Youth Athletics and our Future

On Saturday 7 January Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines hosted its annual Awards Ceremony for achievements in 2011. The Ceremony came one month late but was nonetheless an important occasion for the development of the sport in this country.
This week we reproduce as our weekly Column my entire presentation as the President of the organisation.

Dear Friends, protocol having been established it is necessary for me even at this stage of the proceedings to extend a very warm welcome to all who have responded so positively to our invitation to join us today at this our Annual Awards Ceremony.
Messrs Rawlson Morgan and Leroy Llewellyn, Games Secretary and Chair of the TASVG Road Race Commission respectively, have already outlined our programme for 2011 and the prime achievers have been duly rewarded and congratulated. I need not repeat any of their presentations here.
This year we have chosen as our theme, Youth Athletics and Our Future. Our guest speaker on this occasion, Lennox Adams, would explore in great detail the issues attendant to this theme. But it is incumbent upon me in my capacity as President of Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines, to explain why we have come to the stage where we can insist unapologetically on our youth athletics programme as the future of our sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines without allowing it to be an old cliché.
Gideon Labban
In 2011 we were unfortunate to have lost the services of Gideon Labban, our Technical Director of long standing and a committed coach to the development of our youth athletics programme.
For the past two years of his tenure here he focused on getting teachers and students around the country, however remote the area, to witness and practice the fundamentals of our sport. He spent time teaching and training in every place possible, what can be done with the local resources to get children into running, jumping and throwing – the fundamentals of track and field athletics.
Michael Ollivierre
As Labban left our shores we had the good fortune of the return of Michael Ollivierre, who distinguished himself in Jamaica as an outstanding coach with special emphasis on hurdles and distance running.
Since his return Ollivierre has been an indefatigable protagonist of youth athletics.
He has thus far found himself at almost every school sports meet and could be seen at each of these writing down the names of the talented athletes on display, following up with them, getting their contact details. More than this and importantly so, he touched base with their parents and/or guardians.
Ollivierre, like Labban before him, and like Rawlson Morgan, Rosmund Griffith, Alrick Wright, Walford McKie and Santa Cruickshank and Godfrey Harry, used personal finances to assist athletes with getting to and from training sessions.
His aggressive manner in pursuing talented athletes has led him to become the object of much criticism from coaches, athletes and parents alike. Some may argue over whether or not the criticisms are deserved but one thing is certain, his commitment to seeking out and developing young athletes remains unchallenged.
TASVG has never turned its back on anyone willing to go out into the field eagerly seeing out talented youths and encouraging them, their teachers, family and friends to be part of the progressive development in which they are involved through our sport.
In 2011 we again headed the Athletics Sub Committee of the Ministry of Education Schools Games Committee that planned and administered the greatest Inter Secondary and Primary Schools Track and Field Championships in the history of this country in terms of overall presentation.
For the very first time TASVG brought in a team from Trinidad and Tobago to undertake electronic timing and photofinish facilities at the Inter Secondary Schools Championships.
Competitions abroad
During 2011 we have participated in the Central American and Caribbean Juvenile Championships in Tortola, BVI, for children 11, 12, 13 and 14 years. We participated in the annual Carifta Games in Montego Bay, Jamaica, the World Youth Championships in Lille, France and the Pan American Junior Championships in Miramar, Florida, USA. These were opportunities for our youths.
We took our junior athletes alongside our seniors to the Zenith Meet in Tobago as well as the national championships in St Kitts/Nevis, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
While they have not excelled, we are certain that the opportunities afforded them allowed for an appreciation of what is expected of them and the competition they are up against.
Our seniors have unfortunately sold us short. While we have attained some successes they have generally been well below expectations. This is not to say that their contributions have gone unnoticed or unappreciated. We value what they continue to do for the overall promotion of our sport.
It would be remiss of me if I did not dwell for a moment on the challenges with which we are constantly faced.
Playing surfaces
In the absence of a national stadium – of which we have no idea when one would be constructed – the athletes have Arnos Vale # 1 as the best facility for preparation. This area is not our home and therefore we can expect to be told of closure at any time. Indeed, earlier this week we were informed that the venue is closed through to the end of the three One Day Internationals on 20 March 2012. The impact of this is devastating and spells doom for those athletes and coaches hoping to engage in adequate preparation for regional and international competitions this year.
We have no quarrel with cricket or the National Sports Council. We have always had an excellent relationship with both.
We have a problem with the insensitivity of our authorities in respect of the provision of a national stadium.
We will nonetheless continue to work with the National Sports Council to ensure that we do have access to an appropriate place for training and competition while the main Arnos Vale is under preparation for the major international cricketing encounters.
TASVG has been left to procure the bulk of the equipment needed for our young athletes. However we have also insisted that schools and in particular our Multi Purpose Centres can produce local equipment that can serve our athletes’ needs just as well. Calvert Shortte at the Biabou Methodist School has done very well in this regard with equipment for the Kids in Athletics Programme. He has been particularly creative in his use of locally produced materials and has twice captured the top honours at the National Kids in Athletics Championships – a feat he is not willing to give up any time in the near future.
Walford Mc Kie at West St George Secondary School has just produced the latest set of training hurdles in this country using PVC. Others have been so engaged as well and we hope much more will be achieved to facilitate increased equipment access for our youngsters.
We have trained hundreds of coaches over the years and will continue in 2012 to do more of this. But we ask more of those we have trained.
We urge you to work diligently. The youths of this nation stand to benefit when you work with them in developing their athletics potential.  There is immense joy in seeing athletes learn new skills and progress through to success.
Coaches, come on board. Let us all, together, collaboratively, Go Athletics.
This year would witness a greater level of commitment to the youths involved in athletics.
St Vincent and the Grenadine snow has its own electronic timing and photofinish equipment making hand timing for our major activities a thing of the past from this year onward. Thanks to the National Olympic Committee we have all this new equipment in our country. This is indeed an historic achievement and we remain eternally grateful.
There would be two coaching courses during the year. One would be the IAAF Kids In Athletics and the other the IAAF Level II. This will increase yet again the number of trained and IAAF certified coaches in the country.
There would be more equipment procured to facilitate aspects of our sport in which we are weak including the use of starting blocks, hurdling and the field events – high, long and triple jumps, shot put, discus and javelin.
We would be represented at the OECS Invitational and the St Kitts Nationals in St Kitts, the Trinidad and Tobago Nationals, the Carifta Games in Bermuda over the Easter weekend, the CAC Junior Championships in El Salvador, the NACAC Under 23 in Mexico, the World Juniors in Barcelona, Spain, the World Indoors in Istanbul, Turkey, and of course the Summer Olympics in London, England.
At home we have a packed programme that should serve to prepare our athletes but now that we do not have access to Arnos Vale until late March we would use alternative venues that are not of an acceptable standard.
Opportunities are plentiful but we must work together to achieve greater success.
We will continue to work with what is available to us – interested athletes, committed coaches and playing fields regardless of their condition.
Nothing shall derail our quest to be the leading national sporting body in St Vincent and the Grenadines and the nation’s most successful.
We are grateful to all those athletes and coaches who have worked during 2011 and look forward to your continued involvement in 2012.
We thank the parents and teachers who have supported us along the way.
We thank all those, especially the sponsors and volunteers, the Red Cross and police, who have assisted us over the past year. We look forward to your continued commitment and support.
Thank you and a happy new year to all.