During the past several months this country has witnessed a new initiative in sport. This is the St Vincent and the Grenadines Grassroots Female Athletics Development Programme (SVGGFADP) that goes by the more dynamic and catchy name, Girls in Action. The programme is the brainchild of Rosmund Griffith, a graduate of the GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sport in Jamaica and a certified Level 3 coach under the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Coaches Education Certification System (CECS) and an Instructor in the IAAF new Level 1 and Level 2 courses under the same system.
Griffith and Rawlson Morgan are recent graduates of the course conductors’ programme organised by the IAAF’s Regional Development Centre (RDC) in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Girls in Action Programme emerged out of Griffith’s participation in an advanced coaching programme organised by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) in tandem with Olympic Solidarity, the development arm of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The Girls in Action programme was based on an analysis of the reality in St Vincent and the Grenadines relative to the participation of girls – active involvement – in sport. While clearly netball remains the major sport of choice of girls in the country, participation has been on the decline. It was not so long ago that the St Vincent and the Grenadines Netball Association celebrated its 50th anniversary. Back then the organisation’s annual national championships saw record registration of participating teams. More that 50 teams had registered. That seemed to have been a high point in the sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Since then the numbers have declined. Several teams that registered for the annual competition do not complete the schedule of matches.
Additionally, the Industrial Netball competition has died a natural death and the Constituency Competition seems to be barely limping along.
The decision to attach the Canadian funded Healthy Lifestyle programme to netball has not stemmed the tide of declining participation.
Football has attracted several girls and young women but the numbers are not particularly staggering and this version of the game is yet to make its entry in the school system. Basketball has been hosting a female competition but here again the numbers are nothing to shout about and like football, this version of the game is not yet in the nation’s schools.
In the case of cricket, women’s cricket has long been in existence and a major attraction at the soft ball level but there is no national governing body to which this version of the game owes allegiance. The hard ball version of the game does not have as many adherents.
The other sports practised in St Vincent and the Grenadines do not seem to attract girls and young women in significant numbers on a sustainable basis. Tennis, squash, track and field athletics, table tennis, volleyball and cycling all seem to have smatterings of females who appear and disappear as they please.
The concern over the declining involvement of girls in sport and more specifically in track and field athletics prompted Griffith to focus on redressing this phenomenon over time.
In her thesis, Griffith explains the reality:
Females participate well in sports generally and track and field athletics in particular during their schooling at the Elementary level, ages 5 – 11 years. As they commence the Secondary School system there is evidence of a significant decline in interest and participation in sport. Several factors have been identified as probable causes for this change in attitude toward participation in sport – a shift in focus solely on to academics largely prompted by parental ambitions, relationships with boys, early sexual activities and a concern for one’s physical appearance.