Saturday last witnessed the commencement of a new initiative in sport in this country. The St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee (SVGOC) and Soroptomist International St Vincent and the Grenadines (SISVG), officially launched a programme entitled, Empowering Our Female Athletes. The initiative came after several months of discussions on the situation in St Vincent and the Grenadines relative to girls and women involved in physical activity and sport and comes against the backdrop of the SVGOC’s initiative regarding the commencement of work on the promotion of physical literacy in St Vincent and the Grenadines with special emphasis on Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD).
Over the past several years there has been a significant decline in the interest and participation of girls and women in sport. This occurs despite the fact that for the past several years we have introduced physical education in the nation’s secondary schools and the efforts by the Ministry of Education to increase competitions between schools in more sports than hitherto.
Of course the fact that there was never any attempt at introducing the concept of physical literacy alongside numeracy and literacy in our education development programmes has meant that our children have little by way of a deliberate introduction into the importance of physical activity to their overall personal development.
It is not surprising therefore that generally speaking, with the rapid introduction of attractive and appealing new technologies and innovative content, to say nothing of the extensive reach of social media today, we have seen declining interest amongst youths everywhere and St Vincent and the Grenadines is no exception.
By age 16 or 17 many girls leave sport for what many of them see as an exciting life that does not have any place for their involvement in sport. This is a critical stage in their lives and we may well be considered irresponsible if we do not facilitate a mechanism for at least offering them a better understanding of what they can make of themselves as whole human beings in Vincentian society
A study undertaken by Rosmund Griffith as part of her advanced coaching programme, the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program (ICECP) in the USA, emphasized the declining interest in and participation of girls and women in sport and sport-related activities in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Even netball, a sport that was intended for women in particular, and which had been one of the most attractive sport practiced in St Vincent and the Grenadines has witnessed significant drop-off in interest and participation.
Additionally, the importance of basic communication skills, an understanding of etiquette and protocol, holds declining interest for our young people in general and our girls and women in particular, a critical feature in the changing life style in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Quality representation of Vincentian athletes is an important feature of sport and the SVGOC remains particularly concerned that it cannot afford to allow for declining standards in this regard. Our sportspeople are ambassadors for the country and must have an understanding of this reality. Therefore it is important to facilitate programmes that would at once foster an understanding of physical literacy, stimulate interest in sport, encourage participation in sport and engender personal development as a rounded individual amongst our girls and women.
The working document on the initiative being undertaken puts it this way, “….In SVG, the influence of our history and cultural patterns on our communication and mannerisms is evident. Dialect and other colloquial expressions feature prominently in our communication. Other behaviours and practices often inappropriate for many settings are ingrained in our nation’s children and situations where specific behavioural standards are preferred, pose difficulty for many of our youths. Additionally, when placed in environments that are cultural diverse than our own, our young people are unable to make appropriate choices and to negotiate safe solutions.”
Participants, SVGOC and SISVG personnel at the Saturday’s launch
The programme, which is scheduled for a period of seven weeks,“will respond to the need for exposure and training in interpersonal skills and social development for athletes who would be participating in competitive events while representing SVG. It seeks to address any deficiencies in the social and interpersonal development in the Vincentian adolescent female athletes.”
It also aims to teach young promising female athletes how to manage the social aspects of competitive sports.
Miriam Roache, President of SISVG puts it this way,“The goal is to assist in removing or reducing this obstacle so that they may focus on achieving their fullest potential in sport that they excel in. Through this project, promising athletes will be better able to manage themselves in a professional setting and which would lead to more retention. Therefore, over the long-term a cadre of professional athletes with aspirations for sporting careers is envisaged.”
She noted that “the project seeks to improve the capability of adolescent female athletes to display socially acceptable behaviours at all times especially while representing St. Vincent and the Grenadines in sporting events locally, regionally and internationally. It is expected to generate interest in sports as a lifelong engagement. The project would therefore pay special attention to improving the social skills and social interaction of these girls by:
Inspiring them to be confident self-assured young adults
Developing their life skills and coping skills, and encouraging them to lead healthy lifestyles
Motivating the girls to make decisions that result in positive outcomes in all circumstances and to see sports as an integral part of their lives
Helping the girls identify, mitigate and extract themselves from negative or problematic situations.
Teaching them how to negotiate safe conditions
Encouraging familial support for the girls’ sporting careers and personal development”
A minimum of 20 training sessions would be undertaken over the seven weeks of the programme.
Miriam Roache, Ikarmola Laborde and Christine Da Silva are coordinators of the initiative with facilitators being Lavinia Gunn (Etiquette), Rene Baptiste (Protocol), Zeitha Hadaway (Personal Hygiene and other female related Health issues) and Gail Davis (Communications).
While clearly it is important that another initiative must be undertaken to help our boys and men the commencement of this particular programme is a boon for Vincentian society and the quality of representation by our girls and women.
The decision to involve parents in the programme is also critical. It is important that our young athletes are supported by their parents and that at all times their parents are aware of precisely what types of programmes they are exposed to.
In the recent past much emphasis has been placed on safeguarding children especially in the realm of sport where they are quite vulnerable. The initiative will also address this aspect of their development such that the female athletes would know how to recognised threats to themselves and how to address them.
The SVGOC and SISVG must be congratulated for what appears to be a significant initiative that has the potential to change lives and ultimately develop a better St Vincent and the Grenadines.