September 14, 2007

Taking the fun out of fun

Sporting activities are primarily designed for fun. Competition, as a component, seeks to reward excellence, as well as measure strengths and weaknesses.{{more}}

Competition, in fun activities is secondary, as enjoyment and participation take precedence.

Several organisations and committees here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines stage events and tournaments with fun being the main ingredient.

However, a shift in focus of these events has led to many of them losing their flavour.

And many established tournaments and games have suffered and continue to be watered down.

The current Inter-ministerial Games are a case in point. Started a few years ago, the Games’ objectives were to build camaraderie among members of the public service and provide them with avenues to show their athleticism in a less than competitive setting.

Having seen the evolution of the Games over the years, persons who really want to get involved are being driven away by the participation of some seasoned players, robbing the fringe players of some much needed fun and exercise.

Even the atmosphere at some of the events, where much emphasis is placed on winning, makes a mockery of the original intended outcome.

Like these Games, the Firms and Industrial Netball Tournament has suffered a similar fate. No longer does this tournament hold pride of place among workers of the various institutions. It has obviously been dying a natural death, such that it has lost sponsorship and can only be held biennially, as interest has weaned considerably.

Also going to the grave are the various out of season football leagues, such as those held at Belair and Biabou.

Community focussed football tournaments have done well to harness the talents in the various locales, but with the relaxation of rules and an infiltration of accomplished players, the direction has been lost. The only positive coming out of the tournaments has been more recognition and popularity of these leagues. But this was never the intended purposes when the leagues were conceptualised.

What has emerged is the duplication of events, which has not lifted the standards; neither are young talents being born, as it is the same names that roam from league to league.

Even national footballers, for no conceivable benefit, find themselves participating in these leagues.

Similarly, years ago there was a Firms Cricket Competition which formed healthy fun for cricketers who would have normally been stashed away for eternity. In true “goat match” style, this competition traversed the outlying communities with entertainment and brought town to country, and vice versa. But with the passage of time, this, too, fell by the wayside. Today we can only live on memories.

But there are those organizers who are staying rooted to their purpose and are holding firm to the value of participation rather than competition.

The North Leeward Cricket Association, despite its growing popularity in its annual tournaments, has stayed on course, restricting the number of “outside” players.

This has served to give more exposure to cricketers from that area of the country. Today, North Leeward fields a team in the national cricket competition, and several players from that area are fixtures on many of the other teams.

Also sticking to their mission is the Masters Cricket Tournament. Although just two years old, their strict stipulation of being over 40 years has lured many past cricketers back into the fold, as fun and bragging rights have greater value than the cash prizes and other tokens.

In the same vein is the Masters Football League which, from the few occasions it has been staged, has seen widespread participation, even from religious groupings, which says a lot for the intent.

Likewise, the Annual Inter Financial Meet, with its traditional events of “ Egg and Spoon races”, “ Needle and Thread” and “ Three legged races”, among others , which are emphasised more than the contemporary races, encourages wider participation among the workers of these institutions.

In turn, they have soared in acceptance, and interest continues to grow.

But what is not growing in acceptance in that mound at the Sion Hill Playing Field. The mound itself feels out of place. Its unwelcome addition to an otherwise beautiful facility has started to give way, sending a message to those who put it there that it is ready to be removed.