Sports are a great way for youngsters to stay out of trouble.
Throughout the years that fact bears fruit with the plethora of sports camps on island.
Many of those short-term sports programmes take place in the capital in the summer.
However the latest sporting initiative breaks that mould in more ways than one.
Tomorrow sees the start of the East End U13 five-a-side community football league.
From 6pm until about 8pm children within the district are set to display their football skills at the East End play field.
At this point league officials expect to see four teams of at least eight kids.
The competition might change to a seven-a-side format if there are a high number of participants.
Games are slated to take place every Saturday after tomorrow’s opener with the league wrapping up on November 8.
The league is one of the newest initiatives from the Department of Sports. In particular it is the brainchild of Deputy Director of Sports Collin Anglin.
An avid sportsman in his own right, Anglin talked about the reasoning for the league.
‘Ever since hurricane Ivan I’ve wanted to establish something permanent in regards to district sports.
‘The objective is constant activity, for sports to be in the community all year round.
‘I believe sports can improve the wellbeing of the community and provide a more positive environment four our youth.
‘The idea being we can help create better people and all around citizens while reducing crime.’
In a press release given out earlier in the week the Department of Sports also pointed to character building, increasing community participation and promoting healthy living among the reasons for the camp.
In addition fostering volunteerism and encouraging bonding among families were seen as notable themes for the league.
Late last month was the original date for the league but it was pushed back to this weekend.
Anglin has gone to some of the districts this summer building up connections to persons in the community who can help make district sports leagues a reality.
As he states East End is expected to be the first of many districts with a sports league.
‘East End is just the start. From here we’re going to West Bay, Bodden Town and the rest.
‘I believe it will grow as more people get familiar with what’s happening. My motto is if you want to see change make it happen.
‘You have to step out and volunteer because nothing can be done without volunteers.
‘Especially in light with all that is going on I’d encourage the public to not just complain about our problems. But help be part of the solution.’
In East End one of the main persons Anglin turned to was Vernie Watler-Harris.
Harris, mother of U23 football prodigy Arvid Harris, has been involved from the beginning. Her main duty has been coordinating volunteers for the various aspects of the league.
Harris talked about the level of feedback the league has had thus far.
‘Collin is doing a tremendous job. He inspires people like me who are new to the whole idea of running sports camps.
‘We’ve had about 17-20 people sign up to assist. There have only really been a handful of faithful ones who have been coming out to committee meetings.
‘Maybe some just want to be water carriers and that’s fine. Saturday will be the day when we can identify the committed ones.’
In Anglin’s eyes the amount of support the East End community has given the league has been encouraging.
‘I don’t think enough can be said about the people who have stepped forward to volunteer.
‘From people like East End football coach Thiago Cunha and Brian Watler to Windell Scott and Darcia Hamilton there has been such good feedback.
‘It’s good to see so many go and help out the kids and the district.’
With the league being geared to about 40 kids organization is key to the league’s success.
As Harris explains, that fact has not been overlooked.
‘On Saturday we’ll be assessing the kids and splitting them up evenly into teams. The point being to split up the good players and keep things balanced.
‘We’ve split up the duties to have people responsible for a number of things. On the sports side there’s someone heading up match scheduling, one person in charge of officiating and another person leading the coaching.
‘The best part is a lot of people who want to help are certified in their field or bring a lot of experience.’
For Anglin one of the integral parts of the league being successful is its structure.
‘I can’t emphasize enough the importance of structure. The better structured you are the easier it is to operate, especially in regards to sports.
‘I’ve found anything sports-related with a good structure allows the workload to be divided in manageable way for people.’
At this point the league is taking baby steps focusing on the U13 kids and on five-as-side football.
Eventually the plan is to get to other age groups and incorporate other sports.
In fact for Harris the next step is to reach out to the U17 age group.
‘For now we’re concentrating on the U13 age group but we’re taking applications for U17 kids.
‘Eventually we want to go to the adults. But we’ll see how it goes.’
As alluded to earlier, one of the most interesting parts of the league is its timing. In addition to breaking the summer sports camp routine it comes weeks ahead of local football starting up in earnest through the various local leagues.
With school in its early stages as well it can be a lot for children to handle.
That fact is not lost on the organizers.
‘The Cayman Islands Football Association leagues are starting soon and we don’t want to overburden the children,’ Harris said.
‘We’re also aware that school is on and we don’t want to take away from study time as schoolwork is important.’
‘For now we’re starting small and not putting too much on people,’ Anglin said.
‘The plan is in time to expose the younger kids to as much sports as possible.
‘At their age it’s all about fun and involvement.’
Parents are encouraged to log on to www.departmentofsports.com/forms.html to download and fill out registration forms for the league.
Registration for the league is free.
For more information on the league, interested persons are asked to contact Vernie Watler-Harris at 938-8024 or call East End community officer Delmira Bodden at 925-5543.