The recent announcement of the establishment of a Faculty of Sports at the University of the West Indies must come as welcome news and a tribute to the continued commitment to sport of current Vice Chancellor, Hilary Beckles of Barbados.
Beckles has been an avid cricket historian and, together with Verene Shepherd, has written a number of books on the topic that will long serve the Caribbean peoples and indeed lovers and enthusiasts of the sport around the world.
Like most Caribbean persons of his era, Beckles has been almost obsessed with the fortunes of West Indies Cricket and has therefore been at the forefront of initiatives aimed at its more systematic development.
Beckles was behind the establishment of a programme of Cricket Studies at UWI’s Cave Hill Campus, Barbados. This initiative saw several enthusiastic students, largely with an interest in history and a love for the sport, engaging themselves in investigating the antecedents and development of the sport in the Caribbean.
It was through this medium that we in St Vincent and the Grenadines were reminded of the Ollivierre Brothers of Bequia, who were reasonable good cricketers of this country, with one of them having been selected on an unofficial West Indies cricket team.
Our own Cleve Scott, was one of the early students engaged in post-graduate studies at Cave Hill and researched much of the early developments of the sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines
Beckles’ love for the sport and commitment to the broader and deeper development of the peoples of the region and the role of sport in this process, soon forged a new initiative, the Cricket Academy, based at the Cave Hill Campus.
There was already a significant memorial to the late, great, Frank Worrell, at the Campus, and so there was a natural fit when the Academy was established and the outstanding West Indian’s name be associated with it.
Combined Campuses and Colleges
The University of the West Indies has been working diligently to establish the Inter Campus Games as one of its primary features. However, despite the efforts, the reality has been that this event has not yet been sufficiently established to feature as an integral part of the Caribbean’s sporting landscape. Much of this may well have to do with leadership and partly due to the near-dearth of financial resources.
The University of the West Indies has been working diligently to establish the Inter Campus Games as one of its primary features. However, despite the efforts, the reality has been that this event has not yet been sufficiently established to feature as an integral part of the Caribbean’s sporting landscape.
Perhaps the single most important fact impacting the Inter Campus Games in the weakness of the sports programme of the UWI itself.
So while UWI has been seeking to gradually develop inter-campus sports there has at the same time not been a concerted effort aimed at allowing the institution to play a major role in the development of physical literacy, physical culture and sport in the region.
Indeed, even now, the concept of physical literacy has not featured in the institution’s lexicon.
Beckles took another initiative and called upon the regional cricket authorities to allow the inclusion of another team in the regional cricket competition. He offered what was called, the Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC).
There are those who still feel that Beckles scored an effective coup d’état of sorts with this initiative. Perhaps it was that he had and still has a vision that he is pursuing. The fact is that the focus remained on cricket.
Over the years the Caribbean has had a number of initiatives undertaken to aid in the development of some sort of education programme for physical education and sport.
Operating in individual silos, we have had initiatives undertaken at the College of Arts Science and Technology (CAST) in Jamaica. Later, the institution as re-named the University of Technology (UTECH).
With assistance from the Cubans, the Michael Manley government created the GC Foster Schools of Physical Education and Sport in Jamaica. There was no direct link with the CAST/UTECH.
In Barbados the Community College began a programme of Physical Education that eventually linked with an Associate Degree Programme at the UWI Cave Hill Campus.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the UWI SPEC emerged under the leadership of Ivo Gloudon, offering a Certificate in Coaching and later, a degree in Sports Management.
Also in the twin-island Republic, the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) emerged and immediately started a sport programme.
The problem for the region was the independent approaches being undertaken by the several institutions in this relatively small Caribbean. The insularity was clearly evident and continues to be in the current period.
One would have expected that at least in the realm of advanced education there would have been a more deliberate effort made to harmonise resources and ultimately achievements. Not so!
Faculty of Sports – UWI
On Wednesday 26 July 2017 the Caribbean was treated to the official launch of the UWI Faculty of Sports. Vice Chancellor, Hilary Beckles, was again at the centre of the initiative.
