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Participate or compete?

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How long can this country continue to participate, and not compete, in sports at all levels? And the records are there to show that the former is the case.

In recent months St. Vincent and the Grenadines participated in the Commonwealth Games, Carifta, both the junior and senior Central America and Caribbean (CAC) Games, NACAC Under-23 athletics championships, Caribbean Union of Teachers Under-15 athletics competition, Stanford 20/20 cricket, the Caribbean Men’s Basketball Championships and the Windward Islands Schools’ Games, just to name a few.{{more}}

Except for the bronze medal won in the 400m in Colombia by Kineke Alexander, and the Senior Women’s Regional League cricket title, there has not been much to shout about.

Whilst there has been some limited success at the sub-regional level, the same cannot be said when we extend to the wider Caribbean and the international sphere.

This country’s sportspersons have become the whipping boys and girls for those who oppose them in competition, as the existing gulf in performance by some of our Caribbean neighbours widens. Suffice to say, we have similar limitations.

Netball, which was the flagship achiever for some time, has slipped into an abyss of despair.

It is noticeable that many of our sportsmen and women are taken on outings, absent of clear objectives, while it has become clichéd that the regional and international tournaments are used to give them “exposure and learning experience.”

A close analysis will show that many of these players have been representing their respective disciplines for several years with no marked improvement in performance.

Furthermore, the choice of some players and administrators only to seek selection to tournaments involving extensive travel re-emphasises my point of mere participation.

The rotation of executive members of associations as managers, irrespective of their managerial skills adds to the lack of direction and focus.

An athlete (used here in the broad sense) who has been inactive for some years was “carried” to the CAC Games in Colombia because there was no one else available.

It is the patriotic public, government, and private sector that are hounded for financial support for these representative teams, but are we truly satisfied with the returns on our investments in some cases?

Linked to this under-achievement are the reports that surface of the unacceptable behaviour by players on overseas assignments that go unpunished, as offenders find themselves on the next trip.

Conversely, the frequent reports that some officials on overseas tours were going on their own business and leaving athletes with minimal supervision, epitomises the lack of commitment on all fronts.

The alleged open disrespect shown to officials by some members of our secondary schools’ team to the St. Lucia games must not be condoned or allowed to flourish. Most of all, these allegations need investigating.

Participating in competitions, while it may seem on the surface as a sign of development for the respective sports, it is not necessarily the case. Success does not come overnight but must be measured overtime, as consistent improvement in the individual or unit’s performance must be noticeable.

Many of our national sporting organisations have adopted the “rocking chair phenomenon”- making movements but going nowhere.

The lack of adequate facilities, finance and technical expertise admittedly, are hindrances to progress .But can we always wallow in our deficiencies?

Maximising our diplomatic relations with Cuba, Mexico, Malaysia and Venezuela, through the medium of sports is one way of assisting our athletes attain higher levels of performance, hence becoming more competitive.

Reclaiming our position as a potent sporting nation in the region is crucial, but the absence of a binding national sports policy adds to the demise, making our journey one of mere extravagance.

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