Sport and the business of life

On Friday 19 February 2010 the international community brought a new programme to St Vincent and the Grenadines entitled, Sport for Life. While this is new to this country it is a programme that has been in existence for some time and appears modelled on other existing programmes.
The launch took place at the Media Centre at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex where the sessions for the participants will be held on Saturdays.
The launch featured the Prime Minister of this country, a rather interesting aspect to the proceedings. One would probably have expected the respective ministers of Sport and Education to have co-featured but this is a new political dispensation. It should have come as no surprise given the norm under this administration that the Prime Minister took centre stage.
One can only hazard a guess that the organisers may have surmised that the presence of the Prime Minister and the allocation of a central role in the proceedings would have served the best interest of the programme in the short term.
Unfortunately, for the organisers though, the existing political context may well have given the Prime Minister’s featured role a totally different connotation altogether.
The programme targets youths who are not so well off economically and even less so, academically, and provides them with a mix of education and sport training. In the case of St Vincent and the Grenadines the youths will be taught English, Mathematics and Information Communications Technology (ICT).
In terms of sport training we are told that the participants will be engaged in learning the skills required in the game of cricket.
We are also told that the participants will be persons who have been identified as being in particular need of this mix of education and sport given their current status in society.
What is however very hazy is precisely how these persons will be selected and by whom. It has been suggested in some quarters that the Ministry of Education would be expected to play a role in this regard but that would certainly not go down well with the sports fraternity since no one in sport would want to see so important a sports programme left in the hands of vote-seeking politicians, especially in a year when many expect the general elections to be called.
If this aspect of the programme is true then it is certainly off to a very prejudicial start and would defeat its ultimate purpose. There is need for the politicians to exude more confidence in the respective sporting bodies relative to what they are supposed to be doing.
Sport if for all of society, not those of a particular political coloration.
Apparently Sport for Life’s introduction to the Caribbean is part of the legacy of the Cricket World Cup 2006, albeit arriving in St Vincent and the Grenadines three years after the competition.
The concept of the Sport for Life programme is a good one. It is always important to seek to develop individuals, especially a nation’s youth.
We have grown accustomed to the claim that the youths of today are tomorrow’s leaders and given what we are seeing in terms of today’s youths there is an imperative that we do all that is possible to facilitate their holistic development for the future of what we know to be our society and our Caribbean.
There is little doubt that any programme that targets the children of this country in respect of their holistic educational development deserves commendation.
The Sport for Life programme therefore is to be welcomed by all who are serious about ensuring that St Vincent and the Grenadines continues to offer Vincentians at all levels opportunities to become whole persons.
The foregoing is not a new concept in the world of sport by any means.
It is the same concept that has given rise to sports academies around the world.
The idea is ultimately to ensure that persons interested in sport are provided with an opportunity to develop educationally. This is the same concept that the International Olympic Movement and our own National Olympic Committee has in respect of the concept of Olympism.
The National Olympic Academy (NOA), the educational arm of the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Olympic Committee (SVGNOC), in its book, Olympism, states, “Olympism, many analysts suggest, is essentially intended to be a way of life. It refers to the attainment of a perfect balance of body, mind and spirit in respect of an individual.
“It is a philosophy that advocates that man should develop his total being. Physical exercise plays a vital role in the development of a healthy body…Persons who believe in the concept of Olympism would make physical exercise and preferably a sport, regular features of their lives.”
The foregoing excerpt from the NOA’s booklet shows a much broader focus of the Olympic Movement and hence the Sport for Life can easily be incorporated within it. This is the reason that the International Olympic Movement has emerged as the leading sport movement for change in the world.
The NOA’s educational booklet claims, “The ideals of Olympism include: excellence, fair play, unity, peace, friendship, brotherhood, participation, sports for all, education, tolerance, cooperation and physical fitness.”
Not surprisingly therefore, the booklet states, The ultimate goal of the Olympic Movement is to bring people together in peace and unity. It hopes to foster greater understanding among people of all nations irrespective of religion, race, class or ethnic backgrounds. It is for this reason that the Olympic Games were reintroduced in 1896, Athens, Greece. The founding fathers saw this quadrennial event as the contribution of sport to international peace and unity. Peoples of every culture in the world come together in friendly competition.”
Sport is about an enhanced quality of life for all citizens of the world. It cuts across all boundaries known to man. This is the reason that there is so much rejoicing at the fact that Afghanistan, a country ravaged by way for decades, has qualified for the T/20 World Cup scheduled for the Caribbean in May of this year. It is the reason that millions are delighted at the achievements of Bahrain and Slovenia in qualifying for the FIFA World Cup 2010. It is all about what sport can do for a nation, something that politicians are not necessarily given to understand.
Since being established in the latter part of 1992 the National Olympic Academy has been engaged in a number of initiatives aimed at promoting Olympism throughout St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The several programmes of the NOA are designed to facilitate the emergence of a culture of sports here through the inculcation of the values that constitute Olympism. Involvement in sport is not only about winning. It is about participation. Participants enjoy immense benefits that go well beyond the medal and money.
Sport for Life therefore must ensure that the participants are encouraged to see their involvement as equipping them for the role they must play in the betterment of Vincentian society even as they are still young. They must be examples to their peers showing that they are full members of our society who are ready and willing to aid in its systematic development.
Participants must seek to inculcate the many values inherent in sport and which are captured in the concept of Olympism.
In the recent past many of our national sports associations have lamented the significant fall-off in interest in sport. Regardless of the sport, everyone has been experiencing similar declines.
Unfortunately, while these bodies have recognised the problem they have not as yet seen the importance of coming together to engage in deep analysis of the causes of this current phenomenon. This continues to be to their detriment.
One association after another has been instead trying to redress the problem in its own case even as it has failed to investigate and establish cause. This is a recipe for disaster.
Indeed, the approach that is evident in the recently launched Sport for Life may well be seen as another of the patchwork measures being undertaken by one of the nation’s leading sports. It is a band-aid (plaster) not dissimilar to that which is evident in the Kiddie Cricket scenario.
The eventual outcome of the Sport for Life programme may well be of little value to Vincentian society in so far as it may have targeted a problem that did not receive any critical causal analysis here at home in the first place.
It is a most unfortunate truism that at this stage of our development our government does little more than pay lip service to sport. There is as yet no understanding at a governmental level of the importance of sport to national development. There is even less of an understanding of the multitudinous ways in which sport can be a vehicle for community development
Sport is critical to the business of life. In today’s world there is no shortage of information, especially academic studies, in respect of the impact a life of sport can enhance individual and national well being.
The values that we have always deemed necessary to a full life are all inherent in participation in sport.
We may not all be medal winners but we can certainly be beneficiaries of a life of physical fitness and general well being.
While clearly there are numerous benefits to be derived from the newly launched Sport for Life programme we must continue to appreciate that it fits well into the broader sphere of Olympism, a way of life.