National sports awards hiccups

The recent announcements by the National Sports Council of its seeming disappointment with the response from national sports associations to its annual awards comes as no surprise.
Over the past several years the national associations seemed to have been less responsive to the activity and there is an urgent need to examine the reasons for the change. One needs to examine whether there has been any change at all and therefore reflects a broader lethargy amongst the governing bodies of the sport at the present time.
The truth is that several national associations are experiencing problems and seem caught up in a major quandary.
This Column has consistently articulated the problems being experienced by the Boxing fraternity here in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The leadership of the Boxing Association has long been clamouring for a home and their voices have fallen on deaf ears. They have been literally driven from pillar to post. The last location of their equipment has been the Community Centre at Campden park. Over time the facility has deteriorated with the roof leaking profusely until eventually the place has become unsafe and inappropriate for the Association to conduct training sessions.
The leadership has had to seek to protect the organisation’s equipment from the elements.
There is also not electricity thereby preventing the boxers from completing their regular workouts.
Some time ago when Parliamentary representative for West Kingstown, Rene Baptiste, boasted of he plans rto make Edinboro the mecca of Boxing in this country this Columnist declared that it was not going to happen since everything on the ground – reality – reflected that there was no reason to believe that this was possible in the short to medium term, if at all.
Some time later the current government followed in the footsteps of the James Mitchell administration and welcomed home Cuban, world and Olympic heavyweight Boxing champion, Teofilo Stevenson, this Columnist again declared that it was merely a public relations move and nothing else. Nothing has emerged from Cuba relative to Boxing here in St Vincent and the Grenadines from either visit under two separate governments.
The sad reality is that the Boxing Association first received a gym as a gift from the Martiniquans. This was being used for some time until the first National Sports Festival held at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex. The ring was taken to the event and was unfortunately left there for several months without any attention being paid to it or any move to return it to where it was being stored. The end result was that when eventually the leadership changed and sought the ring too many parts had gone missing to facilitate what could be called a ring.
A second ring was given to the Association from Trinidad and Tobago. This is the one that is currently located at Campden park where there is not enough room to erect it. In any event the ring is now in need of repairs – a challenge, though not an insurmountable one, to the current leadership of the organisation.
There is interest in Boxing in Layou and in particular in Greggs. This comes as a result of the work undertaken by the Association under the National Olympic Committee’s (NOC) Grassroots Talent Identification Programme (GTIP) that sees coaches of affiliates travel to different parts of St Vincent and the Grenadines to introduce their respective sporting disciplines.
Unfortunately the Association has been unable to host an National Championships for some time because of the numerous problems being experienced.
Other Indoor Sports
Of the other Indoor Sports practised here the only one that has some decent facilities with which to work is Squash. There is the Cecil Cyrus Squash facility that the NLA has procured for the Squash Association.
Thus there are only three sports here that can boast of having their own home – Netball, Squash and Tennis. While Arnos Vales Playing Field was developed for Cricket it is not in the hands of the Cricket fraternity. All other sports are scrunting around trying to make do with what is available, well below expected international standards.
Basketball, Volleyball and Table Tennis urgently need an Indoor facility with which to work. Failure to procure this would leave them out of the loop in terms of their respective development.
Basketball paid a heavy price for its continued lack of facilities when they participated in both the Centro Basket and the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, last year. The results speak for themselves.
Volleyball has also been paying the price for inadequate facilities despite improving performances at the regional level.
Table Tennis continues to work with schools and other available centres to bring the sport to people across the country. Without a location where the organisation can set up shop with some longevity the sport will not develop to an acceptable level.
Given the way many of our people drive on the nation’s roads Cycling is risky business in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
It is a challenge to organise road races here. While the Police have become increasingly accommodating in terms of providing traffic officials to assist with the conduct of road races the reality is that they are not available for training and the cyclists are ever at risk. Even when they are present for competitive events once they pass by the drivers take off and return to their old habits. The cyclists at the back of the pack are almost always at risk especially since the Police is often unable to provide an adequate number of officials to assist.
