On Target
October 18, 2013

Youth development – more than just a concept

Almost every national sporting association across St Vincent and the Grenadines claims that they focus on youth development, and rightly so.{{more}}

However, this, in the main, remains a concept, ole talk and in some instances meaningless rhetoric.

It is a fact that many associations carry out training, all geared at developing its youngsters.

But, this has become cosmetic and an act of parading, while little by way of structured progression is put in place.

How many of these youth programmes have databases, times, distances, targets and general biographies of their members?

Certainly, if any, then, one can count them on one hand.

Therefore, real flesh and meaning must be pursued if St Vincent and the Grenadines is to start being a force to be reckoned with, first of all on the regional scene, then on the international stage.

If not, let us just continue to have fun and games and leave the far-fetched ambitions as simply dreams to be pursued, but never attained.

At present, there are the secondary schools’ football and netball tournaments taking place.

Yes, at the end of these, the top performers will be rewarded with trophies, medals etc, while some will make it to the St Vincent and the Grenadines’ team for next year’s Windward Islands Schools’ games.

But, are there systems by the two national associations to scout for emerging talent?

Are the national coaches making attempts to view the matches and identify talents which they can harness and serve the wider national representative teams in the near future?

Obviously, there must be persons who will catch the eye, but what will become of them after these competitions have closed off?

It should be the respective associations’ mandate to ensure that their talent resources are replenished, as it is natural for persons to leave the sport for one reason or the other.

In the case of football, the task is more urgent, as there seems to be not much exceptional talent coming out of the school system.

And, this must be a cause for concern as most of the young football stock are in the schools’ setup.

Similarly, the mauling the national Under-15 team received in the Cayman Islands in the CONCACAF tournament, also points in the direction of a need for greater attention to be paid to the youths.

Yes, the team may not have reflected the best talent pool available at that age level, but it was representative of the state of football in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

We need not be naïve and think that we have places to go with the current crop of senior national footballers, as many are stuck in their ways and are not coachable and are beyond reaching their optimum.

The same can be said of table tennis, and basketball, which also needs a house cleaning job.

So, with that established, the guilty, but conscientious associations should vigourously make youth development paramount. In the case of football, netball and basketball, an elite athlete programme should be in train to have the best potential talents in an advanced stage of their progress.

It may also mean that the national associations may have to become more involved in the players’ lives to offer them guidance through mentorship programmes and the like.

It also may be not too late for the top footballers in the schools’ competition be identified and nurtured from here on in. Maybe too, the executive could seek out financial resources in helping to assist some of the footballers with their schooling, nutrition and general development. The offering of a local football, netball or basketball scholarship can be another incentive to which the best players could aspire.

There are many lessons which have been taught of talented young sportsmen and women, who have faded into non recognition, not on their own accord, but nothing was put in order to see them move to the next level.

We are seeing in Grenada that one of its brightest cricket prospects, Emmanuel Stewart, is being given the support to take him from his present status.

The same can be done for those whom this column acknowledges as hopeful footballers – Derron Rouse and Kyle Edwards.

And, there may be more, but nothing is there for them to hold on to, as they aspire for stardom.