National Sports Awards

The Sports_Trophy_Cup_AwardNational Sports Council’s (NSC) Awards ceremony took place on the evening of Saturday 15 February at Spring Garden on the windward side of the island.
Kineke Alexander, winner of gold and bronze medals at the Biennial Central American and Caribbean Championships held in Morelia, Mexico, last year, emerged the country’s Sports Personality of the Year. She was also adjudged Senior Female Athlete of the Year.
Alexander’s victory was no surprise, at least to those in the athletics fraternity.
Actually, earlier on Saturday 15 February, Kineke also won the same two awards at the annual team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines (TASVG) Awards Ceremony held at Frenches House.
Once more the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) sponsored the NSC’s Awards ceremony.
Those involved in sport, who spend hours training, coaching, officiating and administrating, deserve to be appropriately recognised of their respective contributions to the development of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Perhaps we have not yet made the connection between sport and national development and we must all carry some of the blame for this deficiency.
Congratulations are in order for the efforts of the NSC in reintroducing the Awards, especially since no one ever got an explanation as to why it had fallen into abeyance.
The event is one that should be promoted in a major and the winners guaranteed some substantial reward appropriate to their contributions.
We have always observed that it is easy to pay lip service to sport and the politicians have become particularly adept at this. Those who labour in the field each day have a strong sense of what is involved.
Closer attention must also be paid to those volunteers. The majority of our coaches are volunteers. They work at their professions for eight hours each day then give of their time and energies for another four or five trying to help the nation’s youth bring honour and glory to St Vincent and the Grenadines.
If anything we can say that the annual sports awards should never ceased but perhaps this in and of itself is reflective of the attention or lack thereof paid to sport by the authorities.
The awards ceremony has come and gone but there are some issues that compel us to revisit the activity in this Column.
It was but a few months ago that we learnt via a press conference, itself very low-keyed, on the reintroduction of the annual Awards. That was the very first time that any of the national sports associations were aware that such an event was taking place for performances achieved in 2013.
The content of the press conference was most interesting since there was none to announce the cessation of the event two years ago.
It is unbelievable that the NSC could have thought it appropriate to commence plans for the revitalisation of something as important as the National Sports Awards and keep it as something of a State secret until the date of the ceremony was decided.
National sports associations are the organisations that conduct annual activities aimed at developing their sport in all aspects. Without their work there would be nothing to celebrate as achievements. The athletes would have no competitions in which to engage themselves.
Although the awards ceremony for 2013 is now history the fact is that the associations were completely omitted from the process.
Not only were associations not informed about the return of the activity but they were also not advised of any aspect of the activity until the very last minute. Shortly before the date for the ceremony associations received documentation asking for nominations for the Association of the Year award. At that late stage they were uncertain as to whether they were to nominate themselves or look around and nominate another association.
Associations were also not informed until very, very late, whether anyone in their respective organisations was nominated for anything or in a position to receive an award.
This is the reason that several of the nominees did not have a chance to submit photos or even avail themselves for any sort of briefing as to what was expected of them on the evening of the Awards Ceremony.
It was at the press conference to announce the return of the Sports Awards associations first learnt of the process that was being used to identify nominees from the different sports.
We were informed that since March of 2013 a team of persons were asked to identify outstanding performers in sport. None of the associations was asked to make any input. The group was doing its work without the associations being in the know.
It was at the Awards Ceremony that the Minister of Sport indicated the reason for the new approach to identifying top performers. Mr McKie stated that there were some misgivings about the information submitted by associations in the past.
The truth is that the reasoning here is unacceptable.
Perhaps, had the NSC involve the associations in a dialogue of the Awards Ceremony we would have got it right. If there were problems with the way information of athletes and officials were submitted then the associations are the ones to bring in on the discussion of what is the best approach to adopt going forward.
Having put the cart before the horse the Minister of Sport has announced that going forward the associations would be involved. Of course this would have to be discussed in its entirety.
