Revisiting talent identification strategies

The St Vincent and the Grenadines National Olympic Committee (NOC) has established what is known as the Grassroots Talent Identification Programme (GTIP) over the past few years. It has taken some time before the programme was understood enough to have affiliates of the NOC take the decision to become fully involved.

In many respects the GTIP emerged out of the Right On Track (ROT) programme undertaken by Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines (TASVG). The ROT was started in Trinidad and Tobago as the brainchild of that country’s lone Olympic gold medallist, Hasely Crawford, and focused on introducing children to the fundamentals of track and field athletics. The emphasis was on the ‘fun’ in fundamentals, meaning that at an early stage of learning the sport coaches must introduce children to concepts and skills in an atmosphere of fun rather than rigid discipline. The latter approach would see the youngsters running away from rather than toward the sport.
The ROT was introduced to the athletics fraternity in the Windward Islands as a pilot project with funding from the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago and local sponsors effective 2005. In St Vincent and the Grenadines the TASVG commenced the payment of stipends to coaches to carry the programme through the nation.
The availability of funding from Olympic Solidarity, the development arm of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made it possible to transfer some of the basic ideas behind the ROT into a full-blown grassroots programme. Thus the GTIP was born.
Initially, only TASVG and Cycling took to the GTIP. Then Table Tennis joined and later so, too, did Boxing, Volleyball, Taekwondo and Basketball.

Growth and development
The GTIP has proven to be immensely popular and has proven a significant boon for the development of each of the aforementioned disciplines. Hundreds of the nation’s children and youths have been attracted to sport as a direct result of the GTIP since its establishment.
The GTIP has been lauded by the entire Vincentian sports fraternity for its contribution to community and national development while facilitating the development of sport across the nation.

The NOC has in place the Technical Director who carries the full responsibility for the planning, organisation and administration of the GTIP. The first Technical Director was Gideon Labban and while abroad on study leave, Wayne Williams has been holding the portfolio.
Each affiliate identifies its own Technical Director who takes responsibility for the GTIP within the organisation. These Technical Directors are involved in monthly meetings where they engage in monitoring and evaluation exercises in relation to the GTIP, making the necessary adaptations and guiding the NOC on how best to improve the GTIP.
Within each organisation it is expected that the Technical Director would involve a cadre of identified coaches who have an interest in the development of the sport. Together they would engage in detailed planning and programming for the short, medium and long term. They would also undertake internal monitoring and evaluation exercises that also include determination of those coaches who can be sent on for further training to return and share new ideas, programmes and development strategies with the rest.
The GTIP is conducted on Saturdays by all associations involved. However, one organisation, Volleyball, utilises Sundays as an additional opportunity to promote and build the sport. This organisation has a commitment to South Rivers, the bedrock of the resurgence of the sport in the country and holds sessions in that community on Sundays. On Saturdays Volleyball moves around the nation as does the other affiliates in the GTIP.
The NOC arranges transportation for the coaching teams of each of the participating affiliates to and from their respective venues. Generally, sessions run from 9.00am thru 1.00pm. Participants are registered allowing each affiliate the opportunity to establish appropriate databases within their respective organisations.
Coaches are provided with stipends. The intention is that incentives could help national sports associations involved in the GTIP persuade coaches to stay with the programme and adopt a more professional approach to the planning, preparation and delivery of the programme.
The local Football Federation has begun its own Football Academy that essentially operates more like the GTIP than what the NOC has developed as its Sports Academy. This initiative is most welcome and adds to the tremendous work that has long been undertaken by the likes of Ian Sardine and Andrew Bramble in the same sport.