Thorny issues in coaching development in SVG

In a recent discussion with a group of Vincentians involved in a coaching course the question arose – why is it that we seem unable to get people, who take the time to get trained as coaches, staying on as coaches, assisting the development of sport in our country?
The individual asking the question made the point that the problem does not affect only one sport but virtually all of the sports in St Vincent and the Grenadines and remains a major hindrance to the general development of sport in the nation.
Perhaps the question was prompted by the fact that in the aftermath of the London Olympics there is great concern over the performances of our athletes and the sad state of affairs in respect of facilities that demands more of our coaches.
No one wants to point accusing fingers at any particular coach but there is an urgent need for us to get real in respect of the sorry state we are in with regard to professional coaches in this country.
While clearly there is a need for facilities of an international standard in sports in which we can be truly competitive at the regional and international levels, and there is also need for resources to be pumped into these sports, the situation with our coaches requires great attention in the present and the future if we are to make any significant strides.
The attempt by the National Olympic Committee to commit $80,000 USD every four years to coaches development has resulted in very limited progress in sport. The return on investment leaves much to be desired.
There are far too few coaches committed to working in the field regularly and professionally enough to make the desired impact on the broader national sport development process.
Unfortunately, the blame for what obtains in the field of coaching in this country today must fall on the coaches themselves, to a very large extent.
Certification for its own sake
Professionals always seek to make a distinction between education and certification.
They argue that education facilitates the transmission of what is learnt into action on the part of the individual concerned.
Certification, on the other hand, may simply mean that the individual has proven that he/she possessed the capacity to pass an exam or a set of exams at given periods of time but may well be incapable of using what the qualification to impact anything to which he or she is employed.
There is a tendency, especially in the Caribbean, for some people to become proficient at collecting certificates. They make the collection of certificates into an artform, decorating the walls of their homes and offices, often oblivious to the stark contradiction between what the documents say and what they show themselves capable of doing or failing to do.
This is as true in sport as it is in other spheres in life.
After examining the reality of coaching in St Vincent and the Grenadines for the past several years it is clear that some have participated in coaching courses with little understanding of the work involved in being good at this important vocation.
Like teaching, coaching is a vocation. It requires tremendous dedication on the part of anyone who dares to take on the mantle of coaching.
Unwillingness to collaborate
There are unfortunately many persons who have been trained here and consistently refuse to work together with others.
Several years ago, Andrew Bramble sought to encourage the coaches in football to work together by establishing a Football Coaches Association. This faltered even before it got started since the coaches did not see the immense benefit that could accrue, not only to themselves, but to the broader sport development process in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Bramble then joined forces with some other coaches cutting across disciplines to establish a National Coaches Association. The response was the same. Coaches seem unable to understand the importance of working together in the best interest of the society.
In some cases it was clearly a matter of lack of interest in coaching beyond the certificate, as mentioned earlier.
In other instances it was a matter of sheer laziness. Some coaches were simply unwilling to work hard. They would much prefer the opportunities to travel but not prepared to pout in the work.
Finally, in some cases it was a matter of the coaches not wanting to work with others.
The aforementioned initiatives were certainly not the only ones undertaken in this country yet we are still at the stage of marking time with significantly more coaches sitting at home while the few toil in the field.
In life it is often said that we should recognise that no one is possessive of all knowledge in any given field. Learning is a never-ending activity. Every coach can learn from interaction with fellow coaches and in such cases it is the nation that benefits most as they collaborate for development.
Owning the athlete
Mention has been made previously about the sickening attitude adopted by some coaches that translates into making the athlete sin their charge believe that they belong to them.
Some coaches befriend the parents of the athletes to the point of trying to get the latter to literally listen only to them and ignore any other advice in respect of coaching their children.
The owning of the athlete also reaches a level at times that forces the athlete to do whatever the coach advises without question.
Indeed coaching training requires that the athlete is told why he/she is asked to do this or that exercise and facilitated with truthful answers to the questions asked.
What is disturbing in some cases is the failure of coaches to look after the best interest of some of their charges. For example, not many of our coaches are mature enough to acknowledge when one of ‘their’ athletes is better suited to another event that that to which they are being encouraged to adopt. This is grossly unfair to the athlete.
In some cases the athlete may eventually find out the truth but remains fearful of breaking with the coach who may consider any such action as best labelled ‘ungrateful’.
This country is replete with athletes who have exited the sport of choice for the very reason mentioned here. Indeed, some have left sport altogether thinking that all coaches are alike.
Deluding the athlete
Some suggest that here in St Vincent and the Grenadines the time has come for coaches to resist the temptation to delude their charges
It is true that some athletes are particularly gullible, believing everything that is fed to them by their coaches. Mush of this occurs as the athletes do not always believe that they too should be engaged in reading about their sport, its rules and about training to excel in this chosen field.
Coaches often fall into the trap of convincing athletes that they should stay only with them because they are the only ones capable of carrying them on to national representation. When this does not materialise the same coaches point to everyone else as being responsible for the athlete snot making the national team. This act of irresponsibility is particularly popular.
Unfortunately, some parents are duped into accepting the same stance presented by some of our coaches. They do not take the time to show the requisite interest in their child’s development in sport and instead leave themselves and their children at the mercy of the coach. This is unfortunate and unacceptable.
Parents have an important role to play in working along with the coaches and their children if an appropriate approach is to be taken to their child’s development in sport. It matters not what the sport is.
Continuing education
There is reason enough for individuals to take coaching seriously enough.
Much has been said of the achievements of Jamaica in the past two summer Olympic Games and IAAF World Outdoor Championships. Perhaps more than anything else analysts point to the fact that an increasing number of Jamaican athletes are now staying at home and doing well. This did not come about by magic. It has developed over time.
For the Jamaicans to attain the successes they currently enjoy there had to be commitments all around.
In the first instance Jamaica, like so many of our Caribbean islands, is blessed with sporting talent. There is however no reason to believe that per capita Jamaica is possessive of a greater proportion of talented individuals in sport than the rest of the Caribbean, inclusive of our own St Vincent and the Grenadines.
But Jamaican coaches have shown themselves committed enough o the development of athletics, football, cricket and several other sports enough to consistently place them on the world stage.
The government has committed itself well beyond mere lip service to the provision of facilities and financial resources enough to allow for the hosting of regional and international sporting events in addition to supporting their talented athletes whether male or female and this in want they have considered their major sports.
Over time Jamaica has created a national sporting culture that now feeds on itself to produce a consistent flow of athletes almost like a modern factory.
Everywhere in the world Jamaicans feel themselves fully integrated into this sporting culture. They commit their own resources to assisting their alma maters back home as often as they could with equipment and resources not only in sport but other disciplines as well.
In stark comparison, it is the exception rather than the norm for Vincentians abroad to consistently assist their old schools. Some do not even seem to remember their old schools, let alone consider making a contribution to the development of sport in these institutions.
Coaches cannot work without tools. Tools require finance.
One wonders what whether the nation takes our coaches seriously enough for them to be considered valuable.
While our leaders continue to play their mouths about the value of sport not one has ever shown a consistent commitment to the development of sport. For the most part they know not of which they so often prattle when the occasion presents itself. Our coaches therefore get no help from this source.
They are not prepared to give sport the priority it deserves even whey they admit that along with physical education sport plays a critical role in combatting Chronic Non Communicable Diseases (CNCD) or even when they are forced to admit that sport achievers from the country are better known across the globe that they themselves, something they have difficulty coming to terms with.
The jury remains out on the future of coaching in St Vincent and the Grenadines. It remains all in the hands of the caches themselves.