The latest edition of the Windward Islands School Games (WISG) has ended and the delegations are back to their respective homes. Importantly however, we must look to the future of these Games and the implications for us in the sub region.
Why have the WISG?
Perhaps the single most important question for all of us in the sub region is the reason for having the WISG in the first place.
When several decades ago the initiative was taken to organise sport competitions between secondary schools of the Windward Islands, the idea was to facilitate the values attendant to sport.
The founding fathers must have thought it important to build bridges across the sea that divides the peoples of these small islands and saw sport as a most convenient vehicle to achieve this. Sport brings people together and allows for the building of strong bonds of friendship in the midst of friendly rivalry.
At the time the participants found themselves having to use boats to get to the annual sporting event and this in and of itself brought the respective team members from each island making the trip, much closer as representatives of the institutions and countries to which they belonged.
At that time too, there was a keener sense of coaches wanting the best for every athlete rather than the selfishness that occurs today and which blights the positivity that should otherwise characterise the undertaking.
Today, when each of the Windward Islands is plagued by internal division and seemingly endless bickering as they strive to manage themselves sin an increasingly competitive global environment, sport serves to bring participants to what commonalities exist in our respective realities.
Participants come to the realisation at WISG that there is more that we have in common than what divides. It is an excellent opportunity to understand the imperative nature of regionalism as opposed to the existing ‘crabs in a barrel’ syndrome that so often characterises us as a people.
Hosting the annual Games also gives young students an opportunity to get to know the peoples and cultures of our respective island nations and what an abundance of talent exists between us.
In many respects therefore the annual WISG can help fashion a sub region in a manner that the politicians by themselves can never do, characterised as they are by their respective hidden agendas.
The students of the Windward Islands deserve to be offered the opportunity each year to come together to celebrate their immense talent in sport.
Perhaps the time has come for us to consider making the annual event one of sport and culture instead of sport alone. This may well be a valuable initiative going forward.
In preparing for the WISG2013 St Vincent and the Grenadines submitted a proposal for the establishment of a standing committee for the annual event. At the time the proposal stated that the mission of the standing committee should be “to oversee the development of the annual Windward Islands Schools Games.”
The thinking at the time was that as it now stands the organisation of the annual sporting event is left to each host country and the experience has been a wide variety in the several aspects of the delivery of the Games.
Annual Games such as the WISG requires a fairly high level of consistency in respect of the structure, planning and delivery. The fact that each year there appears to be a measure of undue haste regarding the event and the resurgence of the same challenges has made for some unease amongst both participating countries and the title sponsors.
It is the view that a standing committee that involves the primary stakeholders would lead to a measure of professionalism, efficiency and consistency regarding all aspects of the WISG going forward.
The composition of such a standing committee should include representatives of the governments of the Windward Islands with responsibility for sports in schools, representatives of national sports associations whose sports are on the WISG competitions programme and sponsors. It is to be expected that the standing committee shall have power to invite any individual/organisation to its meetings in furtherance of the fulfilment of its objectives.
Possible objectives of the standing committee should include but perhaps not be limited to the following:
- To ensure the sustainability of the annual Windward Islands Schools Games
- To determine the eligibility and participation criteria for the annual Windward Islands Schools Games
- To determine the Sports of the Games
- To determine the Competition Programme of the Games
- To determine the duration of Games
- To oversee the selection of the host country
- To approve the Games Village for the Games each year
- To approve the plans and implementation strategies of the Local Organising Committee
The role of schools in the development of students is invaluable to the broader development of the respective societies in which they operate.
Some social scientists argue that the school operates in tandem with the family in the formation of the individual perhaps more than any other social institution, except perhaps religion.
Teachers have a tremendous responsibility as they impact the impressionable children placed in their care. They impart, influence and reinforce values that serve the students for a lifetime.
It is therefore unfortunate that not enough effort appears to be made by many teachers to understand the important life-impacting roles they play on those in their charge.
The dynamic research that is ongoing on the importance of physical literacy, physical activity and sport to the growth, development and overall wellbeing of an individual must be used by our educators to better prepare our students for life.
The positive impact of continued research and the application of findings to the education process cannot be overstated.
In the Windward Islands therefore we can bring our scholarship to bear on the fashioning of successive generations of students and youths to the benefit of the sub region.
The hosting of the annual WISG therefore must inevitably be seen as part of the building blocks of successive generations of Windward Islanders. In their own lives they must impact the OECS and CARICOM member countries having used their early experiences to combat negativity by ushering in positive values and greater commitment to each other as peoples with a similar history and cultural experience.
Our Ministries of Education as well as of Sport and Culture, must come to an understanding of and appreciation for the capacity of their respective disciplinary focus to allow our students to constructive our societies going forward and to do so collectively.
Physical literacy, physical activity and sport build character in many ways now known to us all. This must be used to encourage their full integration into the school curriculum such that it places an end to the nonsense of the students’ involvement in them leading to a loss of instructional time and hence a deficiency in their broader education.
The national federations that introduce different sports in the islands of the Windward grouping must eagerly pursue their respective development and allow innovation/creativity to be one of their prominent features.
National federations must endeavour to develop their respective sports in tandem with their respective international federations (IF) yet leaving room for the creativity of our youths to bring new events to the fore that are bred out of our unique historical and cultural experiences.
It is unfortunate that the current focus of the annual WISG leaves no room for the involvement of our students in traditional games. We have been made to scoff at traditional games as though they served no useful purpose.
National federations must so develop their respective sports that they should force the standing committee to engage in periodic reviews of the sports on the annual event programme. There is nothing that states that the existing sports on the current programme are cast in stone for the future.
Consideration could be given to reviewing the sports on the existing programme in the context of their popularity within the existing school systems in the Windward Islands. There is always a possibility that new sports can be added or some existing sports completely replaced. It is also possible to change sports entirely for any given period.
The point being made here is that we must be creative in our thinking and allow for change that would yield better results in terms of the mission and objectives of the WISG.
National federations can and must play a major role in introducing and developing sports in the school system as an integral part of the education of a nation’s students. Therein lies a tremendous responsibility.
Sport is not just about competition. It involves character building in every respect.
The education authorities must allow national federations a place in the overall education structure and planning. For their part, national federations must professionalise themselves to meet this role in the broader national development process.
In the preparation of annual school programmes, national federations must bring their own education principles and practices to bear and provide the professionals and materials to facilitate their full and responsible involvement.
Sport competitions must form only one aspect of the involvement of national federations in the lives of the students of the nation. Once this is acknowledged and federations commit to their full integration the annual WISG would become a far more important feature of national development in each of the Windward Islands.