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Reversing that entrenched perception

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It is a fact that in St Vincent and the Grenadines, in most sporting disciplines, very little attention is paid to the youth competitions and the development of the youth.{{more}}

In the main, youth competitions are seen as avenues for students who are not gifted academically, for them to use sports to make up for their shortcomings or to keep them occupied, so that they do not cause mischief of one kind or another.

Even school competitions are not considered an integral part of the curriculum, but rather “after school play” or simply to satisfy some other mandated requirement that some sports or physical activity is carried out.

The current national inter-community Under-13 football league, which is into its second year, is welcomed by many who know and accept what sports do for a nation and human development.

Unfortunately, the good intentions are lost in the notion that the competition involves youngsters and it is not a competition which warrants a powerful media hype that will manifest itself to a huge following or propping up the coffers of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation.

The same is the case with the Under-17 competition, which has received scant attention from the powers that be.

So, what happens is that the youngsters are given the opportunity to showcase their football skills, but under conditions which do not encourage the best in habits.

What is most disturbing is the general body language of the match officials, who, in most cases see the exercise as having little value.

Likewise, the team officials who give of their time, energy, money and knowledge, also need to acknowledge that they are foster parents of the boys and girls; therefore, nothing less than good behaviour should be accepted from their charges and vice versa.

Most parents see sports as a distraction, unless they are somehow convinced that their child is a gifted athlete.

And, worse, few of our best and brightest, who have benefitted most from their community’s support, ever volunteer their time to help administrate at the grassroots level.

This is not to say that the issues have surfaced this year, but this has been the trend over many years.

The trend must be reversed, as the silt will come out full force, when the same players are called for national representation.

Placing all emphases on senior national teams often ends in the reverse, as what should be taught at the youth level seems to be foreign to the players.

Then, there is the hue and cry of players’ ill-discipline, inability to socialise, as well as their inadaptability to function in an environment which warrants some aspects of professionalism and order.

It is public knowledge that many national teams struggle overseas, not because of a lack of ability, but they often get a culture shock as what obtains elsewhere is as foreign as the places they visit.

We seem not to recognize that sports teach values and lessons which formal education (the school system) does not.

In helping to put things right, youth programmes should be afforded the best coaches, the best officials, in fact, the best of everything, as that is where the real inculcation of the rudiments of the respective sporting disciplines begins.

A bad or poor job at that level spills over to the teams/clubs and eventually national teams.

Properly organised clubs and competitions help athletes build character, and the culture that surrounds sporting activities is important for passing on our shared values to the next generation.

Victors serve as heroes, helping to build models of good behaviour and showing the kind of citizen we all should (or shouldn’t) aspire to become. Achievements in sports inspire the community and country to greatness.

So, let us start reversing the trend, or otherwise admit that we are not serious about sports and stay off the people’s regional and international stage and simply have recreational fun and games in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

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