Huge opportunities for Carifta 2016
In early August this year Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines (TASVG) has named and engaged a very large training squad for the Carifta Games scheduled to be held in Grenada over the Easter weekend in neighbouring Grenada.
If all goes well and the athletes live up to expectations we could easily see the largest national representative track and field contingent of all time to leave local shores for regional and international competition.
Training has begun and the coaches and athletes have been duly informed of the plans to help this country enter a new phase in the sport.
For the past several years TASVG has met all of its commitments to the International Association of Athletics Associations (IAAF), its continental organisation, the North American, Central American and Caribbean Area Association (NACAC) as well as the sub regional body, the Central American and Caribbean Athletics Confederation (CACAC) by sending national representative teams to their respective competitions.
Over the years our national athletes have had mixed success. We have won medals of all colorations at the different competitions and have been appropriately recognised as a small country with immensely talented athletes.
The successes attained by home-based athletes must be considered remarkable given the paltry state of our facilities. Our physical education teachers and coaches must be commended for their diligence in the field. Despite the bickering that is perhaps all too common they have produced athletes of quality with support of parents and teachers.
During this year TASVG has taken teams of young athletes to the Carifta Games in St Kitts and Nevis, Hampton Games in Trinidad and Tobago, The Barbados National Championships, the CAC Age Group Championships (Trinidad and Tobago), the NACAC Open Championships (Costa Rica), the World Youth Championships (Colombia) and the World Championships (China).
It was unfortunate that at least one coach sought influence athletes and their parents to dissuade some of our talented athletes from representing this country at the annual Windward Islands Schools Games held in Dominica. This was not the first time that such an embarrassing and untenable situation existed here and one would hope that the governmental authorities would address it sooner rather than later.
There is clear evidence that we now have an excellent grouping of youth (under 18) and junior athletes (under 20), male and female, with the requisite talent. The talented athletes have been identified and are the ones called up for extensive training in preparation for next year’s competitions.
Carifta in Grenada
Carifta Games 2016 will be held at the completely rebuilt national stadium in St George’s, Grenada.
TASVG has a longstanding relationship with Grenada that dates back to the Whitsuntide Games and includes the country’s national championships. Additionally, TASVG has been sending athletes and coaches to participate in the annual training programme the first two weeks of December for the past four years, an activity that has brought immense benefits.
The proximity of the Games certainly begs for us to send a larger contingent than when the event is farther away. There is not only the option of flying across but also using a ferry to get there.
The Carifta Games is easily one of the most exciting and attracting youth and junior track and field competition in the world. Carifta records reveal numerous athletes who have gone on to become medallists at the very highest level of international competition.
Grenada last held the Carifta Games in 2000. It was the first time that the country had hosted the event and it coincided with the opening of the newly built national stadium at the time.
The Games of 2000 were a resounding success and everyone thought the Spice Isle was on to a new sport development pathway. The truth of this was borne out when the country again hosted an international athletics event in 2003, the Central American and Caribbean Senior Championships and the NACAC Quadrennial Congress.
Unfortunately however, the national stadium was embroiled in controversy in respect of its construction. There were issues involving two major companies from Trinidad and Tobago. There was also the matter of severe cracks that emerged in the facility from foundation to the top of the walls that left many very concerned for the safety of users.
Grenada successfully bid to host the Carifta Games 2004. Unfortunately, in the hurricane season of 2003 the country experienced extensive devastation from the impact of hurricane Ivan. The national stadium’s roofs collapsed and the country had to withdraw as host of the big athletics event. Since then Grenada has been seeing support for the reconstruction of the national stadium.
Grenada is a sporting country and athletics has always been the sport that gave it global recognition.
In 1976, Grenada’s athletics super hero, Donald Pierre, defeated the world and USA’s leading 400m champion, Fred Newhouse, at the Southern Games at the Guaracara Park, Pointe-a-Pierre, South Trinidad. The Games were often considered a sort of Caribbean Olympics.
