Sport partnership for quality facilities

During the course of this year, 2011, we have witnessed the challenges faced by Vincentian sportspeople as they sought to bring honour and glory to this fair land when engaged in competitions at the regional and international levels.
Of course one can understand the chagrin experienced by those loyal Vincentian fans of sport who watched and listened to one defeat after another for our sports personnel.
No one enjoys defeat. Despite the lofty ideals of the Special Olympics that suggest the most important thing in sport is to participate and the Olympic ideal of appreciating the joy of sport athletes never feel satisfied with being defeated.
If the athletes feel ashamed of defeat one must understand the emotions attendant to defeat that impact coaches, team officials and the leaders of sport in any country.
To many, ideals are just that. Translating them into a way of life is extremely difficult especially since there are always others who ‘rub salt in the wound’ of defeat for our athletes. There is hardly any genuine compassion since there is often an unwillingness to understand.
There is no shortage of critics who seem to be waiting in the wings with bated breath on every defeat, seizing it as an opportunity to gloat.
There are others who seem to believe that the scenario for addressing the problems of sport is this or that media programme where there is often an absence of objective analysis predicated on sound investigation as to root cause. They have no interest in seeing things improve. Instead they are at their best when things get worse. Their contribution to development of sport is to gloat over its demise in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The truth is that the time has come for a significant change of attitude to sport by all Vincentians if we are to emerge from the current malaise and move forward toward success in sport.
The fact is that for sort to develop in this country all stakeholders must get on board.
While one does not advocate that government must do everything there are some things that necessitate their involvement in a meaningful way. The comments attributed to the prime Minister and Minister of Finance in respect of the national stadium and that as far as he is concerned it would have to wait until the completion of the international airport is symptomatic of the malaise we are in.
The current political administration does not understand sport nor does it have an advisor on provide some measure of guidance.
Unfortunately our politicians behave as though once elected they become knowledgeable and proficient on any and every thing under the sun. This is nonsense and nothing reflects this more than the government’s current stance in respect of sport.
The Prime Minister unfortunately seemed to suggest that performance is not as hindered as claimed by the existing facilities. Clearly he has no idea what he is speaking about and that is very unfortunate. The Minister with responsibility for sport should have advised the Prime Minister on an appropriate response before allowing him to ‘put his foot in his mouth on this particular issue.
It is the government that has to acknowledge the role that sport and physical education plays in the development of people through the inculcation of healthy lifestyles, positive values and the provision of opportunities for a meaningful existence with increasing career options.
While we had two ministers attending the UN’s meetings in respect of the fight against non-communicable diseases (NCD) who both appear obese of nearing that, they have not yet achieved a level of understanding of the preventive measures enough to direct their attention to the provision of quality facilities instead of paying lip service to the international initiative.
Sport is the best way to combat ill discipline in society. It is the best way to combat truancy, juvenile delinquency, deviance and crime in Vincentian society.
It is imperative therefore that government sees itself as a stakeholder in the broader sport development process and engages sporting bodies in the determination of needs going forward especially in respect of infrastructure and support services and mechanisms.
One readily recalls the hasty approach to the appointment of sports ambassadors and the tying of this to funding for Cameron Cuffy, Nixon McLean and Pamenos Ballantyne from local sponsors. Few remember when this funding dried up. There was no programme in terms of support for national athletes and consequently there was never any sustainability plan in this regard.
What obtains therefore is that athletes like the poor and blighted in Vincentian society must go, ‘cap in hand’ to the individual ministers, more often than not ending up before the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance literally begging for some sort of assistance, which may well end up being personalised at a later date, if not revealed in the hallowed halls of the nation’s Parliament.
The government must stop this nonsense and take seriously the provision of facilities that can help athletes in the different sports practised in the country to develop to international standard. Had we taken this approach we would probably have attained greater recognition and respect in several sports.
The time has come for the establishment of a National Sports Fund that receives an annual subvention from government for sport development. The government has shown its incompetence in these matters and should allow help in this regard.
National associations
The recent comment by international basketball coaching expert, Nelson Isley, that he was hampered in the conduct of his work with coaches here recently by rain, in the absence of an indoor basketball facility, is a reflection of how far behind we are.
Isley’s analysis performances of our basketball teams in the recent regional competitions in the Bahamas led him to conclude that with international standard indoor facilities – at least one – the door could be pried open much wider for St Vincent and the Grenadine son the regional and international stage.
National sports associations in this country have been at their wits end trying to access better facilities but have often ‘hit a brick wall’ when approaching government for assistance. It seems that governments take their pick when it comes to which sports they choose to assist and when.
