Reviewing our point of departure

Many are the critics who daily trumpet the extent to which we are not making the kind of progress that they would like to see in sport.
More often than not the critics do little research and remain at the level of armchair pundits in this or that sport. They spend much of their time engaging in idle chatter without lifting a finger by way of studied, practical recommendations of the way to effect change.
The challenges of contemporary sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines are numerous and varied as much as they are complex. To effect change therefore requires a coming together of several groupings, engagement of appropriately qualified persons in research for development, the preparation of strategic plans and the systematic implementation of the plans with continuous monitoring and evaluation. Unfortunately, for the most part, our critics have little time to engage themselves in any of the foregoing.
Perhaps above all we have to ensure that engagement in daily physical activity becomes a way of life in this beautiful country we call home.
Sport for All (SFA)
Most sport development programmes reflect a pyramidal structure. At the base there is mass participation. The intention here is to get people active at all levels and across all strata. This does not happen on its own. It has to be deliberately developed as a strategy led by an organisation that possesses some measure of stability.
Sport for All is an important point of departure if we are to obtain mass participation in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
SFA aims to establish a culture of physical activity in a country. It promotes healthy living every day of one’s life. This has to do with the fact that SFA calls for a commitment to regular engagement in physical activity.
SFA addresses the benefits of engaging in an active lifestyle. It at once combines the practice of being physically active an integral part of which is maintaining a proper diet. Nutrition is critical if we are to be active.
In the recent past we have heard much about the expansion of non communicable diseases (NCDs) and chronic non communicable (CNCDs) diseases across the world. Importantly for us in the Caribbean the spread of these diseases has been wreaking havoc. In St Vincent and the Grenadines we have seen a significant increase in the number of amputations taking place. It seems that suddenly we are seeing amputees everywhere. This is bothersome especially since NCDs and CNCDs are preventable. Regular exercise and a proper diet in combination can help us significantly reduce the incidence of these diseases.
We have to be on the ball in respect of monitoring the lifestyles of our people. We have not been doing this.
We have often wondered why it is that several generations before were able to maintain themselves in such a way that they were very healthy and lived quite long with fewer hospital bills. The reason is simple. They were not living sedentary lives. There were no televisions and the number of individuals owning cars was significantly small.
The older generation walked to everywhere they went in their communities and worked the land regularly. They were not ‘couch potatoes’.
SFA does not leave anyone out. It is all encompassing. It caters for people of all ages, gender, religion, social class, ethnic group, abilities and geographical location.
SFA cuts across all boundaries in its quest to facilitate healthy living.
Governments, community sports organisations, sport clubs, national sports associations and social organisations all have a role to play in the development of SFA.
It is the entire population that stands to benefit from the establishment of SFA as part of our cultural matrix in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
There has been much concern expressed about the parents of today. Some argue that they are overseeing a lost generation. We believe otherwise and that we can stave off any tendency towards social decay, if we are truly committed to our society.
In several instances we have children making children. As yet unformed sociologically several young people have become parents.
Many of the parents of today are also employed – husband and wife. This leaves them relatively little time with their children. But whatever time they do have should allow room for physical activity together.
Parents are the first to introduce their children to physical activity as a lifelong process. In Cuba, even as parents are pregnant they are introduced into the activities in which they should engage themselves so that when the child is born they start the systematic transfer of numerous physical exercises.
Since the child learns fastest in the first five years of his/her life it is extremely important that we introduce children to physical activity. If this is done then the individual learns the importance of physical activity and its role in the development of the human condition.
Parents often do not see their housework as physical activity but it is. Gardening is an important physical activity as well.
Walking, skipping, playing with one’s children all involve movement. In participating in these activities they are active. It helps in the inculcation of an active lifestyle.
Parents must see joint physical activity with their children and even their own parents as a healthy way of living and a means of facilitating their bonding.
It must be recognised that the family that plays together stays together.
The success of any programme is hinged on the extent to which the stakeholders are keen on marketing what is on offer.
Unfortunately we have come to rely too heavily on press releases. This is hardly the most important marketing tool available to our people involved in the promotion of SFA in a country like St Vincent and the Grenadines.
To many the odd press release while still having some use is no longer the leading mode of promoting programmes. It must not be abandoned.
The rise of social media has allowed marketing to take on a different pathway.
The promotion of SFA in today’s world therefore is rendered much more high profile because of the accessibility of social media.
The time has come for the word to be appropriately spread across the nation about the importance of getting off the couches and engaging in physical activity of some sort every day of one’s life.
Wellness must be promoted using all forms of the media available to Vincentians
Physical Education
St Vincent and the Grenadines has taken the wrong point of departure in respect of the introduction of physical education in the school system.
We started physical education as a subject in the secondary school system only because the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) made it an examinable subject.
We still boast that physical education is in our school system without making it clear that it is really only to a very limited extent.
Physical education is not compulsory in our education system.
There is really no physical education at the primary school level to any extent for us to speak about.
What should obtain in reality is that we should have declared physical education a compulsory subject at all levels in our education system.
At each pre-school we should have at least one teacher designated for physical education. It is at the pre-school level that a child learns fastest yet there is no one trained specifically to introduce them to physical education – the rudiments of movement and coordination.
If this is done we can then begin to speak seriously about developing a culture of physical activity.
If we can get children at the pre-school level to be excited about physical activity then we are guaranteed a healthier future.
If the children are introduced to the fundamentals at the pre-school level they are likely to opt for continuing development in physical education in the primary school.
There must be PE teachers in the primary school who have been appropriately trained and who would ensure that the children are enthused about the discipline. In such a situation the latter are more likely to appreciate a healthy lifestyle.
At the secondary school currently we have our children being able to opt out of the subject area after the third form. The students who do not register for PE through to the CXC level do not have any requirement that they continue to engage in physical activity for the rest of their school careers or indeed for the rest of their lives.
NOC initiative
The recently concluded workshop on the Certified Leadership Course (CLC) of the International Sport for All Association (TAFISA) held at the Media Centre, Arnos Vale Sports Complex, 13 – 16 April 2013, was another important initiative of the National Olympic Committee (NOC).
The NOC has recognised the important role that physical activity plays in the development of the individual and so collaborated with TAFISA in bringing to St Vincent and the Grenadines a programme aimed at developing a cadre of Sport for All leaders.
Armed with the knowledge and skill competencies in respect of physical fitness and all that it can do for the well being of the individual and by extension our society the leaders who have been trained over the past several days have committed themselves to spreading the message of Sport for All and Physical Activity (SAPA).
The graduating participants, drawn from communities spread across St Vincent and the Grenadines, are now integrated into the NOC’s Sports for All Commission and together, will endorse and commit to the SAPA Pledge of engaging in some form of physical activity everyday of their lives.
The NOC’s Sports for All Commission is itself committed to promoting physical activity for all in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The NOC has already committed its resources to the establishment of a culture of physical activity in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The work has started and the door has been flung open to Vincentians of all walks of life, abilities, gender, ethnic group, geographical location, religion and social class.
There can be no letting up.
We have started and we will see it through to the end goal, the production of a physically active St Vincent and the Grenadines.