On Target
August 2, 2019
Earning one’s keep

Just over a month ago during Vincy Mas 2019, there was much talk going around St Vincent and the Grenadines that it was time for a young artiste to win the Soca Monarch competition.

To be specific, many were calling for one of the perennial winners of the competition, “Fireman” not to compete.

This, according to the proponents, was for him (Fireman) to allow a “young and upcoming artiste to eat ah food”.

The same parallel can be drawn into some happenings taking place here in Vincentian sports.

There seems to be some campaign against persons who are advanced in age, (30 and over), but are still capable of giving his or her service nationally, to quit their respective sports, as they are considered “too old”.

All at once, age is the determining factor, not necessarily one’s performance.

But as we look at the consequences of such notion, there are several instances unfolding before us that for some, age is just number when it comes to sports.

A case in point was two weekends ago when Robert “Bob” Ballantyne champed the national Table Tennis title, at the age of 59.

Ballantyne had to endure a barrage of unsavoury comments, as some who opposed him referred to him as a “relic”, as well as a “Table Tennis dinosaur”.

As it turned out, Ballantyne had the last laugh when he beat his much younger opponent.

The same is the case in local cricket, as the “young” cricketers are unable to better the “older” ones.

Those who follow local cricket would realise that Team Rivals have already secured the National Lotteries Authority Premier Division title, along with the National Lotteries Authority Neil Williams competition.

Additionally, Rivals are in the final of the National Club Tournament and topped the preliminary phase Premier Division One-Day competition, hence, are in the semi-finals.

To put Rivals’ titles and status in context, the team is composed of mainly players who have gone past their “best”. Players who are engaged in masters’ cricket, yet they are still trumping.

In the same vein with Rivals, is the Maple Netball Club, which participate in division one of the National Club Tournament.

Dotted with players who are too past the age of 40, Maple are still strong contenders in the presence of the more youthful other teams.

Of note too, is that Skiddy Francis-Crick, with more than three decades of netball under her belt, was again “the most accurate shooter” in the 2019 edition of the national tournament.

If these seasoned players were to cave in and bow to the notion of age, then who would have set the standard for the more youthful players to achieve?

Is it that sports should be confined to that particular age group and dismiss those who are capable of performing beyond the “accepted” grouping.

Unfortunately, the advocates of the “hand me down” approach are gaining some currency in some quarters.

They do not acknowledge that their myopic stance does not augur well for the future of sports.

Therefore, are these advocates sending a message to the young sportsmen and women that once they have youth on their side, they are automatic choices?

Are those who are purporting the idea of age over aptitude, saying that youngsters need not work hard?

Unfortunately, that message, if received at face value, can spell a social disaster for us here in SVG.

The argument can be extended further, as those involved in sports can take it to their other spheres, inclusive of education, and even their willingness to achieve anything in life.

Zooming in on the main issue of sports, both the young and the more matured players are important.

The young players should not be left to develop on their own, there must be others with experience, to provide them with the necessary guidance.

Neither should the older players be allowed to stay on the stage until they are physically and mentally liabilities.

This is so, as many sporting disciplines, past and present, have struggled from the lack of succession planning.

Persons who want to be tops in sports, at least here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, must not be given a free ride, but MUST earn their keep.