One can understand the situation with the Squash Complex since the government as going there anyway with the National Lotteries Authority. However it cannot explain the seeming indiscreet wastage of scarce resources in the upgrading of the Arnos Vale Sports Complex for the ‘goat cook’ matches of 2007. Indeed there is reason to call for an investigation in the use of the funds allocated and to find reason or the continued existence of the Local Organising Committee for one year and more after the competition had concluded.
National associations have themselves to blame for their own lack of facilities since had they engaged in collaboration rather than engage in selfish pursuits much more would have been achieved in terms of agreeing to a systematic allocation of resources for one sport at a time in so far as infrastructure is concerned.
Associations can come together and agree a way forward in respect of what their needs are in respect of facilities and determine a strategy in approaching government, their respective international federations and local sponsors to assist in the provision of appropriate international standard sports infrastructure.
Volleyball, for example, has had an offer for some time from NORCECA, the continental  body governing the sport, of a synthetic Indoor court for the development of the sport here to the international level. The response of one minister of government was to have the local association request of the governing body a change of facility; to provide instead a multipurpose surface. How unbelievable!
It is the clearest indication of how our government does not understand sport and does not care. What was being suggested was virtually suggesting to the local association that they ask their governing body not to give them what they need most for the development of their particular sport but instead to be provided with a facility for several sports with which the local Volleyball association would later have to compete for usage.
NORCECA would have laughed at the local Volleyball fraternity, especially its leadership, had it been insensitive enough to comply with the suggestion.
National associations must understand that they are not in politics and that while a government may look good and benefit from votes subsequent to the provision of international standard facilities it is the broader picture that is important – the development of sport to the international level right here in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Politicians and governments come and go. Facilities offer significant proportions of the Vincentian populace through several generations the opportunity to train, compete and excel, serving this country with pride.
In some countries it is common to plan the construction of schools to facilitate the inclusion of appropriate sport facilities. This is not always the case in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Today, one is not sure whether the field at Richmond Hill is still the Grammar School Playing Field or the Richmond Hill Playing Field. The history of how the land was provided may reveal something about what it should be.
The St Vincent Teachers and Technical Colleges at Sion Hill have been undersupplied in terms of facilities. The Sion Hill Playing Field has never really been upgraded to an international level that both institutions could use all year and so too national sports associations. This facility has always been sub-standard in so far as its overall outfitting for international competition is concerned.
To this day the hard court at the Teachers College is an abominable shame.
The St Vincent Community College compound at Glen has been left without appropriate allocation for sports infrastructure. The neighbouring Tennis facility is one of the few under the management of a national association and the association should ensure that programmes are made available to the students at the College, creating opportunities for scholarships and for lifting the overall standard of the sport here.
While schools have to be appropriately maintained there is nothing that says we cannot be more creative in the way in which they are constructed. We can ensure that we have top class sports facilities at some of our educational institutions and this must be input at the design stage.
The same can be said of our community centres which seem to be in short supply as we give priority to the construction of resource centres where sport and recreation are not engaged. In designing community centres we could certainly have facilitated facilities for a variety of indoor sports.
We have the Police Training School located just opposite the School of Nursing yet the playing field adjacent to the former is disgusting and unworthy of the name. Is it that we do not believe that our officers and nurses have no interest in sport? Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is unfortunate that while across the globe police and other arms of the protective services are amongst the primary source of athlete sin a wide variety of sports here in St Vincent and the Grenadines our SSU and Black Squad seem to have much time on their hands during any given day that could easily have been used to develop sporting skills.
We are amazed at the number of Vincentian athletes who have gone on to the UK army and navy and who remind us ever so often of their continued involvement in sport in these institutions while here it seems that only cricket is given some attention.
For the most part the sports facilities available to these people are putrid at best.
St Vincent and the Grenadines does have the capacity to do much better in terms of the provision of top class sports facilities but unfortunately in the absence of clarity of developmental vision the political will is woefully deficient in this regard.
We need our planners for schools and community centres to engage sporting bodies and so too our planners in respect of the construction of sports facilities as dictated by the politicians anxious to garner votes.
National sports associations must get their act together and engage in more deliberate planning for the future. Collaboration makes good economic and developmental sense.
Football’s goal project could easily have accommodated, with collaboration, a 400m synthetic track on the outside with inputs from the international federation for the sport of athletics, not FIFA since it has already allocated its resources for the football playing arena.
There is more that can be done and the private sector would be more than interested in participating in the provision of world class facilities if they realise that it is not all dependent on them and their resources but that they are being invited to a partnership.