Making a difference in sport

The St Vincent and the Grenadines National Olympic Committee is the leading national organisation in the field of human resource development. The number of persons trained in any given year remains an outstanding feature of the organisation’s mode of operation. One wonders though to what extent these training opportunities are positively impacting the national sports landscape.

The ones who benefit most from the programmes of the National Olympic Committee are the athletes. Over the past several years we have had the various affiliates being encouraged to participate in the Grassroots Talent Identification Programme (GTIP) of the NOC. One organisation, the Volleyball Association, has been able to host two sessions on weekends – Saturday and Sunday, while others have been limiting themselves to one day per week – Saturdays.
The NOC offers participating associations financial assistance for providing the coaches involved with stipends, snacks for the participants and transportation for the coaches and the equipment being used for the conduct of the sessions.
From all reports the participation in the various activities under the GTIP has been very good. All associations have indicated that there has been keen interest in their activities and over time the number of participants have grown.
Volleyball has shown remarkable improvement over time and the results are there to show it. Boxing is satisfied that its GTIP in Greggs and Layou has borne fruit and believes that there is immense potential available and once harnessed there will be much to talk about in the future.
In Athletics the young athletes selected to participate in this year’s Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Age Group Championships in Tortola, BVI, proved that the programme is working.
At the senior level athletes continue to access Olympic scholarship. We may recall that the first recipient was Eswort Coombs in the lead up to the Olympics in Atlanta. Unfortunately the one originally allocated to Pamenos Ballantyne was rejected by the athlete who did not want to travel to El Doret, the most accomplished training venue for distance runners. Since then several athletes have been afforded the opportunity. Natasha Mayers’ unfortunate positive drug test eliminated her from any further Olympic scholarship opportunity as well as from participating in the Olympics unless the rules change (They are currently being challenged by Leshawn Merritt backed by the USOC).
Despite accessing the opportunities over the years no one can claim satisfaction with the achievements at the regional and international level. The overseas-based athletes are not among the most communicative with their respective national bodies and some are less than honest in respect of their training, fitness, health and competition readiness.
Athletes at home have a very difficult time achieving excellence in their different sports. Facilities, for the most part, are a tale of woe. Athletics does not have the benefit of any training facility that can be deemed adequate enough to prepare the athletes for the quality of competition abroad. Those like Eswort Coombs, Marvette Collis, Bigna Samuel, Kineke Alexander and Adonson Shallow must be commended for following in the footsteps of the likes of Bunny Baptiste, Ayrton Clouden, Orde Ballantyne, Tyrone James, Jacqueline Ross and others who went before. They all endured the challenges of poor facilities and made it through in the athletics arena to a certain level.
Our boxers have been lamenting the absence of any place even to adequately store their equipment far less to training appropriately despite growing interest among Vincentian youths.
Despite having good facilities at Villa, Tennis has unfortunately not produced the quality athletes we hoped for. The same can be said for Squash. Perhaps it has to do with the capacity of the coaching development programmes as well as the commitment of the athletes involved in these two sports.
Our footballers have been inconsistent for far too long. Our current ranking speaks volumes. Nonetheless the grassroots programme is likely to bear fruit over time just as would be the case with other sports.
There has been no shortage of opportunities offered to coaches from this country over the years.
Each year a minimum of three technical courses are conducted at home for different sports. This has been the case since the late 1980s. Literally hundreds of Vincentians teachers and other interested persons have been trained as coaches conducted by experts certified by the respective international federations.
Gideon Labban and Woodrow ‘Keylee’ Williams were the first Vincentians to benefit from Olympic Solidarity scholarships to study abroad. Godfrey ‘Fuzzy’ Harry and Sally-Ann Butler were also among the list of Vincentian coaches sent to the Hungarian Schools of Physical Education and Sport for advanced training. Stephen Huggins and Rickydeane Alexander were also included amongst those sent to Hungary. Others have also benefitted by being sent for advanced training in other places.
More recently Neisha Alexander headed off to Canada for advanced training for a period of three months. Her training is under the International Support Programme to the African and Caribbean Sport (PSAIC) with funding accessed by the NOC from Olympic Solidarity. This is the first time that this country has been able to access this particular programme.
