The point is, however, made that this was not always the case. She observes:
In St Vincent and the Grenadines, where once female athletes took great interest in track and field athletics until the conclusion of their Secondary schooling it is now only the minority who participate, leaving the sport as essentially the domain of their male counterparts whom they often accompany to their training and competitions at the local level. The interest of the females has shifted from their own athletic development to that of their male counterparts who delight in being the objects of admiration for their physique and accomplishments on the field of play rather than serve as motivators to female participation.
Girls in Action – concept
The Girls in Action programme has as its long-term objective, the increased and sustainable involvement of girls in sport with specific emphasis on track and field athletics.
The approach taken by Griffith is that of introducing females to a structured, science-based well rounded development programme that facilitates the achievement of excellence in the sport locally, regionally and internationally, the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle in the process and commitment to a sound balance between sport and academics.
The programme is justified on the basis that:
A systematic approach to the introduction of the sport of track and field athletics to girls at a very early age and their involvement in a science-based programme that is appropriate to their own physical and emotional growth and development will lead to an appreciation of the sport, inculcation of the values inherent in it, increased interest in and commitment to it. This will guarantee their sustained engagement in the type of training that ultimately leads to excellence.
The programme’s implementation period is two years, at the end of which it is expected that there would be significant numbers of girls and young women involved in sport.
Girls in Action began by focusing attention on girls aged 5-11 years, introducing them to the basics of athletics in three event groups, Running, Jumping, and Throwing. The initial phase of the Girls in Action programme featured a four-month stint, January – April, 2009, during which time attention was placed on training a number of individuals to the New IAAF Level 1 certification and the application of the IAAF’s Kids in Athletics (KIA) Programme to several schools where the certified individuals work as well as a special focus by Griffith on three primary and one secondary school in the North Windward area of the country.
During the period, 7 – 16 January 2009, 14 individuals – six females and eight males – were trained, examined and certified in a course conducted by Griffith and Rawlson Morgan. The equipment for the course was provided by the IAAF and constitutes of several implements made of soft materials for use by children. These are to facilitate their introduction to the major athletics equipment used by older individuals in the sport.
The Ministry of Education was appraised of the project being undertaken by Griffith and duly approved its introduction in the four educational institutions. The schools themselves were approached, the programme explained and the support of the principal and staff solicited. The governing body for the sport, Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines and the National Olympic Committee were also involved throughout every stage of the undertaking.
The programme is now in 11 schools as a direct result of the work undertaken by the successful graduates of the IAAF new Level 1 course and the work of Griffith.
It was also necessary to find a name that was easily marketable, and which would readily facilitate heightened interest in the programme, hence, ‘Girls in Action’ emerged.
Six competitions in Kids in Athletics have been held – five in individual schools, one of which was not involved in the North Windward area component of the project, and one at the zonal level – 4 April 2009, at the London Pl
aying Field, Sandy Bay. The zonal competition has been appropriately recorded and forms part of the archives of the Girls in Action programme and can be used for future development of track and field athletics in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
A national KIA competition would be held on 2nd May, under the auspices of the TASVG and will feature several schools across the nation where KIA has been introduced.
In respect of the mandate to reach girls in particular, thus far the programme has brought 427 of them into contact with the sport and taken them through the fundament. This is particularly important since the target set for 2012 is 1200 females.
The interest shown by the girls who have been introduced to the KIA has been tremendous and surprising, to say the least. The challenge is to ensure sustainability in terms of having them stay with the sport to which they have been introduced. Much would depend on the commitment of the teachers who have been trained in the KIA. This commitment must lead them to continue training in the art and science of coaching athletics. They must work towards excellence in the field of coaching and a possible career in this regard.
The principals would also have to play a role in the girls’ commitment to athletics. They must encourage their ongoing participation in athletic actvities and improve their performances each year at their respective schools sports. They must educate parents on the importance of sport and physical education to the more-rounded development of their girls.
Parents, too, must play their part. They must carry their girls to the playing field and even join them in some aspects of their training. They must be integrally involved in what their girls are doing when exercising for the sport. They must be sources of inspiration to their children, spurring them on to higher levels of involvement, a balanced approach to their studies and their sporting endeavours and the critical pathways to success in both.
The Ministry of Education must continue to encourage graduates to pursue training in physical education and sport as career options at university level, equip the schools with PE teachers and proper sporting stock for training and competition.
What Griffith has started is but the sowing of the seed. There is much work still to be done.