Making the best of what we have

It is most interesting to see just how many sporting organisations have been gaining access to the strip on the former ET Joshua airport in Arnos Vale.

Automobile enthusiasts have been having a field say since the airport has been relocated to Argyle and Vincentians, anxious to see speed, spills and thrills, have been all too eager to become an avid spectator to each of the events.
Cyclists have also become a regular feature on the strip, led of course by Trevor ‘Sailor’ Bailey, president of the Cycling Union. We can no doubt expect to see a few cycling competitions held on the strip sometime soon.
While it is good to see sport getting an opportunity to use the facility at the former ET Joshua Airport, it seems necessary to ask exactly who is responsible for its maintenance. This has been necessitated by the fact that the grass alongside the tarmac is not as well manicured as has hitherto been the case. The type of grass is such that unless it is cut with some regularity there is a tendency for rapid growth that makes it very difficult to cut.
The use of the facility must be accompanied by adequate maintenance.
If we are hosting competitive sport events on the strip then every effort must be made to give the facility an appearance that is attractive and most welcoming.
It may also be prudent to secure temporary bleachers that can be moved around since the comfort of the patrons must be given due consideration.
It does not really matter that the facility is at times a temporary venue. The same requirements are necessary for any sporting venue once it is being used and paying patrons are expected.Optimising what’s available at Arnos Vale
Most Vincentians are not aware of exactly what the government is doing or planning to do with the real estate that is the old ET Joshua Airport. Several project ideas have made it into the public domain but until such time as the government makes an official pronouncement no one is certain as to what will be located there, when and how expansive.
The strip itself is relatively long and can be used for several activities on any given day. Indeed, different sports can conduct activities at different points along the strip on a specified day.
But what of the old hangar?
Mention has been made of the state of that facility and the possibility that it would require some modifications if it is to be used, at least temporarily, for indoor sports. 
The fact is that Boxing urgently needs somewhere to conduct training. There are several individuals who have an interest in boxing and are willing to train at a facility that is readily available and where the leadership and store its available equipment.
Basketball, Gymnastics, Taekwondo, Karate, Table Tennis and Netball, are all anxious to get an appropriate indoor facility on which to practise and compete.
There exists an opportunity for Vincentian indoor sports to come together and work with the Ministry of Sport, the National Sport Council and the National Olympic Committee to benefit from a facility more consistent with the requirements of their respective international federations.
Temporary or not it is quite possible to have several of the indoor sport meet and plan just how they can utilise the old hangar, with whatever adjustments that are needed, to allow for more consistent training and competition to up the ante on our competitiveness.
Temporary seating can be installed to accommodate paying patrons. When the government chooses to begin work on whatever project it agrees for the location the temporary stands can be removed to another facility.
The administrative facilities
The old airport administrative facilities at Arnos Vale can also be used as administrative offices for the different national sports associations that as yet do not have a home.
There can be a centralised administrative secretariat that can also double up as a sort of Main Operations Centre (MOC) for the coordination of training and competitions, regardless of the sport.
Every sport competition requires a MOC. This is the veritable hub of everything that happens in the sport on competition day(s).
There is also ample space for the storage of equipment that are for each individual sport using the overall facilities as well as for those sports whose collaborative initiatives allow sharing of equipment.
The MOC accommodates the generalised security system and personnel of each event using the facilities. They always have a very important vantage point to allow the successful implementation of their most strategic plans.
The administrative and technical experts ten to locate at the MOC where they can share ideas, review events and incidents as well as recommend and discuss new strategies for enhancement of the end product.
The MOC is the central communications point in a sport event. Effective communications are critical to the success of any event.
The administrative centre at Arnos Vale, if transformed into a MOC, can readily facilitate significant economies of scale in the broader matter of planning and executing major sports events in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Collaboration in sport
One of the important features of the sport development process in St Vincent and the Grenadines is the necessity of greater collaboration amongst sporting organisations.
At present what we have is a series of sport organisational silos, almost as though these institutions are competing against each other rather than having their athletes compete favourably against the region and the world.
It remains an unfortunate truism in Vincentian sport that even at the level of the individual athlete we simply refuse to apply the benefits of Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD). In this scientific approach to athlete development we encourage participation in a multiplicity of sports from an early age. Specialisation is discouraged since the individual child is still in the physical and musculo-skeletal phases. As the child matures he/she is being prepared physically enough to allow scientific coaches to determine the sport and discipline in the sport for which he/she is best suited.
There are some sports like Gymnastics where science requires earlier assessment given the requirements of the sport. It is well known that in Gymnastics an athlete is considered a veteran at a relatively young age. Renowned Olympic Gymnast, Nadia Comanechi of Romania is perhaps the best example for global reference. At age 14, competing in the Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada, 1976, she shocked the world when she recorded the first-ever perfect 10 in an Olympic Gymnastic event. This was in the uneven bars. In the same competition she topped her initial performance by recording six more perfect 10 scores to become the youngest all-round Olympic Gymnastics champion in the history of the sport.
Four years later, competing at the Moscow Olympics, she won the balance beam and floor exercises. By this time, she was already being considered a veteran at the age of 18 years. In 1984, another four years later, she retired from the sport.
Specialisation in a particular Gymnastics discipline is recommended for athletes between the ages of 9 – 11 for girls and 10 – 12 for girls.
In the sport of Swimming, the Canadian LTAD model suggests much that is different from what obtains elsewhere in the world. The Canadians insist on the Train to Compete phase beginning just after the age of 15 years (12 – 20 hours weekly) with greater emphasis on elite competition at around 18 years (20+ hours weekly).
The best athletes tend to retire early given the requirements of the sport and the early age at which specialisation began for most of them.
Many of our coaches are not scientific in their approach to their profession. Indeed, many of our coaches do not yet understand that they are involved in a profession, hence their inability to commit to continuous education.
Even fewer coaches in St Vincent and the Grenadines engage in cross-training. For example, the sport that engages athletes in the best possible stretching techniques are those in the martial arts category – Karate, Judo and Taekwondo. Coaches in Athletics, Football, Basketball, Rugby, Tennis, Table Tennis and Cricket, to name a few, do not find the time to learn the stretching techniques from the martial arts, thereby losing out on the significant benefits that can accrue to their athletes from them.
Stretching facilitates relaxation and relaxation allows for greater flexibility and overall performance.
The point being made here is that if we are serious about broader sport development and higher levels of achievement we can do much better by enhancing our collaborative efforts.
Sport Tourism
This weekend we are expecting to host several teams in a first-ever International Masters Cricket Competition.
Our understanding is that a number of teams have agreed to journey to St Vincent and the Grenadines to be part of the event. Just how much we can expect from this event as a major sport tourism undertaking is anybody’s guess.
Jomodean May, a former Manager of the National Sports Council, did his Masters’ degree in Sport Tourism. As far as we are aware, he has never really been allowed to utilise his expertise in this field in this country since returning to local shores.
One is also not certain of the extent to which anyone associated with sport tourism has been called in to assist in analysing the sport tourism potential of the undertaking.
It is unfortunate that over the past 16 years we have spoken glibly about sport tourism without ever once giving the appearance of being serious about it.
In the lead up to the Cricket World Cup 2007, there was much talk about allowing our involvement in the project to be the start of a new thrust in sport tourism. We missed the boat.
If we continue to engage ourselves in projects such as the Masters Cricket Competition without ensuring that there is a comprehensive vision and mission to which we are all committed, the end product would be no different than the sudden declaration of the celebration of the centennial of the Nine Mornings festival some years ago.
The failure to plan is an almost certain guarantee of failure.