On Tuesday 16 May 2017 this country entered a new chapter in sport. Several coaches involved in a 18-month programme graduated. They now have a strong foundation in physical literacy and Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD).
The programme involved five working visits from experts from the Canadian organisation, Sport for Life (S4L) as well as a range of webinars.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is one of six Caribbean countries selected by the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees (CANOC) to participate in the pilot project aimed at bringing modern scientific approaches to physical literacy and long term athlete development to bear on the sport development processes in the Caribbean. The countries involved are: Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Haiti, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
UNESCO refers to literacy in its traditional use as the …“ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society“(UNESCO Education Sector Position Paper: 13. 2004).
It is possible then, to identify literacy aspects of almost every possible subject.
It is therefore not surprising that physical literacy has emerged as a viable concept in contemporary discourse.
Margaret Whitehead, usually credited with the popularizing of the concept of physical literacy, defined it as “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, respond effectively and communicate, using the embodied human dimension, within a wide range of situations and contexts. Physical Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society” (Turner, J. Active For Life, 28 June 2013).
Thus we move from an understanding of and engagement in physical literacy to physical activity and then on to sport and a generally active life.
The idea is that if our nation comes to an appreciation of physical literacy the benefits are immense. We will experience significant reduction in the thorny life style diseases that so often ravage our society.
Sport for Life Canada has simplified long term athlete development as follows: “Children, youth and adults need to do the right things at the right time to develop in their sport or activity – whether they want to be hockey players, dancers, figure skaters or gymnasts. Long–Term Athlete Development (LTAD) describes the things athletes need to be doing at specific ages and stages”.
This approach allows for every individual to be given due consideration in being introduced to physical activity. Every child is given the opportunity to participate without any form of discrimination. This means that opportunities abound for everyone to learn a variety of physical movements and ultimately, of sport fundamentals.
This gets rid of the age-old practice where only those who immediately display an aptitude to some sport are then put aside, almost automatically, as talented while the rest are cast aside as virtually useless. This demeans those individuals and significantly impacts their confidence levels.
LTAD offers every child an active start.
Clearly not everyone would become a top athlete but at least everyone would have the confidence that they can do things that leaves them with the opportunity for an active life through to the end of their days.
LTAD also allows for those who go into competitive sport to undergo scientific training based on a combination of their chronological age, training age, physical and emotional development.
The primary objectives of the project, all of which were met, involved the following:
Sport for Life will design and deliver a comprehensive program of long-term athlete
development knowledge, modeling, system development, advancement of long-term
athlete development education and strategy to these six countries of the Caribbean.
Using a combination of in-country and out of country consultations, Sport for Life will work
with local officials and sport leaders to create, implement and monitor sport-specific and
country-specific long-term athlete development frameworks/models.
To align local and national sport systems through the application of Sport for Life and long term
athlete development principles.
Sport for Life will work collaboratively to develop a ‘blueprint’ national strategy for each
nation engaged in the project.
Some have asked why we chose S4L.
The reasons lie in the following facts:
- Sport for Life builds and improves national/regional sport systems; develops athlete
- development models & pathways relevant to the client; trains and educates sport system leaders
- (government, sport orgs, educational leaders) in Sport for Life principles; analyzes sector
- funding; assesses and aligns systems of competition; and builds comprehensive strategies toward
- sustainable sport systems
- Sport for Life created the concept of ‘Long-Term Athlete Development’ (LTAD) and has
- developed successful Long-Term Athlete Development frameworks for over 100 national sport
- organizations for countries around the world
For the past 13 years, Sport for Life has been the unique provider of Sport for Life services and LTAD to the federal government of Canada, all Canadian provincial governments and over 100 national sport organizations globally.
Sport for Life is actively working with sport leaders, universities and governments in Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Singapore, Sweden, Wales, and the US (Utah, US Hockey)
Sport for Life’s delivery team includes Istvan Balyi MA, Richard Way MBA, Thomas Jones MBA, Dr Colin Higgs, Dr Dean Kriellaars, Dr. Vicki Harber, Drew Mitchell, Tom Jones, among others.
The reality is that S4L has proven itself to be at the forefront of scientific work in the sport development process, challenging existing concepts and processes.
This is not to say that LTAD is the ultimate for all time. It is still very much a work in progress but it allows our respective associations to have their coaches work in collaboration to continually engage in monitoring and evaluation to better the system. It allows for this kind of dynamism.
Now that the pilot project is completed we can look to the future with much optimism, even though starting with small steps.
At the level of the Caribbean CANOC has commenced discussions on an initiative dubbed, Move Caribbean. This is intended to have all of the initiatives that are currently disparate across the region under one umbrella aimed as moving the peoples of the region towards active living.
Physical literacy must become a household concept understood by all peoples of the Caribbean and must translate into innovative activities intended to move us into higher categories of nations where health and fitness matters.
People must become more concerned about their diets and broader lifestyle choices.
At the local level the St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee has started work on the development of a programme called, Vincy Moves. It is the localized component of Move Caribbean and therefore integral to it.
This initiative seeks to bring together all agencies involved in one way or another with the business of the well-being of the peoples of the country. There must be a cross-fertilisation of ideas relative to how Vincentians can adopt healthy living as a matter of course.
National sports associations that have completed their projects are expected to engage in the full-scale implementation of their strategies with immediate effect. Indeed, some national associations have already commenced implementing their strategies at the school and community levels.
What is necessary is that in each sport the coaches are able to share their understanding of LTAD and discuss how they can engage in appropriate research to develop the process further.
We must rise above the tendency towards having coaches resist the temptation to engage in continuous education in respect of their craft. Too many sit on their early education as coaches and accept it as fixed. Their further development, they believe, is the stuff of experience only. They stop reading and hide in their own cocoons, hoping that the truth would not be revealed.
Coaches must understand that they can contribute to the development of their craft. This is however only possible if they consistently develop themselves by engaging in consistent dialogue with each other and participating in research with coaches elsewhere in the world.
Education never stops.
Graduating from the physical literacy and LTAD programme this week is just the beginning. It constitutes the proverbial ‘foot in the door’. The choice is with the coaches themselves sand their respective associations to either push open the door to genuine advancement and development or have it slammed shut in their faces.