Inter Schools Football et al

In looking at a football match at the Grammar School Playing Field recently it was not so evident that the players on the field were anything beyond the junior members of the teams of the respective schools. They all seemed to be so very small.
It was most surprising to learn that in fact the two teams were the senior ones from the respective schools. It all looked so stunning.
Indeed some of those looking on commented on the size of the players and also observed that generally it seems that today’s secondary school students are smaller than those of years gone by. One person remarked that in the past when one observed two senior school teams involved in a football match one could easily have seen players capable of immediately playing for the national team of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The comment about the size of the children of this country today stands in stark contrast to the children seen in some of our neighbouring countries where they seem to be so big for their age.
Whatever the reason for their seemingly small size the challenge is really for our parents, physical educators and coaches to take a more scientific approach to the introduction of physical education and sport to the nation’s children.
Football competition
Over the past several years we have witnessed a changing of the guard in terms of schools competition in football. It is no longer taken for granted that the St Vincent Grammar School would rule the roost in the football competitions.
The establishment of several new secondary schools has meant that many of the students no longer have to attend the St Vincent Grammar School or any of the Kingstown schools for that matter. They can stay in their respective geographical areas and attend secondary school just as has happened at the primary school level.
Many would recall the days of the Bethel High School’s experience of starting in the first form with the likes of Kendol ‘Ken I’ Velox, Rodney ‘Chang’ Jack and Curtis ‘Fame’ Joseph. They got horsewhipped beyond measure. However, because they stayed and played together for their school career, they eventually emerged as school football champions for successive years, putting a sound whipping on every team against whom they competed as if in revenge for the defeats in their early years.
The developmental pathway
It has been a tradition that the school is the cradle of sporting development for all athletes. It is therefore expected that the young footballers we now see playing at the secondary school level would move on to clubs and then hopefully on to national representation.
It is unfortunate that while we are seeing a secondary schools football competition being played at the junior and senior levels we are not seeing any Inter Primary Schools Football Competition. This is an unfortunate loss to the development of the game in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
It is very important that at the early stages of the child’s life he/she gets the opportunity to engage in a wide variety of physical activity without being forced to specialise.
Thus it is that at home, the parents should ensure that the children engage in play from very early. It is at the home that the child gets the first experience of physical education. Parents try to show the children by example the rudiments of movement. This is to be supported by the introduction to more deliberate movement training at the pre school level.
At the primary school level the child should have already been exposed to physical education and so the development of their understanding of this discipline would be taken to another level here.
At the secondary school the child should be as ready for physical education and sport as they would be for any other subject area given the foundation work previously undertaken at the preparatory and primary schools.
Students should be encouraged to participate in physical activity throughout their careers. This will allow them to retain an active healthy lifestyle through to their golden years.
The Vincentian scenario
In St Vincent and the Grenadines we do not have enough of a sense of the importance of physical education to daily living. This is exemplified in the fact that we do not really seek to work with parents to engage their children in a range of physical activity and a love for it t the very early stages in the child’s life and development.
As the child enters the preschool too many parents are overly cautious about their children’s engagement in physical activity. They try to offer explanations of all sorts to avoid having their children participate in any sort of physical activity. This often leads to the children staying clear of physical activity for most of their lives.
This pattern of behaviour is common at the primary and secondary schools as well and denies the children so affected from getting into a healthy and active lifestyle.
It is unfortunate that our preschool teachers are not appropriately trained in physical education. Many ‘do their thing’ regarding physical activity but are not sufficiently knowledgeable of the importance of the activities in which they engage students. Much of this also takes place at the primary school level and is appreciated whenever they are called upon to participate in competitions. What happens then is that the teachers take those students who display an aptitude for the particular sport and hasten to get them into a team for the competition. There is no real training engaged in and so the students are really being done a grave disservice. Those who show no aptitude may never be encouraged to get involved in any sport. Indeed, they may shy away from sport altogether.
The situation continues into the secondary school and again at the tertiary level. Not surprisingly there is little sporting activity engaged in at the tertiary level. Efforts to get competitions between the tertiary institutions here have been particularly difficult.
At the primary school level here physical education is not compulsory. This has proven to be one of the major travesties in our education system. It means that we are trying to get students to appreciate physical education and sport as subjects when they are in the secondary school, which is too late.
We do not adopt this approach to the teaching of English, mathematics or History so why is it acceptable for physical education and sport?
This should never be the case. We must accord physical education and sport the same attention as we give to other subjects on our school curriculum at the primary school level.
The Physical Education and Sport Teachers Association (PESTA) must play a major role in canvassing for the aforementioned approach to the subject to be undertaken by the Ministry of Education. This would necessitate appropriate staffing at the primary school level and the training of the preschool teachers.
It is PESTA that has to undertake the research and propose developmental options to the Ministry of Education in order to establish physical education and sport as a subject just as critical to the student’s development as any other.
It is PESTA that must broaden its scope to challenge what happens at our tertiary educational institutions.
There is absolutely no reason why physical activity is not compulsory at the tertiary level here.
School Sports
The situation described at the beginning of this week’s Column is true of virtually all of the sports played at the school level here today.
It therefore means that given the foregoing analysis there is much work to be done at all levels beginning importantly at the level of the Ministry of Education. There has to be a fundamental review of the educational policy such that physical education and sport as a twin-discipline is given appropriate recognition and adequate resources applied to its establishment on the curricula of all levels of the education system in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Ministry of Education must be able to market the importance of physical education and sport to the parents of this country in much the same way that it sells the other subjects deemed critical to a full education of the child.
Our school sports can benefit from the infusion of new ideas emergent from a PESTA that engages in research and development strategies,
The matter of size of the children will be addressed by the consistent application of science-based investigation and the application of the new strategies.
The respective national associations must be involved in research and development as well and take greater interest in the role of the nation’s schools in creating appropriate feeder programmes through to the clubs.
It is in the best interest of the various associations to ensure that their representation on and leadership of the sub committees of the Schools Games Committee lead to an appropriate fit with their broader development strategies for the respective sports in which they are involved. This is the pathway to genuine development of the national sports programme and increasing success.