Training coaches and the future of Vincentian sport

The St Vincent and the Grenadines National Olympic Committee (NOC) has provided training opportunities thus far for 2010 to coaches of three national associations – Basketball, Table Tennis and Athletics respectively. The courses have been rather intense and the participants have been truly challenged to go forth and utilise what their new qualifications to benefit the vast majority of the youths of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The NOC has been facilitating these technical courses for several years and more than any other institution in St Vincent and the Grenadines has trained coaches enough to impact the sport development process in this country. That we have not gone to the expected higher level in terms of actual performances exhibited by our athletes may well be a reflection of the coaches and coaching.
Hundreds of coaches in Olympic sports have been trained through the intervention of the NOC and the several national sports associations that have benefitted must be mindful of the importance of showing that they have done well and made significant, if small, strides forward in their respective sports.
The recent weak performances exhibited by Vincentian athletes at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, served to highlight just how far away we are from accessing the big league in sport. The results have given greater voice to those who already hold the view that our participation in these events constitutes a major waste of valuable resources. They renew their call for better use of these resources and express the stance that our national sports associations must do better if they are to garner support from the Vincentian public.
The national sports associations retort that the future of sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines, however, remains as dependent on our coaches as it does on our athletes. Greater attention has to be paid to our coaches, ensuring their systematic development and exposure.
Unfortunately many of our coaches seek first remuneration even before they begin to produce quality athletes. Others fight but only for their own athletes while yet others lay claim to athletes as belonging to some sort of personal fiefdom.
The time has come for our coaches to take their training seriously enough to impact the development process far more positively than is currently the case.
The NOC cannot do it alone. The government does not yet have an acceptable understanding of sport and its importance to national development, seeing it more as an adjunct for vote gathering and little else.
The NOC and its affiliates therefore must ensure greater collaboration to facilitate the emergence of a culture of sport in this country and the gradual rise in the quality of our coaches and by extension, the athletes with whom they work.
The NOC facilitated a Beginner’s FIBA Level # 1 coaches certification course for Basketball in St Vincent during the period, 8 – 19 June 2010.
The Basketball Federation’s new Executive recognised the state of coaching in St Vincent and the Grenadines and thought it an appropriate time to introduce the skills of coaching to some eager individuals.
The programme was conducted daily between 5.00 – 8.00pm, involving theoretical and practical sessions for a total of 33 hours as mandated by the international federation.
Coach Nelson Isley of the USA, who has been here before, conducted the course, which was attended by 26 participants; 14 women and 12 men.
Isley reported great enthusiasm amongst the coaches and noted that there was much talent that can aid in the systematic development of the sport in the country. He was anxious to see persons with a keen interest in the art and science of coaching and expressed the hope that they would stick to the task and make the training worthwhile.
The hammering that the local ladies received, first in the CentroBasket Tournament and then the CAC Games in Mayaguez, may well have emphasised just how far behind we are in this aspect of the sport.
With Adonal Foyle’s announcement of his retirement from the NBA on Monday 16 August 2010, Sancho Lyttle’s acceptance of citizenship of Spain and Sophia Young’s application for leave to represent the USA, the local association is starting from a point well below what we ought to have expected at this stage.
The development of a strong and highly competent cadre of local coaches must receive great attention from those in authority in the Federation.
We can only hope that the newly certified coaches will not see the certificate as the important thing but rather take to the field in search of talented youths and develop them to the highest possible level of competence in the sport.
Table Tennis
For some time Table Tennis has been a bone of contention.
Newly appointed Minister of State in the Ministry of Sport, Ces Mc Kie, has taken the stance that he is prepared to work with the existing Executive and has been doing just that.
The Table Tennis leadership here approached the NOC for a technical course to achieve a number of objectives. The coaching stick is not particularly large. There were a number of ITTF Level # 1 coaches who needed to be recertified. The organisation is in need to more coaches moving on to the ITTF Level # 2 certification.
In order to address the growing interest in Table Tennis around St Vincent and the Grenadines the leadership opted to ensure that participation in the recently concluded programme came from across the country.
Egyptian coach, Ahmed Dawlatly, conducted the Technical Course in Table Tennis.
Coach Dawlatly was in St Vincent and the Grenadines on a previous occasion. In 2005 he was the ITTF’s appointed expert to conduct an Olympic Solidarity sponsored four-month programme aimed at developing a national sport structure for Table Tennis.
At that time too he hosted an ITTF Level # 1 coaching course.
This time around, coach Dawlatly was only here for a brief period, 4 – 12 August 2010.
The course attracted 18 participants. It was tough going since the programme was pitched at a rather intense level.
The St Vincent and the Grenadines now have 10 ITTF certified Level # 1 coaches. This number now makes it possible for the organisation to host an ITTF Level # 2 course.
Dawlatly certified a number of Community coaches as well as Club coaches. These are separate and distinct from the ITTF Level # 1 coaches.
Track and Field Athletics may well be in receipt of a major boost with the training of several more coaches.
Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines (TASVG) is playing host to yet another Coaching Education Certification System (CECS) Level II which began at the St Vincent Grammar School on 16 August – because Arnos Vale was at the time occupied with West Indies Women’s Cricket – and continued after three days, at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex. The course concludes tomorrow.
Director of the IAAF’s Regional Development Centre (RDC) based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Lenford Levy, and our own IAAF Instructor, Gideon Labban, are the course conductors of a two-week intensive coaches education programme that brought together 19 participants who stayed the duration. There was one dropout.
TASVG’s Technical Director, Gideon Labban, identified a number of interested persons for the course based on his programme that took him across the country to several of the nation’s schools where he interfaced with those responsible for sport in each institution. Some additional persons were accepted into the course, including ace distance runner, Pamenos Ballantyne.
The Course, involving daily theory and practical sessions is the first under the new IAAF CECS coaches education prgramme for Level # 2 and features continuous assessment in which all participants must be engaged. Still, at the conclusion, there are final examinations in the coaching theory followed by practicals.
The future
Vincentian coaches are not sufficiently aggressive in the conduct of their work. They do not seek out talented individuals and strive to take them to excellence. For the most part they seem far too content with winning at home.
Our coaches have, by the examples they set, for the most part, fail to adequately prepare our athletes for the regional and international competition they meet when they travel abroad.
Year after year we boast of the outstanding performances of our athletes at home and go decidedly quiet when they leave local shores for regional and international competition.
While there are some coaches who work diligently at getting the job done too many appear ready for the ‘quick fix’ approach. They want immediate results, paying no attention to the time and struggle it takes to achieve success with an athlete beyond local shores.
Too many athletes are led to believe that they have reached the pinnacle of their sport when they become national champions. That is the reason this Columnist resists the decision of the National Sports Council to have the National Sports Personality being someone who is home based with international athletes being treated to a separate category and award. This leaves the home based athlete believing that he/she has reached somewhere when that is far from the truth.
Too many of our coaches have, without appropriate supportive evidence seem anxious to sing their own praises and delude athletes. They fail to see the bigger picture and fail to work with their fellow coaches in the best interest of the athletes in their charge and the overall development of the sport.
Selfishness has prevented virtually every national sports association from sustaining a viable coaches association. Concern for who gets what and goes where has stymied their capacity to see beyond their noses, mistaking the leaves for the forest.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is a small country. We can do much better with the talented youths that abound here if our coaches would fulfil their mandate. If they would take the time to understand what is required of a good coach they will work diligently together in pursuit of excellence.
The NOC can only do so much. Each national sports association needs to step up and contribute to the national sport development process in earnest. The future of the nation depends upon it.