Government puts Cayman sports under the microscope

Virtually every sport answered government’s call to come together to find ways to make sports in the Cayman Islands bigger, better and more popular than ever before. The 2007 National Sports Symposium, organised and hosted by the Ministry for Sports, was held Monday at the Marriott Hotel. Sports Minister Alden McLaughlin announced his ambitious goals for raising both the quality and quantity of local sports. The theme of the day-long event was ‘Sports: More than a game, for everyone, for life’.

Sports symposium

Sports Minister Alden McLaughlin, second from right, is spearheading a drive to learn more about the state of Cayman sports and then produce a new national sports policy. At right is Health Minister Anthony Eden.

‘As minister of sports, I am acutely aware of the advantages of sport for the physical, mental and social well being of our nation and recognize the need for a national sports policy which will facilitate the integration of sports in educational and social frameworks,’ The minister said.

McLaughlin says the process his ministry currently is engaged in is the first sports review of this scale ever undertaken in Cayman Islands history. Included in the effort will be a consultative effort to consult with ‘all members of the community to ensure that every voice has an opportunity to be heard, including those on our Sister Islands,’ said McLaughlin.

The presence of Kurt Tibbetts, leader of government business, at the Symposium was seen as an indication that this effort is being given considerable attention.

‘This is the first time we’ve gathered stakeholders together to take part in discussions to tackle the key issues related to sports,’ said Tibbetts. ‘I expect today’s efforts will be very productive and will bring us closer to fulfilling government’s commitment of revitalizing sports and promoting health and wellness in these islands.’

Tibbetts said that a similar half-day event is planned to take place in Cayman Brac. He also announced that the District Administration and the Ministry of Education are working together to build a FIFA certified field at the Sports Complex on the bluff – a first for Cayman Brac.

‘This excellent facility will help develop sport in the Sister Islands and promote inter-island competitions,’ said Tibbetts. ‘We expect to host our first international competition in the facility in August 2008.’

Dr. Colin Higgs, a Professor at the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, Memorial University of Newfoundland, spoke at the Sports Symposium on a variety of issues relevant to Caymanian sports culture. He pointed out that no one can accurately and consistently identify future worldclass athletes before they pass through adolescence. It is common mistake, he said, to misidentify children who simply have matured early as can’t-miss athletes. All young athletes should be nutured properly. He also said that youth coaches tend to make the mistake of emphasizing single-game victories at the expense of proper athlete development. Higgs said that sports are at their best when they produce both champion athletes and a healthy population.

Cayman football star Lee Ramoon delivered a stirring personal speech to the few hundred attendees. His theme was that it not only takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to create a worldclass athlete. He shared his personal story of humble beginnings and how he benefited from help from others along the way. Ramoon said he directly owes his success to the help and encouragement of many people throughout his rise to Cayman Islands football glory.

Olympian and University of Florida freshman star swimmer Shaune Fraser addressed the audience, describing the potential payoff success in athletics can bring. Scholarships are realistic goals for some Caymanian athletes, he said, but academics must be stressed early so that tough overseas standards can be met.

PMP Consulting is a major player in the Sports Ministry’s effort to energize local sports. The London-based firm is handling the nation-wide review process aimed at determining just what condition the country is now in regarding sports and where the population wants to go.

Sports Minister McLaughlin stressed his commitment to making this effort uplift Cayman society and produce Caymanian teams and athletes that are more competitive on the world stage.

A highlight of the Symposium was a video montage several minutes long that showed off Cayman’s rich sporting culture and its many impressive athletes.

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