In early October, Rawlson Morgan would benefit from the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Programme (ICECP) at the University of Delaware and the United States Olympic Committee’s Training Centre in Colorado Springs.
Vincentian coaches have also benefitted from long-term attachments of coaching experts from across the world in athletics, basketball, table tennis, tennis and volleyball for periods ranging between four to six months.
For all of the thousands trained as coaches since the late 1980s when the NOC became affiliated to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) the various sports practised in St Vincent and the Grenadines continue to lament the dearth of committed individuals stepping forward to work in the field. The numbers on the field are not reflective of the quantity trained over the years.
Unfortunately it seems that some of our coaches remain more interested in the certificate and the capacity to engage in discourses than in going out into the field to coach the nation’s children and youths.
Unfortunately too some seem only too anxious to build themselves into monoliths, hording the athletes unto themselves and refusing assistance even when it is clear that they have difficulties in specific areas.
Attempts at having coaches work together for the broader benefit of all of St Vincent and the Grenadines have proven futile and this is most regrettable. There is an urgent need for coaches to cease the tendency towards selfishness and towards genuine appreciation that collaboration leads to success for a greater number of athletes in their respective disciplines. There is little merit is denying some athletes the opportunity to realise their full potential in sport through self-interest and bigotry.
The growing tendency towards constraining athletes to training only with this or that coach even when he/she is not equipped for all of the aspects of the sport in flying in the face of all that coaching science is about. The team approach to coaching has long since been advocated. This allows the athletes to benefit from the expertise available in the various members of the team rather than be inhibited by the limits of one particular coach.
The administrators have not been forgotten.
Vincentian administrators of sport have not been forgotten over the years. Hundreds have been exposed to the Itinerant School for Sport Leaders, an intensive course in sports leadership utilising the manual produced for Olympic Solidarity.
The NOC has also convened specialist courses in communications and crisis management.
Some sport leaders have been exposed to advanced level training abroad and the opportunities continue to be accessed.
All too often sport administrators seem to think that their positions do no require of them continuous personal and academic development. The NOC is always on the search for programmes that would raise the level of the administrators in the country.
Unfortunately we find too many administrators unwilling to access the various programmes. Many start the Itinerant Schools, for example, only to withdraw after one or two sessions claiming that the programme is too long and too demanding on their time.
Other Programmes
The NOC has engaged local personnel to serve on a number of Commissions under the ambit of the National Olympic Academy, the development arm of the NOC.
The Culture and Education Commission focuses on the dissemination of information aimed at familiarising the people of the nation on the positive values of sport. The programme is called, Olympic Values Education (OVEP).
There is also the Sport for All Commission that seeks to bring activities of a broad-based, all-inclusive nature to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines. The most recent such activity was held at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex in November 2010. Another is planned for this year.
The Sport and the Environment Commission has been working with schools and community organisations with the intention of showing the role that sport can play in the establishment and maintenance of a healthy environment for all. This Commission has been responsible for much of the greening around the Arnos Vale Sports Complex and continues to help in facilitating the beautification of the environment there.
The Women in Sport Commission has been engaging girls and women in two major areas, North Windward and North Leeward, in sporting activity. The intention is to combat the significant fallout of girls in sporting activity following the onset of relations with boys.
There is in place an NOC Legacy project which focuses on developing the archives, Library and Sport Information Centre of the NOC. Already several DVDs have been produced on Vincentian sports heroes, four books have been published with more on the way and sports exhibitions have been held around the country.
In each case the NOC seeks to bring on board additional personnel from the affiliates as well as interested persons around the country.
There is no shortage of trained sports personnel in St Vincent and the Grenadine sgiven the extensive reach of the NOC’s activities. The problem is getting those trained to commit to working diligently and consistently in the field.
Unfortunately the NOC finds difficulty in sustaining volunteers. In today’s rapidly changing world voluntarism in under threat in small, open and vulnerable economies such as ours. This probably has to do with the failure over the years for the development of a strong and viable sports culture.
Too many play games with sport and others seem anxious to politicise it. The work remains plentiful and most demanding on those who take up the challenge to volunteer.