It is never too late to take corrective measures but we could have avoided this had we started off on the right foot.
Somehow it does not seem fair to the associations to be surprised at the very last minute by nominations from their organisations unknown to them.
Associations must be held accountable and be deemed sufficiently responsible to be honest with their submissions.
In the past some attention appears to have been given to the character of the individuals being nominated. Since that is a very subjective matter associations did whatever they could to respond but the variety of responses did not do justice or engender a sense of fair play.
Associations must be allowed to submit nominations for all the major awards on offer. That should be their right. They must be encouraged to ensure that they make those submissions and in a timely manner.
The format for the nominations must be very clear. It must stipulate the time-frame for which the performances must be submitted and the information needed.
Once the nominations are in the NSC’s monitoring group can then evaluate the veracity of what has been submitted by each of the associations.
The away forward
The fourth objective of the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Sport Policy states:
To establish a range of incentives and appropriate awards for those involved in the sports development process.
It is accepted that the hosting of an annual National Sports Awards Ceremony is consistent with the aforementioned objective of the policy.
The policy also stated in Section 5:
5.8   Appropriately designed awards shall be established by the National Sports Council commensurate with the significance of the performance of the particular sporting personality. Recognition extends from athletes to coaches, technical officials and administrators.
5.9  Among possible awards shall be accession to a National Sports Hall of Fame, having titles allocated, having streets and facilities named in their honour, inclusion to sports-tourism promotional packages and in advertisements of local business houses.
5.10        A Fair Play Award shall form part of the Annual Awards Programme.
In the past we have used this Column to advocate for annual awards ceremonies to be hosted by the respective national sports associations. Each association should be able to identify its best performers in the different categories – athletes (juvenile, junior, senior and veterans), technical officials, coaches and volunteers.
The fact that some associations would claim inability to identify outstanding sport personalities in any given year should be reason enough for engaging them in dialogue to analyse their development programmes or lack thereof.
If associations are experiencing problems with development programmes the sports fraternity can assist. For the past several years the National Olympic Committee has been assisting associations with training programmes for athletes, cache sand administrators, the key persons involve din the preparation of their respective development programmes.
Associations can also consider hosting joint sports awards annually in an effort to cut down on cost.
It is important that the respective awards ceremonies give their winners appropriate support and facilitate the highlighting of their achievements amongst Vincentians at home and abroad. In this regard consideration can be given to highlighting the top achievers in their promotions of their annual calendars the following year. They can also engage a particular media house to assist in this continued promotion.
Achievers must be held up as role models for Vincentian youth and so efforts must be made to allow for extended exposure, such as the year following their performances.
It is to be expected that once individual associations get into the practice of organising their own annual awards ceremonies we would see an overall improvement in the standard of these activities.
It is at the association level, for example, we expect an insistence on an appropriate dress code for potential awardees as well as those attending. This is particularly important since it highlights the importance of the event and does much to bolster respect for the association that has taken on the challenge of awarding its top performers.
Awards ceremonies are very important occasions for associations and must be treated as such by its membership and invited guests. This is the case whether it is at the level of the association or the NSC.
This year it was instructive that athletes and attendees dressed virtually anyhow for their national associations’ awards but chose to be very formal when it came to the NSC’s awards. This gave the impression of a lack of respect for the former. This cannot be allowed to continue.
Awards ceremonies must be glamorous. People must want to be invited and be part of it.
Once national associations host their own awards it is easy to meet the requirements of NSC’s awards ceremony. They can simply nominate their winners to fit the NSC categories and utilise the same citations.
Finally, there has to be continued effort towards excellence in the annual awards at all levels.
The NSC’s awards must therefore be the icing on the cake in respect of the national sports associations’ own awards.
Together, the sports fraternity in this country must do more to collaborate and develop appropriate development strategies and programmes that would yield greater sports personalities each year going forward all deserving of our respect and recognition.