That is an important question that has to be asked. It is all the more important in the lead up to the pending general elections.
Of course it is often said that sporting organisations must steer clear of asking these questions since they are supposed to depend heavily on political largesse.
Some may recall that some years ago the protagonists of change in the football federation actually stated on radio that the organisation could only strive if it elects an administration that supports the ruling party. While some may smirk at the suggestion the reality is that many believe it to be true.
There are those in Vincentian society who are critical of others who are perceived to be speaking out against the ruling regime in one way or another. They fear recrimination and advise, albeit in secret, that sporting organisations should not be in any way perceived as challenging ruling regimes.
Our experience under colonialism left many of our people seemingly disposed to buttering up to politicians and governments rather than engage in the requisite analysis that is necessary to facilitate a role for sport in the broader national development strategy of the nation.
If our sport administrators are genuinely interested in allocating sport a critical role in national development then it is necessary to work more deliberately at achieving that. Truth must be the order of the day but must also be based on the application of our critical thinking skills to the existing reality.
National Sport Policy
In 1996 the National Olympic Committee (NOC) took the initiative to facilitate the creation of a national sport policy for St Vincent and the Grenadines. The NOC engaged the services of then Director of the Commonwealth Sport Development Programme (CSDP) based in Barbados, Colin Higgs, and convened a national consultation that brought all possible stakeholders of sport together.
It took some time before the policy was accepted and approved for implementation by the government of the day.
In 2001, following the change of political administration the national sport policy was extensively reviewed.
The problem however has been and remains to this day the implementation of the national sport policy.
For one reason or another the document has become a sort of plaything that the government does not appear eager to apply in full.
It is one thing to lay claim at regional and international for a that St Vincent and the grenadines has a national sport policy in place. It is another thing altogether to apply the policy in the interest of genuine national development.
For now we can only say that the way in which the current administration treats sport strongly suggests an abysmal failure to adhere to the main tenets of the policy it has approved and reflects a lack of genuine commitment to sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The national sports policy states its mission thus: To ensure that all Vincentians have equal access to physical education, recreation and sports, both within the education system and other aspects of social life.
One wonders whether the authorities have read and understood what is written at the very beginning of the national sport policy and the implications relative to the actions that should emanate therefrom.
The one aspect that the so-called education revolution appears to have missed altogether is an appreciation for the role of physical education in the development of the whole person. This is most evident in the absence of any programme that reflects a commitment to physical activity for all in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Note however we continue to speak in public about our commitment to physical education and sport even in the face of evidence revealing otherwise.
While the national sport policy does speak to physical education as a critical foundation for life and participation in sport this is not however reflected in the education programme of the country.
Physical literacy is alien to the education programme of St Vincent and the Grenadines. There is no programme that educates the family about the importance of physical activity in the earliest years of the child in the home and the environment. There is no training programme for teachers in the nation’s pre-schools in respect of physical education and its role in the education formation of the child at that level.
At the teachers training college in St Vincent and the Grenadines there is a course in physical education but this is perhaps less than basic and serves no useful purpose in terms of educating the participants in the value of physical education to the life of the student and indeed the average citizen.
We do not have physical education teachers in the nation’s elementary schools, by and large. There is no programme to change this any time soon.
Interestingly though, we have gone ahead and followed the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) is offering our secondary school students physical education as an examinable subject. This is done even though the students come from the elementary school without any foundation in the subject, the only option with this challenge. Little attention has been paid to the otherwise obvious contradiction in this regard.
One is therefore forced to ask whether the governmental authorities are serious about developing sport in the nation when the very foundation stone of sport, physical education, does not receive the attention required.
There can be no long-term development hopes without the essential foundation being laid and that begins in the home then at the preschool through the education system and the community programmes.
The sport infrastructure in St Vincent and the Grenadines remains, for the majority of sports, decidedly poor.
In a recent article the author of this Column addressed the sorry state of the sport facilities available to the majority of sports practised in the country.
There is no public gymnasium at which our athletes can do the requisite weight training when needed in the conditioning phase of their preparation.
The Vincentian public continue to chide national sports associations for not performing well at the regional and international levels but still their tongues in respect of the poor facilities on which the athletes and coaches must work to get prepared for competition.
It is interesting to note the sports, which have been able to get a home. By and large, with the exception of cricket, the sports with their own home are essentially more costly – tennis, squash, swimming.
Cricket benefits from some sort of twisted political largesse. Almost every playing field created in this country seems to have cricket as the priority sport in terms of access. The National Sport Council (NSC) appears oblivious to the fact that it almost always given priority of access to cricket. There is not a level playing field in respect of right of access.
Once the cricket season gets started the fields are regarded as theirs.
Genuine commitment to sport would necessitate a comprehensive review of the development of sport infrastructure across the board.
Despite the achievements of Adonal Foyle the governmental authorities have never taken seriously the importance of providing an acceptable sport complex for indoor sports practised in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Funding of sport is another disaster in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Athletes with potential cannot get the requisite assistance needed to get them out of this country where they can access better facilities on a daily basis.
Requests for funding receive very little attention, especially since what obtains by way of the process as per the stated national sport policy is hardly ever practised. Once the NSC delivers its recommendation to the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) the rest is left to the latter organisation. The work of the NSC appears done at that stage which contradicts what is expected given the sport policy.
Athletes and their parents are often made to look like beggars.
All too often individual politicians, keen on being seen as having their own largesse, offer to assist when in fact they have to do their own begging in turn. It is almost as if there is some sort of competition to see who could beg the most.
It is all the more embarrassing when a politician sends an athlete to an individual or business concern in order to receive some sort of assistance that he former could not have given from his own resources or that of the government of which he is a part.
Government officials feel no sense of shame or embarrassment when they readily organise to meet and greet athletes who have performed creditably at regional and/or international competitions upon their return to St Vincent and the Grenadines, even when they know that they made no financial contribution whatsoever to their preparation, travel and performances.
The policy is not worth the paper on which it is written, given the state of financing of sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
That sporting organisations continue to struggle to develop their respective sports is testimony to their own commitment to sport and their appreciation of its role in developing the whole human person and in nation building. It also reflects the paucity of understanding of these very facets by the governmental authorities.