National Sports Awards
The revised national sports awards recently came off for a second consecutive year. It was good to see the Swimming Association taking home the majority of the awards just as we had predicted some weeks ago.
It does not take a scientist to acknowledge that the achievements of the swimming fraternity were outstanding and therefore the accolades received were richly deserved.
The matter of national sports awards does however deserve greater analysis and some important considerations are in order.
Evidence suggests that many years ago the then functional St Vincent Jaycees hosted an annual Sports Awards ceremony. This unfortunately fell into abeyance for a number of years until in 1990 the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Olympic Committee agreed to reintroduce the activity.
The book, History of the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Olympic Committee, notes…The first such activity by the NOC was hosted on Saturday 23 March 1991 at the Aquatic Club, Villa. This activity was for performances achieved in 1990. Uzzah Pope, the nominee from the Cricket Association, was adjudged the Sports Personality of 1990.
In the first year, the category was Sports Personality of the Year, only. Later, the NOC added several other categories. The list of categories of awards read:
Sports Personality of the Year – Overall
Sports Personality of the Year – Senior Male
Sports Personality of the Year – Senior Female
Coach of the Year – Male
Coach of the Year – Female
Junior Sports Personality of the Year – Male
Junior Sports Personality of the Year – Female
Sports Photograph of the Year
Art and Architecture Award
People’s Choice of Sports Personality of the Year
In 1991, bodybuilder, Odley Spence, claimed the Sports Personality of the Year title. Interestingly, TEXACO provided the trophies that were awarded to the successful nominees. Artist, “Kojo” Mason won the Art and Architecture Award for the paintings on the walls around the Victoria Park in 1991.
Michelle Guy of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Netball Association won the top award for 1992, when the Ceremony was held at the Sunset Shores Hotel, Villa, on Friday 30 April 1993.
On Saturday 26 March 1994, the Sports Personality Awards Ceremony for performances achieved in 1993 was held at the Jaycees Headquarters, Stoney Ground. Top Karateka, Richard Clarke, won the Sports Personality of the Year title 1993 for his gold medal performance at the Pan American Karate Championships in Canada.
The NOC did not organise the annual Awards Ceremony in 1995 for achievements in 1994. The 1995 winner was Eswort Coombs, for his World University Student Games 400m title and his bronze medal performance in the same event at the 12th Pan American Games. The Awards Ceremony was held on Thursday 27 June 1996, at the Vee Jays Rooftop Restaurant, Kingstown.
For performances achieved in 1996, the Awards Ceremony returned to the Jaycees Headquarters, this time on Wednesday, March 5, 1997. The winner was Nixon Mc Lean, the Vincentian fast bowler who stormed his way onto the West Indies Cricket Team to Australia.
In 1997 the new NOC administration agreed to collaborate with the National Sports Council for the hosting of the annual event. The end result was that the annual national sports awards then became an NSC event with no role for the NOC.
Interestingly, while the NOC had pleaded for years with the National Lottery to sponsor the event to no avail, the NSC was able to immediately get the same institution on board and this has been the case ever since.
For a year or two the national sports awards was franchised out and eventually petered out.
In 2014 the event was resuscitated and was again held earlier this year but there are many issues plaguing the event and it is important that these be addressed soonest.
The annual national sports awards event has always been stymied by inadequate planning, consistency of citations, selection criteria, inadequate involvement of national sports associations in the decision-making process, tardiness on the part of national sports associations to meet established deadlines and appropriate rewards for the top award.
Overall one gets a sense that the very concept of national sports awards is not clearly delineated. If that is really the case then one can readily understand the attendant problems mentioned above.
There has to be a clear understanding as to why we are having a national sports awards programme, in the first place. What are we trying to achieve? This is not very clear even as we are revitalising the annual event.
Clarity of the concept will allow everything else attached to the event to flow quite easily.
Once we have a clear understanding of what we are doing and why we are doing it we can readily establish the requisite categories and the appropriate criteria for the selection of winners in each.
Vincentians, especially the sportspeople, must be satisfied that the declared winners are the most deserving. This was made clear by a former Chairman of the Sports Personality Awards Judges Panel, Harley Williams, who, in 1997 wrote the NOC, organisers at the time, stating…Every effort must be made by the NOC to ensure that recipients of awards are the most deserving individuals. Standardisation of presentations must be pushed as far as possible.
Secondly, classifications by age must be unambiguously defined…
Thirdly, we feel that nominees, the winners and the awards presentation, ought to be granted a wider stage. These sportsmen and sportswomen would have demonstrated characteristics to be emulated and nationally recognised. They should be our heroes and a source of inspiration.
The foregoing comments are still relevant today.
There has to be consistency with regard to the way in which the information on each nominee is presented at the awards ceremony.
The point made by Williams about the wider stage is critical.
What happens to the winners?
After the ceremony is over, what happens?
Are we providing the winner of the top award with appropriate rewards such that it is an incentive in and of itself to all sport practitioners in St Vincent and the Grenadines?
Should it not be automatic that the winner be accorded the status of sport ambassador and provided with some substantive, material reward?
Should there not be some way that for the entire year that he/she bears the title of Sport Personality of the Year that he/she be given some profile in the local media as well as in our promotion of St Vincent and the Grenadines?
In other words we are questioning here whether the organisers of the annual event are fully understanding of the importance of acknowledging an annual national sport personality and the vast opportunities that this gives to the individual and the country for the next year and the future.
Could he/she not be assigned to speak to students and community organisations at home and abroad regarding sport and its benefits?
We are anxious to boast of giving some athletes scholarships and we even do so in respect of the winner of the Miss SVG competition. What about the sport personality of t he year?
Is our national sport personality not deserving of such recognition?
The people of this country are unaware of the financial reward given to the winner of the top award. Should this be a secret?
Is there any reason why our annual sports personality awards ceremony is not a high class affair with distinctive dress codes, appropriately decorated venues and meeting all pertinent protocol requirements?
What we now have is a mixed bag with virtually everyone doing whatever he/she pleases and that includes those in authority who should lead by example.
National associations must understand the importance of recognising their own top performers annually. This is a reflection of how well they are doing.
Associations are judged not only by the achievements of their athletes but also on the basis of the quality of leadership at all levels, administrative and technical development as well as coaching performance and display of voluntarism.
Associations that are tardy or fail to provide nominees for the annual national awards may well require closer examination in terms of where they are administratively, structurally and technically. It may be a matter of low-level capacity. Ought we not to engage in some critical analysis of the problem?
Once we have identified the critical issues what should we do?
Some may well consider the inclusion of a People’s Choice of Sports Personality a rather interesting feature to the annual sports awards. The inclusion of this feature and the mechanism for achieving maximum participation from the sport-loving Vincentian public could be a major game changer. Would this not be an important development and a giant step towards developing and enhancing the Vincentian sport culture?
We can choose to stay fixated with the humdrum and near morose or we can opt to be in with the times.
The choice is ours to make.