Vincentians can expect that the performances of students at the secondary school level would display significantly improved performances in the throwing events – Shot and Discus – during this year’s Inter Secondary Schools Athletics Championships (ISSAC).
Indeed, the country is already witnessing improvements in these events at the annual sports of the various secondary schools themselves such that several schools’ records have been broken.
The improvements being referred to here comes in the wake of a four-month programme organised by Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines (TASVG) after it had been awarded a Development of National Sport Structure (DNSS).
The programme which received funding from Olympic Solidarity, was conducted by Throws Coach, Paul Phillip, of Grenada. He had been recommended by TASVG to Olympic Solidarity and was approved by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as the expert Throws Coach, to conduct the DNSS.
TASVG sought the DNSS programme to coincide with its initiative to provide stocks of equipment, especially field event equipment, in eight zones spread across St Vincent and the Grenadines over a four-year period, valued in total at $100,000 USD. At the time of the programme being implemented here North Leeward, Layou, Bequia and Georgetown have been recipients of equipment that included Shot, Discus and Javelins for the junior, intermediate and senior athletes; complete high jump standard, mat and bars; hurdles and starting blocks. In each zone the equipment is for use by schools, community sport groups and clubs.
The rationale for the DNSS was based on an analysis of the realities impacting track and field development in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
St Vincent and the Grenadines won its first gold medal at the Carifta Games in the Shot Put event several years ago. However, over time, the appeal of the sprints and running more generally, as well as the dearth of appropriate equipment for the throws have led to a decline in interest in the throwing events, even amongst coaches.
There has been agreement over the past several years that this country has an abundance of sporting talent. The problem has been a systematic approach to developing the talent.
In 2016 and 2017 TASVG was involved in the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) programme. This was the foundation needed to introduce the more scientific approach to the sport strategy.
At the conclusion of the 15-month LTAD programme, TASVG coaches and other personnel had produced a long term development plan for the sport. Although some of the nation’s coaches failed to participate in the programme and are still set in their old, more traditional approach to the sport, many have begun implementing the strategies agreed to and included in the manual.
TASVG acknowledged that in the absence of any synthetic track, whatever about the anxiety of some coaches to develop sprinters, the best option at this time may well be to focus attention on field events – throws and jumps.
The first option was the throws.
So it is that with a firm commitment to provide the requisite equipment in zones, it was deemed necessary to engage coach Phillip to introduce all three of the throws in the designated zones. This was young people would not only learn about the throws but would also have the requisite equipment available to them in their respective areas.
The first and most important step in sport development is participation, not talent identification. This latter step could only be meaningful when the particular athletic discipline has been introduced to as many people as possible, offering them the best opportunities to participate in trying their hands at acquiring the skills. This is what coach Phillip was doing. It is the reason he was careful to introduce the throws to students everywhere he went and assist physical education teachers and coaches in understanding the coaching techniques for the different throwing events.
One of the reasons for emphasising rural areas in the fact that there are fewer distractions for the youths and sport remains a viable recreational option.
Coach Paul Phillip at work at the Arnos Vale Playing Field
Because the best facility for the Shot Put and Discus exist at the Arnos Vale Spots Complex, some athletes were invited from the areas in which Philip worked, to be evaluated.
The DNSS programme had very clear objectives:
Objectives / expected results
The following are the Objectives/expected results as agreed to in the application for the DNSS:
- To introduce the St Vincent and the Grenadines youths to the throwing events of shot put, discus and javelin.
- To identify a core group of about six (6) athletes in each area/zone in each throwing event to undergo training over a four-month period.
- To help coach develop the coaching skills necessary to coach the throwing events.
- To equip athletes and coaches with a systematic and scientific way of developing throwing strength.
- To help develop a throwing culture in the territory. This should ensure there is a pool of talent constantly at work.
- To have identified four (4) athletes in each category in each event capable of throwing at the projected standard: Female Shot Put (11m); Female Discus (26-30m); Female Javelin (28-35m): Male Shot Put (12m); Male Discus (30-35m); Male Javelin (40-50m).
Coach Phillip’s conclusions stated, “Generally, the programme was useful and laid the basis for the systematic development of the throwing events – Shot, Discus and Javelin – in the future. Interest was at a high level and there is reason to believe that with equipment having been made available during the program and for the next two years, we can anticipate St Vincent and the Grenadines featuring prominently at the regional level, initially, and eventually, at the continental and international levels.
He observed that the enhanced performances of athletes from Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada, at the regional and international levels may well serve as a major incentive to youths across the country to gravitate towards the throwing events.
Coach Phillip also cited the fact that there is a shortage of appropriately trained throws coaches in St Vincent and the Grenadines despite the fact that on paper, each edition of the IAAF’s CECS program held in the country has seen individuals opt for this discipline.
There is therefore no active coaching practice in the country to at once engender sufficient interest and programs to produce quality junior level athletes who can be competitive on a regional level.
During the DNSS it was quite noticeable that several physical education teachers and coaches do not feel sufficiently confident with teaching the throwing events. Some, instead of reflecting seriously on their own inhibitions appear instead to assume that it is the students that have no interest in learning the throws.
According to Phillip, “In a nutshell what the DNSS has achieved in part is to highlight the importance of a scientific approach that will equip both coaches and young athletes with the knowledge to develop the proper art of throwing.
“The first phase of the new approach must be to so popularize the sport as to engage larger numbers of participants. There should be a talent identification program, the capturing of the identified talent, the formulation of a structured training program and appropriately times competitions to develop the talent and the management of the trained athlete to ensure that the enhanced performances are achieved on a sustained basis”.
On 7 and 8 March 2018 the Girls’ and Boys’ Heats for the ISSAC would feature a slew of field events. Of the throwing events taught by coach Phillip only the javelin would not feature in this year’s programme. Plans are however afoot to change that in 2019 and beyond.
The athletes are now more enthusiastic about their involvement in an aspect of the Championships that would no longer be placed on the back-burner of the competition. Arrangements are being made to highlight the field events this year in a manner that gives the athletes the attention they deserve and so appeal to those who may have wanted to try their hands at these events but have thus far avoided doing so.
We can certainly look forward to several new ISSAC records being established and a sustained developmental thrust going forward.