Fourteen students matriculated as undergraduates in the recently implemented Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Sports Science, successfully completing the programme. But it was a bittersweet occasion for the group which was affected by the death of a member, and also suffered logistical hiccups.
In February 2021, Roxell John, an educator and Sports Coordinator at the St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College (SVGCC), made a proposal to the College to commence a specialized programme in Sports Science. The programme, as explained by John in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT, is intended to be a step up on the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) Physical Education course offered to students.
After some negotiating and tweaking to the initial proposal, the College welcomed the first batch of students in September, 2021 and two years later they are on the way to tackle the next hurdle in their academic and professional careers. John said he believes the graduates can plug some concerning holes in primary sports education and advance the sporting sector in SVG. “We cannot have primary school students just going through the motions with games as we knew it in our time. We need to have properly trained individuals in the primary schools so the foundation of the skills can be taught. [Sports] clubs can have these guys doing multiple jobs … a coach being a masseuse or doubling up on sports medicine.
You can also have an individual coming to prepare players mentally for games.” The students were taken through a rigorous course schedule over the two years, including Sports Management, Sports Psychology, Anatomy & Physiology as well a slew of practical courses which required students to collaborate with local primary schools to administer classes in coaching. The cohort, 14 students in total, were to a degree, the guinea pigs of the programme with John highlighting a laundry list of challenges he had to face such as keeping students engaged, fitting professional students into the programme as well as time clashes with primary schools where practicals were to be administered. “We learned from this cohort what we need to do with the second cohort. We always knew we would have challenges with the first,” John said On Tuesday, June 27, when the 14 students crossed the stage to accept their certificates.
One student was, however, missing from the group- Ossique Bellingy who died as a result of illness before completing the programme. The administration of the College concurred with a recommendation made by John to honour Bellingy posthumously. His aunt and his younger brother accepted his certificate on the family’s behalf. John described the aspiring football coach as one of the leaders of the student group.
“He never ever seemed flustered, even in classes when he was ill or at a practical. He pulled everyone together. He was and still is an example of strength and perseverance. He embodied all of the qualities of a student in a programme where in some cases we didn’t even know where we were going that year.”
Ossique was also honoured in the Community College Football Competition with the award for Most Disciplined Player being named after him. As the College prepares to welcome a new batch of students in the Sports Science degree programme next semester, John said he wants Vincentians to recognize the importance of the sporting industry and its potential to be a major revenue earner for the country.
“It [the programme] definitely wasn’t easy, but right now it is showing that it’s definitely fruitful in terms of what we are achieving. I don’t think we are investing as much as we should and can invest, and it is high time that we do more for this industry so it can give back to us.”