Pierre, who started competing as a marathon runner, distinguished himself as an outstanding athlete winning everything through to the 400m. He was also known to contest the 200m and 100m events. Not surprisingly, Kirani James, Grenada’s Olympic and world champion, emerged from the same fishing community of Gouyave on the country’s west coast.
Grenada’s Alleyne Francique, twice won the IAAF’s World Indoor 400m title.
Like St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada’s first Carifta gold medal came in the field events. Eros Rapier won the country’s first medal with the Javelin.
Grenada’s hosting of the Carifta Games of 2016 is an event that the entire global athletics fraternity is anxiously awaiting and St Vincent and the Grenadines is committed to being part of the mega-event with the hope of having athletes who are competitive and can do well enough to mount the medal podium.
Success of our athletes in Grenada next year can only come from their own commitment to the work programme prepared by both their respective coaches and the TASVG. This preparation involves a number of critical components.
Each of the athletes selected to be part of the training squad with a chance of gaining selection for the Carifta Games 2016 must subject him/herself to a medical organised by TASVG with a designated medical practitioner. This is compulsory.
TASVG must be duly satisfied that each athlete is sufficiently well, medically, to undertake the strenuous training required to become appropriately competitive and make the standards established by the organisation for making the team.
During the training, TASVG must ensure that the health and general well-being of the athletes are monitored periodically to facilitate their continued training.
The coaches of athletes selected to the training squad would be required to submit to TASVG the training programmes with which the athletes are working. This is an essential component of the preparation to ensure that there are programmes and that should problems arise the organisation can furnish medical personnel and parents with evidence of just what the athletes were supposed to be doing.
Parents must know precisely what exercises and programmes their children are being given in training so that they can understand the situation at all times.
Failure to attend training session with acceptable regularity would necessitate a review of whether or not the athletes involved should be retained or replaced on the squad.
Due attention must be paid to the nutritional status of each of the athletes selected to the training squad.
All too often it is found that children are being asked to engage in strenuous training programmes without coaches knowing what they had to eat, if anything at all, and the nutritional status of what the ate.
Training for high-level competition requires sustained good nutrition.
Many children who become involve din track and field athletics come from single-parent homes and the lower end of the social class structure of Vincentian society. They come with low to poor nutritional statuses. They nonetheless come with much enthusiasm because sport is a way of making up for family deficiencies and an opportunity to share oneself with others in meaningful activities.
Teachers are the ones most often aware of the nutritional status of children in their charge and it is important that coaches and TASVG take the time to understand the reality and commit to significantly impacting deficiencies wherever they are found.
Athletes need regular competitions to test their progress. It is therefore imperative that the athletes selected to the Carifta training squad are able to ac cess regular competition at an increasingly challenging level to allow for systematic and objective assessment of progress.
Athletes working towards making the established standards for selection to the final Carifta Games 2016 team must show consistent progression. The idea is not simply to make the team but to excel at the Games and possibly win medals. Mediocrity is not an acceptable option.
TASVG, parents, schools, clubs and coaches must work together towards raising the requisite funding to access appropriate competition for the athletes in training and who show progress.
Finally, selected athletes must be assisted with their personal development. Unfortunately this is one area to which enough attention is not paid by sporting organisations and coaches.
TASVG must constantly monitor the educational performance of the athletes who have been selected for training. They must help these athletes strike the right balance between their educational progress and their involvement in sport training. Where help is needed it must be provided in collaboration with parents, teachers, coaches and clubs.
Young athletes preparing for the Carifta Games 2016 must also be engaged in learning to communicate effectively. They must be trained to move beyond monosyllabic responses to questions asked and be able to keep meaningful conversations and conduct themselves adequately in interviews with media personnel.
Athletes must be trained in understanding and practising courtesy at all times and also become proficient at conducting themselves appropriately at meal tables and social and official functions. They must learn to dress appropriately.
Selected athletes must ever mindful that they represent their families, schools, clubs and the nation all at once. They are reflections of their training.
Indeed, TASVG has a responsibility to ensure that above all the selected athletes are adequately prepared to serve as ambassadors of St Vincent and the Grenadines since that is how they would be perceived.