Sports programmes needed

The 2011-2012 Primary Schools sports calender kicked off recently with the staging of the CUC football rally. It was an entertaining day of football, which saw George Town Primary copping the coveted trophy by beating the Sir John A Cumber (West Bay) team 1-0 in the finals.

Once again the football produced at this level is not only entertaining, but the teams from George Town, West Bay, Truth for Youth, St. Ignatius Catholic and Red Bay displayed some good fundamental football skills and teamwork, confirming yet again that at this level their development is on par with those of the neighbouring islands. In addition, there were good individual skills from various members on all the teams that competed.

Comparatively speaking, and given their age and state of development, the performance of these youngsters outshone the lackluster performance of the Senior Men’s tam the night before when they lost 1-0 to Suriname. One fears, however, that in the decade’s time, when some of these youngsters may don the national colours, a dull and uninspiring performance will once more be on the cards.

One of he major reasons for this is, again, the lack of a real development programme at the next level of these youngsters’ schooling, namely at the high/secondary school stage, where across the board there is a lack of real competition between the schools in the designated core sports.

It is absolutely mind boggling to me that in an island of this size and in a country that long ago declared itself to have six core sports that the Department of Sports and ministries of Education and Sports have abjectly failed to enunciate and/or implement a coherent policy as regards the development of these sports within the school system.

In or around 2007 the government staged a one-day national sports symposium. The objective of this forum was to review “the subject of sports in the Cayman Islands to ultimately assist us in establishing a much-needed strategic direction for the subject”. It was stated then that this was the first time that there was a gathering of the stakeholders to participate in discussions to tackle the key issues related to sports.

The country’s leaders noted then that they were not talking about competing and winning medals, but more importantly about building community spirit, promoting activity and wellness for people of all abilities and in the case of our national sides the production of athletes who would make the country proud. The symposium went on to recognise the importance of competitive sports in the secondary/high schools in the development of national athletes and teams.

From these discussions an international team of sporting consultants were required to prepare a report for the government as to how best to develop sports on the Islands. A key component of that report would be the development of sports within the schools.

We were promised that this report, when prepared, would be circulated to all the major stakeholders and would for the basis of a national sports development policy, if not law. We were emphatically told that the report would not be shelved to gather dust in the government archives.

My understanding is that the report has been submitted, but has not been circulated to the key stakeholders to date and does in fact contain proposals as regards the development of sports in the Cayman Islands and more particular sports in schools. My further understanding is that the Education Department’s community leaders have themselves produced their own report as regards this topic and the discussion, if there is one, has centred and floundered about which of these proposals should be implemented. In the meantime, the youth of this country meander along like a rudderless ship in the development of their athletic skills during their post-primary years and national teams fail to fully blossom.

No one is asking the powers that be to redefine and re-engineer a secondary/high school sports programme as an integrated part of the education curriculum. The formula is well known and accepted. If there are six core sports, then these sports should be competed in at this level amongst all secondary/high schools.

The formula that has worked in other countries is for the sports to have certain seasons to match as roughly as possible with the international season for such sports. So for instance in the Michelmas Term (September to December) schools would participate in football and netball, while in the Easter Term (January to April) they would compete in track and field and swimming and in the Summer Term (May to July) the sports of cricket and basketball would hold centre court. It is really as simple as that.

The private secondary schools have clearly recognised this and have taken a step in the right direction this year. They have formed a private secondary schools sports association and for this they must be lauded. This is a necessary prerequisite if schools’ sports are to properly develop. The schools themselves must own and govern the process in much the same way as is done at the primary level.

My hope is that this development will spur the Department of Sports and the ministries of Education and Sports into action and that come this time next year, a truly global and coherent schools sports policy will be enunciated and implemented at the secondary/high school level, which will encompass competition amongst all these schools, public and private. But my hope has been dashed before in this regard, so I will not hold my breath.

I will simply remind those with the decision making powers that while Nero fiddled, Rome burned and that chickens have an untimely way of coming home to roost.

H. Delroy Murray

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