On Target
January 15, 2016
Grassroots sports programmes up for review

A few of our local sporting associations, namely Track and Field, Cricket, Table Tennis, Football and Basketball, have embarked on grassroots programmes, which essentially are introductory platforms for giving participants the feel of the respective disciplines.

The institution of grassroots programmes for the respective disciplines are mandated by their parent bodies.

They are the outcome of studies, evaluations and consultations, which set out the goals and actions which will drive towards achieving the defined objectives.

Grassroots programmes are implemented by the technical departments with continuous evaluation of progress and adaptation against outlined objectives.

The above-mentioned framework are the ideals, but a closer look at the Vincentian context shows that they do not fit into the intent, as we continuously have lost our way.

Staying here at home, by and large, the grassroots programmes are conducted by the least qualified persons; therefore, invariably, the skills, rudiments and appreciation of the sport are compromised.

Instead, participation and the numbers take precedence and success is deemed.

It must be borne out that grassroots initiatives are often taken on by parents and guardians as holding bays for their children and wards, respectively.

But to do away with the programmes could be a hard and bitter pill to ingest, since they have built-in funding by the international parent organizations.

This is beneficial to our national sporting organizations in many ways, as they are a platform for coaching, whilst there is a trickle down effect for those who are encircled by the activities.

Critical to the whole affair, are we technically and tactically profiting from the number of grassroots courses and systems which are in train?

Without any scientific data to back this inquiry, it is evident that they are not solving many of the deficiencies which plague the young players of the various sports.

One, however, can come to the conclusion that the grassroots efforts are not bearing fruit, as St Vincent and the Grenadines, over the past decade or more, has not shown any prowess at age group tournaments.

This is so, even at the lowest of the levels, that of the Windwards set-up.

With a grassroots programme in train, St Vincent and the Grenadines is almost the certain candidate for the last place in the annual Under-15 Windwards cricket competition, held among the four islands.

In addition, not more than two players find themselves on the Windwards Under-15 team for the West Indies Tournament.

Similarly, the case is applicable to football, which is more or less the trumpeter for grassroots undertaking in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Although, year after year the programmes are touted by the national administrators, representative teams, mainly at the Under-15 grouping, find themselves out of the league when they come up against counterparts from the Caribbean region and beyond.

The results of the CONCACAF Under-15 tournament in 2013 and the Caribbean Football Union’s exercise last year are testimony, as the Vincentian outfits were outclassed by their opponents in both instances.

This column is hereby advocating that all the current grassroots programmes being carried out by national sporting associations undergo immediate surgery, as their body parts are indeed not functioning as they should.

It may be imperative in some cases for a hold to be put on them and purely developmental programmes instituted.

Radical as it may seem, this may be necessary as we are going nowhere fast.

This is opportune, as a recycling of efforts is costing us our national sporting pride and frustrating the young sportsmen and women who are left with a false sense of security and comfort that they are good, but only on the Vincentian landscape.

Part of the overall redress will also mean the better coaches and the more competent will have to take their knowledge and expertise to the lowest level of the scale and work with the beginners.

Once in place, this will ensure that the skills set is best taught at the base; hence when the players get to the higher levels, they will become second nature.

There is no shortage of complaints from senior national coaches, as they often have to re-teach the basics to some players.

Reform in the technical departments of all our sporting disciplines is probably the most crucial factor, if St Vincent and the Grenadines is to become again competitive, firstly among the Windward Islands, then the subregion and the wider Caribbean, before we can begin to think internationally.