Track Cycling is a most attractive event but no one seems to take seriously the continued requests for a Velodrome to be constructed here.
Swimming is in the process of reorganising itself. That is a major challenge in the absence of a facility to develop the sport.
Some time ago the Swimming fraternity got its act together and for some time the Association acquired the services of coach, Michael Davidson, of Grenada. While here attempts were made to improve the swimming pool at Shrewsbury House to facilitate training of local swimmers. The intention at the time was to make a 25m facility. The work was suddenly stopped and the coach returned to Grenada.
The truth of what had transpired was never really revealed to the Vincentian public and the Association limped along with coach Rickydeane Alexander, who had spent his own resources to attain coaching certification abroad, carrying the load, with the support of some parents.
Now there is an effort to reorganise the Swimming Association here and one would expect that the services of coach Alexander would play an important role in the development process. He continues to work diligently with an ever-expanding team of coaches, to maintain interest in the sport through swimming classes during the week.
The existing pools here are private and arrangements have to be made to access them for training. Then there is the sea. Happily the Olympics now have Open Water swimming competition included in its programme.
Plans are afoot to renew work on the Shrewsbury project but that would still leave the Swimming fraternity with only under-sized pools with which to prepare athletes for Olympic-sized swimming pool competition. This is certainly not the best of conditions under which to operate.
In the most recent twists the Tennis Association has been struck by the vacating of the Executive by the incumbent whose term of office had come to a close. There seems to be some measure of frustration that has set in and things have virtually fallen apart.
One of the most disappointing features here is the fact that there is no shortage of trained coaches in the sport. Over the years the NOC has provided several Olympic Solidarity-sponsored technical courses for Tennis h=that has allowed scores of individuals to acquire their coaching qualifications for the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
Every day there are coaches conducting sessions at the Kingstown court, the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) Triangle at Richmond Hill, the Grassroots Programme at the Haddon Courts and the National Tennis Centre where some six courts exist. On Saturdays there are sessions conducted at Arnos Vale as well.
It is difficult to understand that with so many people involved in active coaching there can be a problem with the organisation of the sport.
In 2010 the NOC awarded Tennis an ITF expert in the person of John Goede. The programme had to be cut short because the coach claimed not to have been given the support he required for his work to be a success. Some coaches have reacted angrily to this and indicated that the coach wanted to locate his training at the National tennis Centre while they were conducting sessions at their respective locations.
One would have expected that the Tennis fraternity would never have problems finding people to serve on successive executives. As it now stands the outgoing executive is calling on the National Sports Council (NSC) to assist with the convening of a successful General Meeting to replace them. It is doubtful whether any of the principal officers would be willing to stand again for office given what they perceive to be much antipathy towards them during their term in office.
Several national associations would argue that they do not have anyone to nominate for a number of the positions offered by the NSC for its Awards Programme.
This Columnist insists that the NSC must meet with the associations to determine what the exercise is about.
Do we want mediocrity in the Programme?
If Associations have not been able to organise proper, quality competitions at the local level and perform poorly at the regional and international levels as a consequence should they still submit their nominees, perhaps exposing them to greater public embarrassment?
Would Vincentians accept an Awards Ceremony that to many appears to be placing the nominees under public scrutiny without offering at the same time an explanation for the brief support information as to why they are nominated in the first place?
These are important questions tat national sports associations may well be asking themselves.
Ironically, it is perhaps the same questions that have been taken on board by patrons that may well explain the seeming lack of interest in the annual ceremony. While on that consideration may also be given by patrons to the location of the annual ceremony relative to its stature in their eyes and may also explain the low attendance numbers.
The situation cannot be allowed to continue.
Urgent attention must therefore be paid to the annual Awards programme of the NSC and it must begin with a meeting of minds.