenada and St Lucia and compare the seeming lip service they receive here at home and the occasional airport reception when they are victorious abroad.
Perhaps it came as no surprise that the president of the Swimming Association here used the media to caution the Minister of Sport, Ces McKie, not to come to the airport for any reception of the swimming team if they won medals at this year’s Carifta Swimming Championships in Martinique. This was because of the failure of the government to provide requested assistance to the organisation.
Indeed, Swimming may have received far more assistance from the National Olympic Committee that it has from the government.