Coaches and sport development in SVG

blowing_whistle1For almost three decades the St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee (SVGOC) has been offering technical courses for coaches around St Vincent and the Grenadines. No part of this nation has been excluded from the numerous training options that have been made available through the Olympic Solidarity (OS) and international federation (IF) sponsored programmes.
Over the years close to 1000 individuals have been trained as coaches.
Admittedly, some international federations have been slower to establish coaches’ development pathways than others but the vast majority now have a structured education programme for coaches taking them through different levels from basic through to high performance. Three options of coaches training have been offered by the SVGOC – technical courses, the development of a national sport structure (both done locally with IF expertise brought in), coaches scholarships for advanced training at internationally renowned institutions or special programmes and, most recently, Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD).
Technical Courses for coaches
The technical courses for coaches features an expert in coaches’ education identified by the international federation who comes to St Vincent and the Grenadines and conducts training sessions for coaches.
Usually, the training involves the preparation of the coaches through theoretical and practical sessions over a 10-day period, culminating with an exam that allows access to IF-certification at a particular level.
Some IFs allow training through to a relatively advanced level to be done at home while others insist that the higher levels must be done at one of their institutions abroad.
The technical courses usually target 15 – 20 persons. Less than that the course is not deemed viable.
Every affiliate of the SVGOC that is an Olympic sport has been in receipt of several of these technical courses over the past decades and so, would have trained numerous coaches at different levels.
It should be noted however that IFs have standards that determine which coaches can be deemed eligible to advance to the next level of coaches’ education based on performance in the earlier and lower levels.
The SVGOC accesses 10 technical courses in any given quadrennial plan of OS. Each course is usually allocated up to $8,000USD.
Development of National Sports Structure (DNSS)
The SVGOC has been accessing DNSS programmes for several years. Only one of these can be accessed in any given year.
The DNSS allows an affiliate of the SVGOC to benefit from an internationally certified expert appointed by the IF, often as recommended by the local national sports association, over a period up to as many as six months. Because of the cost of the honorarium of some experts and the coast of their airfares some programmes may not exceed four months.
The appointed expert commits to working with the particular national sports association to develop the organisation so that it becomes sufficiently well structured, administered and committed to sustainable pathways for athletes, coaches, technical officials and administrators.
The majority of national associations that have accessed the DNSS have spent much of the time and resources on developing coaches and a coaching structure for their respective organisations.
Over the years the budget for the DNSS has moved from $20,000 USD through to $30,000 USD at the present time.
Here again most of the affiliates of the SVGOC that are Olympic sports have benefitted from at least one DNSS programme.
Coaches Scholarships for training abroad
Over the past several years the SVGOC has accessed scholarships for coaches to participate in advanced coaching programmes abroad.
Initially the Hungarian Institute of Physical Education and Sport was used and each year two coaches were sent for training. More recently the SVGOC has been using the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program (ICECP). This is a collaborative undertaking between the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the University of Delaware, sponsored by Olympic Solidarity. Participants spend six weeks in different parts of the USA before returning home and completing a project for submission and certification.
The SVGOC has also been using the International Support Programme to the African and Caribbean Sport (PAISAC), over a three-month period in Canada with special emphasis on Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD). Olympic Solidarity also sponsors this scholarship.
Accessing two scholarships annually for the past several years assured St Vincent and the Grenadines of a relatively large cadre of coaches who have benefitted from advanced training.
Long Term Athlete Development
In the recent past the SVGOC was selected as one of six Caribbean NOCs to be part of a pilot project for the development of Long Term Athlete Development programmes for their respective countries. The others are The Bahamas, Haiti, BVI, Surinam and Trinidad and Tobago.
The project features involvement of the Canadian Sport for Life (S4L) founders as experts, Olympic Solidarity, the Canadian Olympic Committee, CANOC and the respective NOCs.
Over a 15-month period several national sports associations here would be involved in crafting draft LTAD programmes for their respective sports and institutions.
The LTAD project is one that should attract the sustained interest of all coaches since it allows them to work collaboratively to forge a development pathway for athletes from below the age of five years through to their senior years.
The Project calls on the coaches in the different sports to examine the uniqueness of the Vincentian topography, the food we eat and our eating habits, physical as well as psychological maturation processes, commitment to training and competition and the type of work loads at each stage in an athlete’s life. The foregoing is critical in determining who moves on to becoming an elite athlete and who moves into the general recreation stream.
It is unfortunate that not all sports associations have readily grasped the opportunity afforded them to fashion a developmental pathway for their individual sports that is uniquely Vincentian as opposed to being merely generic.
With two visits by experts already completed and several webinars conducted, those participating associations and the interested coaches are working diligently to effect a more scientific approach to the development of their respective sports in a uniquely Vincentian way. It is therefore important for coaches who have thus far spurned the project in their respective sports to get on board and help in the fashioning of the final product.
It should be noted that the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment has eagerly participated in the LTAD project thus far. This is of vital importance given the role of so many aspects of an individual’s health to a successful career in sport.
Coaches’ development
One would have imagined that with so many coaches having been trained over the past decades St Vincent and the Grenadines would have been adequately served with caching capacity in the field of the several sports that should have benefitted. That is not necessarily the case.
Coaches continue to have opportunities for training athletes but the numbers in the field remain relatively sparse. There remains a great disparity between the numbers trained and those who are practising regularly.
Some of the physical education teachers who are trained coaches find it a real burden to avail themselves additional time to work with athlete sin different sports after school hours. For them the average school day takes too much out of them already and their family commitments simply do not allow time to engage in coaching.