Schools open to same old, same old

The new school year began this week, one week after it was originally scheduled to start. Interestingly and perhaps embarrassingly there are some institutions where rehabilitation work is still being done on the very buildings in which the teachers and students are expected to function daily.
The students all benefited from a rather lengthy vacation during which there should have been time to engage in deliberately planned activities of a sporting nature.
In a previous edition of this Column we identified several sporting organisations that sought to engage the nation’s youths and coaches in a variety of training programmes.
Unfortunately however, we have been unable to identify schools, which sought to organise programmes to prepare their students for the upcoming sports season in this country. This latter reality may well be a reflection of the way things have become in this country and explains the lacklustre performances we have come to expect at the finals of sporting competitions between schools in this country.
Generally, what we see at the various competitions between schools leaves much to be desired. Our athletes do not strive for excellence since they are not given an opportunity to know its demands.
It is the exception rather than the norm for athletes to work diligently all year round  on the honing of their skills.
Teachers appear unwilling to commit to the long-term development of the athlete sin their care. They want instant success and in the process place the athletes at risk.
This country is inundated with athletes who once possessed immense potential in sport but who left the sport because of this or that teacher and/or coach.
Competitions begin
The first term of the new academic year usually sees the hosting of competitions within and between schools in Football and Netball. During the vacation little was said about these pending competitions yet we are somehow expected to see high quality participation when they do get started. This is all very unfortunate and may well be part of the mediocrity that has characterised our sport for some time.
In the next few days the schools will begin the process of preparing for these competitions. This is far too late yet the teachers and those in authority would expect their respective school teams to be competitive in the aforementioned events. One school after another will hasten to find some place where they can train their charges, hoping that some miracle would happen and all will be well.
Over the next few days too, the teachers would be calling around to source uniforms, access part sponsors for teams and begin the process of selecting training squads.
Most of our educational institutions do not have any long term plan in respect of sport development. At the conclusion of any competition the institutions must be aware that they would need uniforms for the next year.
The schools may well be competitive but the overall standard of play will certainly be well below acceptable standards. Before the academic year closes one would expect that the leadership would give due consideration to sourcing uniforms and whatever other materials and equipment required for a successful year ahead. To leave everything until the new term commences means that everything is rushed and the outcome, however good it appears may at best be mediocre in relation to what ought to have been.
It is something that we witness every year. The schools begin their preparation for the competitions in which they are involved when the season is about to start.
The teachers responsible for the teams try at best the quick-fix approach. They try to get the students competition ready in a time frame that is unacceptable.
Left out
Because of the approach currently being adopted by many of the schools in the country countless students are left out of participation in sport.
Because the competitions begin almost immediately after the term begins teachers claim to have little time to prepare their teams. They have even less time to teach the fundamentals of any sport to students who have not had prior experience. The result is that several students are marginalised from sport. When the time comes for physical education it is often the case that the teachers concentrate on finding a team and drilling them into fitness and match readiness. The uninitiated are cast aside.
This country has no shortage of students who may well have wanted to participate in some sport but who, not having had the benefit of even the slightest consideration by a teacher who has to prepare teams for competition, simply never got around to even learning a sport.
Unfortunately the teachers responsible for physical education and sport in our schools often consider themselves overwhelmed with work and the focus is on doing well in the various inter schools’ competitions.
One wonders whether excellence is ever really an option for those involved in the teaching of physical education and sport.
Generally there is little evidence of any planning being a feature of the participation of schools in sports in this country.
Nothing can be achieved without due attention being paid to proper planning. This should be something with which our teachers and school principals should be very familiar. Unfortunately this is not always the case here.
The existing situation reveals that what obtains here is an almost total lack of planning. What is amazing is the extent to which we accept this approach and leave it to become the norm.
The schools sports programme for any given academic year should be made available to schools prior to the closure of the previous academic year. This reflects good planning. Armed with this information the schools can contemplate what type of vacation programme would best suit their approach to the next season of inter schools competition and engage teachers and students in this undertaking.
Good planning would have necessitated use of the long vacation to build a team. Teachers should have had a fairly good idea of their potential teams for the various sports at the conclusion of each of the competitions in which they were engage during the last academic year.
Good planning would have meant that these students would have been informed that some programme would have been put in place to use some time during the long vacation to begin their preparation for this academic year. The only additions should really be from students who are transferred from other institutions and students entering the system for the first time.
If teachers began the preparations in the vacation they would also have had some idea of the sizes of the uniforms for the players of the team. They would also have had a very fit and well-prepared team once the competitions begin within the school system. They would have insisted that their internal competitions begin the second week of the new academic year thereby giving themselves another opportunity to see the impact of level of preparation to which players were exposed during the vacation.
By the time the competitions between schools begin therefore, school teams would have been ready to engage each other at a much higher level than that to which we have grown accustomed over the past few years.
Revisiting schools’ physical education and sports
We may well be at a stage where it is important for us to revisit sport in our nation’s schools.
The evidence of the increasing range of sport-related career options is everywhere. There should be no shortage of individuals eagerly wanting to seize the opportunities that are available.
It is recommended that we rethink the role that we want physical education and sport to play in the lives of our people. In the schools we must encourage participation in these twin-disciplines throughout the education system. There is absolutely no reason to have students ‘drop’ participation in physical education and sport.
We cannot on the one hand boast of a wellness revolution while failing to do what is required to facilitate greater awareness of and participation in the associated activities.
Our educators must themselves understand the importance of physical education and sport to the total development of the child and encourage the most comprehensive involvement of the student body.
National sports associations need to establish and maintain closer relations with the Ministry of Education such that the vacation programmes could be more targeted towards assisting schools with the early and comprehensive preparation of students for participation in sports in the nation’s schools.
It is in the interest of national sports associations to work well with schools since this is the prime nursery for identifying talent. If the schools’ sports competitions attain very high standards it would redound to the benefit of the associations as they seek out national representative teams for the varying levels of competitions in which they are involved. It would not be too far-fetched to consider national associations allocating coaches to work with schools in zones so that the general level of preparation and by extension, competition, would rise.
The success of other countries in sport did not come by magic but from deliberate analysis and proper planning. This is sadly lacking in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
We can begin to review the way we do things now or remain comfortable with mediocrity while deluding ourselves into believing that we are doing well.