Greater preparation needed for School Athletics

Over the past
several weeks we have witnessed one school after another involving its students and staff in the organisation of their respective annual athletics competition. For all intents and purposes all of the schools that hosted the aforementioned competitions lay claim to having done so successfully. Is this the truth?

There was a time when one could have gone to the annual athletics competition of any school in St Vincent and the Grenadines and come away with a sense of satisfaction at different levels. Today this may not necessarily be the case.

Teacher involvement
In some instances one gets the impression that little or no planning has been involved in the preparation for the annual competition. In many instances it is a case of the Physical Education (PE) Teacher (formerly Games Teacher) who is burdened with the onerous task of planning the competition in its entirety. In some institutions this individual is also expected to carry a full teaching load in addition to seeing after the Physical Education programme.
It is often the case, with few exceptions, that the PE Teacher is alone in determining the date for the final competition as well as the dates and process for the conduct of preliminaries.
When the preliminaries are taking place it is often difficult to find teachers from the same school outside of the PE Teacher being involved in their conduct. The PE Teacher often hosts the preliminaries in the midst of great stress. This may well be one of the reasons why the number of students involved in the preliminaries at several of the nation’s schools continues to decline. It is common to find that when the finals come around there are more students not competing than there are on the field of competition.
The planning of the finals generates some interest among teachers because each one wants to see his/her house win glory and etch their names in the annals of the school’s history. This does not necessarily mean, however, that they all come forward to help the PE Teacher.

Programme of events
Planning also involves the preparation of the programme of events. This is often done by the PE Teacher in tandem with the principal of the school.  At times, though, there is not enough involvement or interest shown by the rest of the staff and the two aforementioned persons end up carrying the bag by themselves. Where teachers are fully involved in this part of the planning exercise one finds the competition a very successful activity.
The programme of events ought to be attractive leading to an exciting conclusion with all present becoming fully engrossed at all times.

Accessing playing fields
Fields have to be accessed. This involves writing to the National Sports Council (NSC) or, in the case of the Victoria Park, the National Lotteries Authority (NLA), for permission to use the respective playing field on the dates of the competition. Because the athletics season is a very crowded one and it is also the time for cricket competitions within and between schools and at the wider national and regional levels it is particularly important that requests for playing fields are done well in advance. It is unfortunately never the case that such a request is made one full year in advance when it could in fact be done.

Marking of fields
Fields also have to be adequately marked for the competition. This is now a responsibility shared with the Division of Sports. Schools are expected to supply the paint for the marking well enough in advance of the actual day of competition.
There continues to be some problems in the procurement of paint in a timely manner, giving rise to significant differences in the quality of the field on the day of the sports meet.

Procuring equipment
The PE Teacher must also make certain that he/she has identified all of the athletics equipment needed to guarantee success of the competition. This must also be done well in advance, since, with schools not in possession of much of its own equipment, these would have to be borrowed from Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines and/or the Division of Sports. Here again there is much competition for such resources and early planning would ensure their procurement in a timely manner.

Parental involvement
All too often we do not have enough involvement of parents in their children’s participation in competitions at school.
It remains an important fact that we should seek to involve parents in the planning via the Parents Teachers Associations (PTA), well enough in advance of the competition.
Parents should be told of their children’s involvement and of the importance of being there in support on the actual day of competition. Parents in receipt of adequate notice could request time off to be in attendance much to the delight of their children.

In the recent past the mater of security has become paramount. This is unfortunate since one would have expected that where schoolchildren are concerned this should not have been needed. But unfortunately we have witnessed a growth in the incidence of violence at the nation’s schools under normal circumstances. Students have been accused of bringing weapons with them onto the school’s compound and one is left to assume that these are for use in acts of violence.