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Are our sports people agents of social change?

Are our sports people agents of social change?

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The role played by sportsmen and women here in St Vincent and the Grenadines has been mainly to train and represent their respective disciplines, at the club and eventually at the national level.

For some though, they will go on to play at a higher levels, such as representing the West Indies, in the case of cricket, or get scholarships in the fields of football, basketball and track and field, for example.

Through the attainment of these scholarships, a selected few have gone on to be certified coaches, physiotherapists, medical doctors or have gained professional qualifications other fields of employment.

Unfortunately, it is only when the latter occurs that the virtues of having a sporting background, coupled with the academic prerequisites, are lauded.

Otherwise, sports is seen as a recreational activity that is used to pass the time. But very little value is placed on the importance of sports on the psyche of us as Vincentians.

The recent lay off in sporting activities, occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic should have in some way given sports a higher rating on the scale of social priorities.

Whilst there is compelling evidence that sports possesses greater value to country, than the sheer hosting of events, not much is done for us as a nation, to heighten that profile.

And, this is setting aside the economic benefits that are accrued from sports, which too are widely publicised.

But be this as it may, sports people are mainly stagnated by their relative status.

Therefore, unlike other countries, whose sports people carry social weight, ours do not.

We saw last June that Manchester United and England footballer, 22-year-old Marcus Rashford’s advocacy on free school meals during the summer, caused his country’s Prime Minister- Boris Johnson, to take notice.

The result was that 1.3 million children who were eligible for free lunches, had vouchers made available to them. This cost the government an expenditure of 120 million pounds sterling.

Yes, Rashford is an international star and who makes millions and has media appeal, but the fact is that sort of consciousness of social issues comes from within.

Also, many other international stars are taking side with the Black Lives Matter.

So can Vincentian sportsmen and women in our small space do the same?

Readily, there would be a resounding no.

Not because there are not sufficient issues that are confronting our society, but our sportsmen and women do not have that clout, nor are they adequately positioned to do so.

In some ways, our Vincentian society’s way of doing things will not allow these sports people to become vocal on matters of social and public concern.

What can be done in the interim though, is for sporting organisations to begin to lay down markers on their respective communities.

Sporting organisations have to add value to the social life of the Vincentian community, beyond the provision of opportunities to play sport.

Community involvement will eventually lead to that social consciousness needed by our sports people.