Unfortunately, the main pictures showcasing the launch featured Vice Chancellor, Hilary Beckles, West Indies player, Rovman Powell and Dean of the newly created Faculty, Askshai Mansingh. The obvious impression gained from the pictures alone was that on yet another occasion, it was mainly about cricket again, a seeming fetish of the goodly Vice Chancellor.
According to UWI, the Faculty of Sport will feature “certificate, bachelor and master’s degrees in Sports Business, Sports Management, Sports Science and the Art and Science of Coaching”.
Dr Akshai Mansingh, the faculty’s dean, explained that “The creation of the Faculty of Sport gives an opportunity to bring together all the creative and scientific minds of the region, while harnessing leaders in sports, in all aspects of sports and throughout the world …. It doesn’t only cater to those who play sports but also to those who play at sports; creative academic minds with an interest in sports to have an opportunity to pursue their research. And practitioners such as coaches, conditioning experts and sports physiotherapists.”
UWI’s Vice Chancellor, Beckles, stated that “The Faculty of Sport marks the first of many highlights in the University’s 70th year anniversary; a truly celebratory occasion since our University’s last faculty was established some 40 years ago. After three scores and ten, it is pivotal that we continue to bring new life into the institution as we work towards a strategic vision of revitalizing Caribbean development.
“Through this new faculty, the University has undertaken the responsibility to ensure the enhancement of sporting excellence that characterizes our Caribbean nations and build upon this reputation to become an internationally-recognized teaching, research and training center in sport and sports-related disciplines. This University faculty consolidates the sporting programmes currently offered on all four campuses of the UWI – including training from certificate to masters in the pedagogy of sport – under a One UWI umbrella of knowledge.
Congratulations are in order for the UWI and Vice Chancellor, Hilary Beckles, for finally seeing the benefit of establishing a Faculty of Sport at the institution that would readily bring under one roof, all of the initiatives started at the different branches of the same organisation.
One would certainly hope that this allows for a exemplification of the benefits of a unified approach to this particular aspect of life in the Caribbean.
Despite UWI’s gloating at its own initiative, the rest of the Caribbean has not yet begun warming to the idea that there is a Faculty of Sport now at the regional institution.
The fact is that Beckles himself, much like so many of the region’s political leaders, came through their own development at a time when cricket was the tool through which black people of the Caribbean told the world that we were as gifted, sport-wise, as any other peoples in the world, regardless of colour, ethnicity or geographical size and location.
Beckles himself, along with Verene Shepherd, spoke to the importance of seeing the region’s learning and emergent proficiency in the sport of cricket as ‘Liberation Cricket’. They, like CLR James, spoke of the regional players’ understanding of the utilisation of cricketing prowess and instrumental in embodying the aspirations of the broader population as they struggled to rid themselves of the shackles of colonialism.
Beckles, like PJ Patterson and Keith Mitchell, may be forgiven for their seeming cricket prejudice. But they must all understand that since the Olympic Games of 1948 in London, UK, Jamaican track and field athletes sounded a warning to the world that we were not only about cricket. Indeed, the Caribbean has become known in international sporting circles more for athletics than any other sport.
We continue to lament the seeming lack of vision of our Caribbean politicians who, having come through the years if struggle against Colonialism, saw cricket as the only sport that spoke to our successes. We have spent little time examining the significant standing that we now have in international athletics such that the world expects us to feature prominently all of the time.
CARICOM, itself also caught up in the aforementioned conundrum, went ahead and established a Cricket Committee rather than a Sports Committee, a true reflection of the organisation’s own myopia.
Beckles and his UWI must now engage in a significant re-think of the approach to be undertaken regarding the institutionalisation of Physical Education and Sport under its ambit. Additionally, UWI must now play a leading role in harmonising the efforts of the several educational institutions in the Caribbean currently engaged in programmes for physical education and sport so that the entire region can reap the immense benefits to be derived.
For too long our approach to development has been characterised by our negative insularity. If we can mature somewhat and realise the immense potential of physical literacy, physical education, physical activity and sport to the realisation of this Caribbean we call home, we would readily rise above the often petty issues that constantly reduces us to tribalism of one form or another.
The establishment of a Faculty of Sports at UWI offers yet another opportunity to harness our resources and build bridges of unity across the miles of water that separates us. We can work diligently to ensure that while the water separates us it should never be allowed to divide us.